The Case for Change:
The New Role of HR Leadership in Healthcare

Starting in 2003, ASHHRA leaders began talking with colleagues and others in the healthcare industry about the future role of HR. Over and over they heard C-level executives express a strong need for a new type of HR professional – a business partner who could share responsibility for bottom-line success.

The Examination Begins

Building on the work of the AHA Workforce Commission’s “In Our Hands,” the ASHHRA Board of Directors appointed a task force on HR competencies and charged the members with examining the role of human resources and asking these tough questions: Are we getting the job done as HR practitioners? Do we have the attention and respect of C-level executives? Do we have a place in the C-suite?

If not, what needs to change? What blend of business knowledge, skills, ethics, and strategic thinking do we need? How do we reach the level of HR leadership that can have an impact and powerful influence in our own organizations?

Responding to the challenge, the task force began considering opportunities for change in healthcare human resources. They saw that, as the role of HR developed, the competencies and skills required to lead our healthcare organizations had evolved as well. Starting with the passion and commitment we all have for our profession, they began to identify leadership competencies particularly relevant in healthcare.

Anatomy of an HR Leader

At the ASHHRA 2004 Annual Conference, the task force introduced “The Anatomy of an HR Leader,” establishing the realities of today’s healthcare environment, initiating the dialogue with ASHHRA members, and setting the stage for action. In the audience of 600 healthcare professionals, an astounding 98 percent indicated they were interested in positions of more responsibility and influence with their organizations.

With this mandate, ASHHRA pledged to help its members increase their value and expand their influence by focusing on new levels of HR competencies. As the next step, ASHHRA formed the HR Leadership Initiative with two articulated goals:

  • Identify the prerequisite core competencies for HR leaders in healthcare, and
  • Determine how ASHHRA could support current HR professionals in bridging the gap to reach these competencies.

HR Leader Model

In the spring of 2005, ASHHRA introduced the new HR Leader Model based on key competencies. The five-part model is designed to inspire and guide HR professionals to acquiring new levels of skills, knowledge, behaviors, and values.

Together, Healthcare Business Knowledge and HR Delivery became the solid knowledge base for leadership in healthcare HR. From that foundation springs Community Citizenship and People Strategies, areas in which HR Leaders can have a strong presence in healthcare organizations that value their employees, patients, and communities.

Personal Leadership is the core of the model. This competency is the heart and soul of excellence, both personally and professionally. It deals with the values of an individual who leads an organization through its vision, mission, guiding principles, and culture – all of which are vital to achieving strategic business results.

To make it recognizable, ASHHRA commissioned a visual identity for the HR Leader Model and introduced it at the 2005 Annual Conference. Based on the historical compass rose, the HR Leader Model symbol depicts the unfolding of the leader’s journey and represents the process of integrating goals, visions, and purpose.

Strategic Planning

As the ASHHRA Board of Directors, volunteers, and staff worked diligently on the HR Leadership Initiative, it became apparent that our purpose was much more far-reaching than originally envisioned in 2003.

ASHHRA chose to position itself as the leading society for human resources in healthcare – to “lead the way” by helping members raise their skills and raise their voices for power and influence within their organizations and the broader healthcare community. This positioning later became ASHHRA’s refocused mission:

To lead the way for members to become more effective, valued, and credible leaders in healthcare human resources administration.

During the winter of 2005, the ASHHRA board and staff spent significant time reflecting on our own leadership and how best to move forward. We reviewed the feedback from members at the 2004 Annual Conference, as well as the insights shared by colleagues, members, and key individuals as we rolled out the HR Leadership Initiative.

Listening to Members

ASHHRA engaged a research consultant in 2005 to survey our members and customers. Key findings from this survey revealed that:

  • Most members consider ASHHRA to be the voice of the profession and expect representation and action that reflect that feeling.
  • The ASHHRA healthcare focus distinguishes it in the field.
  • Members look to ASHHRA to keep them up-to-date on important issues, trends, and best practices.
  • Members would like ASHHRA to provide more active programs and events at the local and regional levels.

Most significantly, we learned what we needed to do to serve members better. The board began reviewing the strategic direction and structure of the society, and after many months of planning, prepared to embark on a major transformation.

A Question of Governance

We enlisted a consultant with specific expertise in governance to help us map out a structure that would enable us to fulfill our newly redefined mission. She guided us in discussions about how other personal membership groups and organizations faced the changing realities and evolving needs of their members.

It became clear that we had an opportunity to reshape our guiding principles and strategic direction, and that realization drove our desire to create a governance model that would “lead the way” and provide greater value to current and future ASHHRA members.

At the 2005 Annual Business Meeting, the ASHHRA executive director and the Executive Committee invited members to:

  • Join together in “Redefining ASHHRA for the Future”
  • Learn how the HR Leadership Initiative had become a driver for new thinking and direction within the society and how its value would be demonstrated externally
  • See the evolving look and feel of an ASHHRA that was repositioning itself in today’s healthcare marketplace; and
  • Explore a new governance structure that would be more supportive of member needs, position ASHHRA for growth, and better secure the society’s future.

Board and Staff Structure

As part of the ASHHRA 2005-2007 Strategic Plan, the board created strategic direction No. 1:

ASHHRA builds a governance and operational infrastructure that is nimble, relevant, and responsive to the future needs and expectations of its members, customers, and stakeholders.

We recognized that our current governance structure was not as nimble, relevant or responsive as needed it to be. Based on member feedback, we learned that we needed to spend more time focusing on local and regional programming, learning, and networking, while still providing a national presence for members in the areas of educational programming, advocacy, and development of products and services.

After significant discussion, the board proposed these changes in ASHHRA governance:

  • A shift in board composition from members who solely represent geographic regions to those representing a variety of diverse constituencies
  • The addition of these board members: a CEO of a healthcare facility, a professional who has been in the field for less than five years, and HR professionals who represent non-hospital healthcare facilities.
  • The creation of a treasurer position to increase emphasis on the stewardship of member resources.
  • The creation of regional officer and chapter officer positions to increase regional and local input.
  • The creation of a volunteer regional consultant position that can focus exclusively on the needs of members at the grassroots level.
  • A selection process for board members where the Nominating Committee conducts a thorough search and develops a slate of officers and board members for presentation to the membership. The membership will be asked to ratify the slate as a whole.
  • An election process for the regional consultant positions where the Nominating Committee presents two candidates for each region, and members of the region elect their representatives.

Overall, the proposed model includes 13 board positions and nine regional consultant positions, compared to the current 12 board positions and four committee chairs. This model supports a leadership development process that allows more ASHHRA members to volunteer their experience and skills and develop their personal leadership abilities.

Selection Process

The Nominating Committee will begin its selection process in late summer. Members will be asked to submit information about their skills and a personal statement about their interest in the position they’d like to attain. Members can apply for more than one position if they have the required qualifications.

Nominating Committee members will interview candidates and develop the slate based on candidates’ qualifications. Members who are not selected for the slate will be referred to the president for possible appointment to other volunteer opportunities such as committees, task forces, etc.

Once a full board slate has been developed, it will be presented to the ASHHRA membership for ratification.

Election Process

The proposed model retains an election process for the nine regional consultant positions. The decision to maintain an election process was deliberated after much discussion by the board. In order for the regional consultants to truly represent the members and needs of a specific region, the members of that region need to “vote” on who can best serve the role. As in the past, the Nominating Committee will present the candidates per region for election.

Think Tank

The new governance model includes a new group of “thought leaders” called the Think Tank. More than ever, ASHHRA needs voices to help lead the organization into the future. The Think Tank would offer proven leaders an opportunity to contribute in a unique way. Although the formal organization of the Think Tank has not been developed, the concept involves selecting key influential healthcare HR professionals, including past presidents of ASHHRA, who can identify upcoming healthcare trends, to better position ASHHRA in fulfilling its mission.