The current global recession combined with continuing economic uncertainty has compelled companies to seek out new ways to maximize business opportunities while at the same time minimizing business costs. But one industry must always focus on streamlined costs and efficient operations — the Not-for-Profit.

At Sutter Health, a ninety-year-old, non-profit organization with 48,000 employees and volunteers and 5,000 physicians, our mission is to provide the highest-quality service to our patients while minimizing the cost of healthcare delivery whenever possible. This balance requires Sutter to continuously explore new technologies and new processes that allow us to streamline our operations. The net result of this exploration is higher-quality healthcare at reduced cost to our patients. One of the most effective ways of achieving these results is through Sutter’s unique approach to managing its people.

Talent intelligence: capturing critical data about people

Employees are the lifeblood of a healthcare organization. All of the technology in the world isn’t a substitute for the individual care that our people give to our patients. Our goal at Sutter Health is to hire the most talented people into the right positions in order to leverage their skills to maximum effect. We accomplish this goal through talent intelligence, which is our way of capturing critical data about our people, gaining insight on the data to make the best decisions for our business, and then immediately taking action on that data. Sutter uses a combination of process and technology to get the level of talent intelligence necessary to achieve the desired results.

Some of the processes that Sutter has optimized and enabled with technology focus on setting effective, company-aligned goals and monitoring progress, as well as helping employees recognize their career potential and development opportunities. Sutter has found that a focus on these processes results in an engaged, inspired workforce. And that means higher-productivity for the organization, dramatically reduced turnover, and improved services and care for clients.

And it goes a step further. Most American and European companies recognize that many of their key employees — often corporate leadership — are approaching retirement age.  Many organizations see this only as a dilemma, but at Sutter Health, we also see this as an opportunity.  With the right employee data on hand, companies can easily identify the superstars of tomorrow and groom those people into the roles that will lead the company into the future. We perceive talent in the same way that we perceive new technologies and new methodologies — with new talent come new ideas, new perspectives, and new opportunities that will guarantee us a bright future. Recognizing the importance and the cost benefit of nurturing talent is essential for the continued well-being of our business.

The Sutter Health approach to talent management

When Sutter undertook the challenge to streamline our talent management processes, we made a conscious decision to evaluate any opportunity to use technology as an enabler. We had already automated the talent acquisition process with Taleo, and made the decision to extend that relationship by enabling other facets of talent management like goals and performance management, succession planning, and employee development. While we definitely used cost savings as a driver to move toward a single vendor, we also saw the benefit to achieving talent intelligence by having one technology platform to drive user adoption and broader visibility into the workforce. We specifically selected Taleo as our vendor for their focus on customer support, their vision of talent management, and the fit between their solution and our needs.

While superior talent management can drive significant bottom-line results through reduced attrition and increased productivity, technology costs can rapidly erode those results. As part of Sutter’s evaluation process, we performed a complete cost analysis with multiple vendors. Taleo provided a significant total-cost-of-ownership benefit in comparison with the other vendors we considered. Over the next few years, the cost savings will be substantial. 

How we applied technology

To ensure that technology truly enabled our processes, the solutions we selected had to have the right feature set.  At Sutter Health we wanted to transform the typical administrative year-end performance evaluation into a more continuous dialog between manager and employee. This conversation would help engage and inspire employees and improve productivity, driving real business results. Frequent employee performance conversations ensure regular assessment and coaching of employees, resulting in benefits beyond the simple automation of the annual performance review process. Taleo’s design philosophy was to focus on the right features to enable this dialogue, versus having the “bells and whistles” that weren’t driving results.

Talent management solutions enable us to see the strengths and weaknesses of every employee in real-time so that we can identify the best candidate to assign to specific tasks as they arise. This allows us to more effectively retain top-performing employees by providing them with the appropriate challenges for their skill level. Employees who successfully meet challenges presented to them in the workplace remain far more engaged than those who languish in repetitive tasks that do not challenge them. On the other hand, extending new opportunities to those ill-prepared to succeed at them can produce frustration and negativity. We’ve seen the results of putting the right people in the right roles through our improved talent acquisition process, and weaving in the performance and succession data will markedly strengthen this process.

The payoff: goal alignment, improved service, more productivity

Performance management software that integrates with desktop productivity tools enables employees and managers to provide regular and timely updates and feedback. The solution we chose allows for out-of-the-box integration with our internal tools and our core ERP software. That has resulted in goal alignment between the employee and the organization as well as better real-time decision support for cost-center managers and their employees. At the same time, we enjoy improved service and improved usability, which results in improved productivity.

Times of economic uncertainty provide opportunities for companies to reevaluate their assets and incorporate new, streamlined processes through which to maximize those assets and realize significant benefits.  During a down cycle, focusing on talent might be the best possible response – and it may provide the best ROI.