10 min read

Empowering Healthcare: The Transformative Power of HR and a Human-Centric Approach

Published on
August 7, 2023

In today's dynamic and rapidly evolving healthcare landscape, organizations must be ready to adapt and innovate to meet the needs of their patients and employees.

As healthcare organizations continue to face an increasingly complex set of challenges, they must also consider alternative solutions. In this context, Human Resources (HR) has emerged as a crucial strategic partner that can drive substantial change and shape the organizational culture.

In this article, we'll explore the transformational power of HR and the potential impact of cultivating a human-centric culture.

We'll highlight real-world examples from Novartis and Cleveland Clinic, two leading organizations that have successfully implemented a people-centered strategy.

Finally, we'll discuss the challenges of leading a cultural transformation and offer guidance for those who embark on this journey.

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The Power of HR in Healthcare

Gone are the days when HR in healthcare was solely focused on administrative tasks such as hiring, training, and payroll.

Today, it plays a pivotal role in creating a culture that motivates employees, fosters innovation, and ultimately improves patient care. HR strategies like employee engagement programs, leadership development, and wellness initiatives significantly impact an organization's success.

One of the primary responsibilities of HR in healthcare is to ensure that the organization has the right people with the right skills in the right roles. HR professionals achieve this through strategic workforce planning, talent management, and robust training and development programs.

Another critical aspect of HR in healthcare is driving the cultural transformation necessary for organizations to adapt to the changing healthcare landscape. This may involve promoting a culture of innovation, inclusivity, or patient-centric care.

Real-World Transformations

Empowering Change at Novartis: The Unbossed Initiative

The Initial Situation

Before the transformation, Novartis faced significant challenges, including ethical issues, legal battles, and a lack of innovation [1][2][3].

The CEO, Vas Narasimhan, recognized the need for a cultural shift to address these issues and guide the company towards a more collaborative, ethical, and innovative future.

The organization's leadership realized that to foster innovation and improve patient outcomes, they needed to trust their employees to take more ownership and accountability for their work.

In 2018, Narasimhan launched the “Unbossed” cultural transformation, which aimed to create a more open, innovative, and ethical culture [1][2][3].

The initiative was based on the belief that employees should not be “bossed” around but should instead be empowered to take the initiative and make decisions.

The Journey to an Unbossed Culture

The transformation process was extensive and included the following steps:

  1. Changing Leadership Style: Novartis encouraged its leaders to move away from a traditional top-down management style and adopt a more collaborative, empowering approach [1][2][3].
  2. Promoting Ethical Behavior: The company made a concerted effort to promote ethical behavior and compliance throughout the organization [1][2][3].
  3. Encouraging Innovation: Novartis worked to create an environment that encourages innovation, including setting up innovation labs and promoting collaboration and idea sharing [1][2][3].

The Return on Investment (ROI) for Novartis

The cultural transformation has had a positive impact on Novartis’ performance and reputation.

Since the transformation, Novartis has seen improvements in employee engagement, a reduction in ethical issues, and an increase in innovation [1][2][3].

Pioneering Innovation and Empowerment in Healthcare: The Cleveland Clinic Model

The Initial Situation

Cleveland Clinic, a renowned healthcare organization, recognized the need to create an environment where caregivers could actively contribute to improving patient care and enhance the workplace environment.

Acknowledging that caregivers have unique insights into potential improvement areas due to their direct interaction with patients, the clinic embraced their contributions.

Like many healthcare institutions, Cleveland Clinic faced the challenge of maintaining high levels of caregiver engagement, a critical factor in delivering high-quality patient care.

The Journey to a Culture of Empowerment and Caregiver Engagement

In response to this need, Cleveland Clinic introduced the Caregiver Catalyst Grant program, which invited all caregivers to submit their creative ideas for improving patient care and caregiver work life. Selected projects received funding and resources to bring their ideas to life.

This program marked a significant cultural shift towards innovation, empowerment, and a human-centric approach.

Implementing the Caregiver Catalyst Grant program required trust in the caregivers' ability to identify areas of improvement and innovate solutions.

Cleveland Clinic created an environment where ideas were welcomed, treating failures as learning opportunities.

The organization ensured clear communication about the program's objectives and the value of caregivers' ideas, while also providing support mechanisms for project implementation.

In addition, the put into place a series of programs to engage their workforce, namely:

  1. Employee Surveys: Cleveland Clinic implemented regular Caregiver Experience and Pulse surveys to gather feedback on workplace culture, safety measures, and opportunities for improvement [4].
  2. Recognition Programs: The organization launched a comprehensive Caregiver Celebrations rewards and recognition platform to acknowledge and thank caregivers for their dedication and accomplishments [4].
  3. Support Programs: They provided a range of support services to help preserve, restore, and enhance the well-being of caregivers [4].
  4. Flexibility in Work: During the pandemic, Cleveland Clinic enabled caregivers to take on new temporary roles and offered work-from-home options for eligible employees [4].

The Return on Investment (ROI) for Cleveland Clinic

The Caregiver Catalyst Grant program has been remarkably successful in fostering a culture of innovation and empowerment at Cleveland Clinic.

It has resulted in increased job satisfaction and engagement among caregivers, numerous improvements in both patient care and caregiver work life, and an enhanced reputation for the clinic as a leading, human-centric healthcare organization.

The program's success has prompted Cleveland Clinic to continue engaging caregivers through various initiatives and platforms, showcasing their commitment to caregiver empowerment and attracting top talent.

Their ongoing engagement initiatives have contributed to a positive work experience for caregivers, helping to attract and retain top talent.

The Clinic reported a high participation rate in their surveys, and 81% of caregivers would recommend Cleveland Clinic as a good place to work [4].


The transformative power of HR in healthcare is not just a theoretical concept, but a reality, as evident in the experiences of Novartis and Cleveland Clinic.

By embracing a culture of empowerment, innovation, and a people-centered approach, HR professionals can drive significant improvements in patient care, employee engagement, and overall organizational performance.

Undoubtedly, leading a cultural transformation in healthcare is a complex endeavor, riddled with challenges.

It requires a clear vision, unwavering commitment, effective communication, and a deep understanding of the unique dynamics of the organization.

Yet, as Novartis and Cleveland Clinic have demonstrated, the rewards of such a transformation are substantial and far-reaching. It's not just about enhancing organizational performance, but also about enriching the lives of those who are at the heart of healthcare – the people who deliver care and the patients who receive it.

As more healthcare organizations recognize the value of a human-centric approach, the role of HR will continue to evolve and grow. It's an exciting and critical journey that can shape the future of healthcare in ways we can only begin to imagine.

We invite you to join us in exploring this journey further. If you've found this article informative, please share it with your colleagues and network. If you have experiences or insights to share about the role of HR in healthcare transformation, we'd love to hear from you. Reach out to us directly.

Stay tuned for our future posts, where we'll delve deeper into the transformative power of HR in healthcare and highlight more real-world examples. Together, let's explore how we can empower healthcare through HR and a human-centric approach.

Feel free to book a complimentary call with us if you want to brainstorm on how to launch your cultural transformation.

Together, we can drive meaningful change, improve patient outcomes, and create a healthcare environment that empowers both employees and patients alike.



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