Posted: 09 May 2019 4 min. read

For health plans, next-gen workers may be just as critical as next-gen technology

By Eileen Schreiber Radis, Deloitte Consulting LLP, and Nigel Lennox Ferguson, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Many health plans are investing in next-generation technologies, but they might not yet have a strategy for building a next-generation workforce. The nature of work in changing in health and in all industries. This is being driven by automation and technology as well as increased consumerism, generational shifts, and open talent models. We expect the future of work will impact every health plan employee.

The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions recently surveyed more than 100 chief operating officers and chief administrative officers from health systems and health plans. While 65 percent of respondents said they have a strategic plan and a vision for their workforce of the future, only 20 percent are making investments in talent models—either by implementing new recruiting strategies, sourcing new talent, deploying new staffing models or developing the skills of existing workers to meet future needs.

Doing nothing is not an option. Along with investing in emerging technology, health plan leaders can benefit from reimagining the way work gets done and the type of workers they will need to ensure success in the years ahead.

The workforce of the future is the foundation for Deloitte’s vision for health in 2040. Many of the jobs that humans now perform within a health plan will be enhanced by next-generation technologies including robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI). To get the most value from these technologies, health plan workers should possess a wide range of skills that include statistical reasoning and data visualization. At the same time, health plan leaders should ensure the human connection is enhanced by technology, rather than replaced by it. Social-emotional and innately human skills should continue to be an essential part of health care 20 years from now. The workforce of the future, like the workforce of today, should possess emotional maturity, empathy, interpersonal skills, and verbal and nonverbal communication.

Five strategies for building a workforce of the future

Few health plans have started to reinvent their workforces in anticipation of the future of health. As this future unfolds, here are five things health plan executives should consider:

  1. Encourage business and human resources (HR) leaders to balance innovation with operational demands: Health plans have the opportunity to unlock significant value in human capital. Health plan business and HR leaders should determine if they can up-skill existing employees. If not, new skills might need to be recruited. Health plan business and HR leaders should also think proactively about how jobs are likely to change.
  2. Prepare to upskill or hire tech-savvy workers: Health plans should look at how to get the most out of their existing IT staff by enhancing their skills. Competition for talent in the technology space is fierce. Technology has become so important and strategic that organizations could become vulnerable if they lack a strong digital infrastructure.
  3. Appoint a champion for change: Most health plan executives acknowledge that preparing for these shifts—and providing staff with the skills and tools they need to succeed—involves major communication and involvement across multiple areas of the organization. They admit that running daily operations and focusing on competing priorities can make it difficult to step back, use change-management best practices, and strategically think about work and workforces. Appointing visible and influential leaders can help keep the organization’s vision in focus. The champion can help to ensure new investments align with the workforce strategy, assess the right partners, and navigate the technology vendor landscape.
  4. Use workers to help define the workforce of the future: Health plan leaders should acknowledge the diverse needs and interests of their multi-generational workers and include them in decisions that will shape their future roles. This can take the form of structuring jobs and career paths that provide different opportunities and experiences. Company leaders should also try to explain that the future of work doesn’t mean their jobs are going to be eliminated. As leaders consider how next-gen technology will affect work processes, they should include workers in those discussions so that they feel they are part of the change. Such changes might include a new work environment or different infrastructure. Workers are more likely to buy into change if they understand the destination and feel that they are a part of the solution. This can also enhance employee engagement and help health plans retain a diverse, multi-generational workforce.
  5. Determine where work gets done: There is recognition that unstructured or uncoordinated work might have a negative impact on collaboration and innovation. However, we have found that an unstructured workplace—where people can meet face-to-face and develop breakthrough ideas—can help drive innovation.

Health plan leaders who sit back and wait for the future of health to unfold might realize too late that their workers lack important digital skills, or that they can’t easily recruit the skills they need. Most leaders are under such pressure to achieve today’s goals that they might only be able to look ahead two or three years, rather than 10 or 20.

While moving to a digital platform will likely be important as health plans embark on the future of health, we see it as just once piece of the puzzle. To get the most out of today’s technology investments, health plans should determine the skills that will be needed tomorrow as the future of work begins to intersect with the future of health.


Return to the Health Forward home page to discover more insights from our leaders.

Subscribe to the Health Forward blog via email