Posted: 08 Sep. 2022 6 min. read

Health finance execs can play key role in DEI

By Jessica Bier, managing director, Deloitte Consulting LLP

There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on how employees view their jobs, their work environment, and their employers. This is particularly true in health care, where workers want their jobs to be meaningful and where many are pushing for a better work-life balance, including the ability to work remotely.1 Many employees, including the health care workforce, also want to work for organizations that emphasize diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), according to Deloitte research.


Earlier this summer, I discussed the role financial leaders play in improving DEI and the work environment during a session at the Healthcare Financial Management Association’s (HFMA) annual conference in Denver. My co-presenter at this event was Alfonse Upshaw, senior vice president and chief financial officer of Kaiser Permanente’s Northern California market. Alfonse is also a founding member of the Black Directors Health Equity Agenda, which is made up of directors who are trying to “advance work in ways that are likely to result in long-term, sustainable reductions in health disparities.”


DEI is a priority, but results are mixed

According to a Deloitte survey of health system CFOs, the majority (90%) believe they have a growing stake as finance leaders to address DEI throughout their organizations. However, only 60% of these finance leaders see DEI initiatives as a top organizational priority. DEI efforts are often viewed as side projects or are executed on a small scale, according to the report. Many respondents acknowledged that the disparities uncovered during the pandemic, and by the social justice movement, put a spotlight on how much more work still needs to be done—both inside and outside of their health systems.


At the conference, Alfonse emphasized that in health care, health equity is an integral component of DEI efforts. He said financial professionals in health systems and health plans are not typically seen as having a role in improving health equity because they don’t work directly with patients or members. However, he said, conversations with clinical leaders can help financial staff develop models that demonstrate the value of health equity, and finance executives can help illustrate the return on investment (ROI) of health equity.


DEI investments can improve workplace trust

Many health care leaders are focused on attracting and retaining top talent to stay competitive. More than 70% of CEOs see labor and skill shortages as the top factor that will impact their business strategy over the next year, according to our Winter 2022 CEO survey. Finance leaders in health care can play an important role in facilitating a positive work experience as they align investments for a workplace that is increasingly hybrid and virtual-first.


Investments in DEI can also pay off by helping to build trust and enhancing the employee experience and the workplace culture. According to the Summer 2022 FORTUNE/Deloitte CEO survey, 92% of CEOs—from 15 industries—say DEI has been built into their strategic priorities. That’s up from just 61% a year ago. If employees trust their employer’s commitments, their engagement level can increase up to 20%, and the likelihood they will leave their organization decreases by 87%, according to Deloitte research (see Build trust in diversity, equity, and inclusion commitments).


Having an engaged high-performing health care workforce that is motivated and able to enjoy their work has many benefits, Alfonse said. He explained that “a relatively modest effort can have a big yield. People are an organization’s most important asset.”


While the economy has cooled recently, the job market remains highly competitive, particularly in health care, according to the latest data from the US Department of Labor.2 People with sought-after skills will likely have the ability to switch employers if they are not satisfied with the work environment, so an economic downturn could be a great time to invest in talent. At the end of the day, finance executives in health care not only have an important role to play in driving DEI and health equity, but they are also responsible for finance talent and the finance workforce experience.



1 Embracing remote work in healthcare organizations, Forbes, February 7, 2022

2 Strong and steady growth: A deep dive into the Q2 labor market, US Department of Labor Blog, July 21, 2022


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