Recently I was talking to a skeptical executive about the need to evolve his organization’s growth strategies in a marketplace that is more multicultural and multigenerational than ever before. I was familiar with his skepticism. In fact, I welcome it. My clients who use healthy doses of skepticism to engage, question, and gain the clarity to reach their goals often end up seizing the greatest opportunities.
Yet during our conversation, I found myself in an unfamiliar place engaging his skepticism by talking about the concept of Population Health. The overall concept was not unfamiliar to me. In the past, I have written about the emerging business concept of Population Health and its importance to growth and serving the populations of the Cultural Demographic Shift (CDS) in healthcare. But what I came to realize in talking to this client, who was not in the business of healthcare, is ... I was wrong.
Not about Population Health as an essential healthcare burning issue but Population Health as just a healthcare issue. Population Health is about the “health” of business and all our populations in leadership, the workplace, and the marketplace.
Population Health is in fact the fourth and ultimate strategic pillar for moving people to the center of an organization’s growth strategy:
For an organization to evolve and grow, all four of these pillars must evolve simultaneously to move people from the fringe of organizational development objectives to the center of their enterprise-wide strategy. That’s when real growth/ROI happens. When they fail to evolve simultaneously, an organization will end up with short-sighted tactics and misinformed strategies that end up solving for the wrong things.
Now when I say this to clients, nine times out of ten the next words are: Where are the numbers to back up thinking? Where is the quantitative argument?
And what I say is: Where are the numbers to back up the opposite approach – one that leans upon compliance – that you have been following for decades?
We have had more and more data around the topic of “people” for years just like we have had experience for years and where has that led us? Flawed initiatives that keep creating silos, poor employee engagement, execution mindsets, tension... In other words, the way we've been doing and measuring the impact and influence of people has been flawed.
We need to reinvent the entire people model -- in particular the role that numbers and experience play.
I could provide plenty of numbers and case studies to back up my recommendations based on my company’s assessments, research, and work with clients but would that lead to actions that lead to new strategies founded on evolving these four pillars? Probably not. Because numbers and experiential evidence founded on old templates lead to excuses for inaction. Because quite frankly it takes time to undo years of compliance and move people to the center of the strategy and see the results. Because when companies and leaders don't see that immediate impact on the bottom line, they stop investing and label the initiatives as expenses.
That’s how we end up with unhealthy businesses that fail to see, anticipate, and seize opportunity gaps. Leaders must realize that real solutions in support of people strategies are based on the understanding that the CDS is telling us that business overall is becoming less about the business defining the individual and more about the individual defining the business. This means we must all strengthen our intellectual capital and know-how around the distinct needs of the individuals within every workforce and consumer population.
To do this and truly succeed a more focused, holistic approach is required to create solutions and ecosystems that leverage the collective strengths and resources that still exist internally with those of external partners to better serve the different needs of all our people in leadership, the workplace, the marketplace, and in our communities. Historically, however, this collaboration and focus on the needs of people is exactly what the business templates of the past prevented us from achieving: the focus on the needs of the business, not the individuals.
For example, diversity and inclusion within organizations has slowed-down growth through old templates that address workforce representation, employee resources groups, cultural competency, etc., because it has been lead by and through a leadership lens that sees the business defining the individual and the value of their differences. In contract, the CDS is about expanding diversity and inclusion as a strategy to strengthen business models and drive growth – by allowing individual difference to add-value to the business and therefore accelerating growth through opportunities previously unseen.
This is why Population Health is more than a healthcare issue, and it took a lot of work and introspection for me to come to this realization. For example, multicultural populations like Hispanics and African Americans are not accelerating their impact and influence as leaders not because they aren't skilled or capable. It is that they are just not healthy enough. They don't have the right mindset. They are not a healthy population as a whole.
With workplaces more execution minded than ever before, how can you be thinking about the health of populations and improved experiences and to create a growth strategy for executive leadership, workforce representation, consumer experience, and Population Health? The opportunity is there, but we just don't see it in the data. But remember: It isn’t “soft” business to see people as the future of growth and the health of our nation as a whole.