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Is Your IT Staff Shrinking?

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Healthcare IT organizations are suddenly becoming flat – more than they were only a few quarters ago. As a result, some of us find ourselves asking our staff to carry the additional workload due to layoffs and hiring freezes. When a team member leaves the organization and budget mandates prevent us from replacing their position – we have to ask the remaining members of the team to take on more and more responsibility. Some IT leaders I have spoken to have stated that they and their staff are working longer hours on more tasks with 10% - 20% less (or more) manpower! Ouch!

The internal and external Service Level Agreements we have to deliver do not always automatically adjust when the staff levels suddenly decline. So what does that mean? It means you are required to do the same amount of work with less horsepower. Sometimes this can be a very good thing as this sea change we are all experiencing forces us to make it work and the hiring manager gets the chance to watch the cream to rise to the top. It’s time to step up, do more and get the job done. Sounds like a good plan – but how do we keep the team motivated to do their job PLUS an entire list of other things - once done by former employees? What you don’t want is to do is have the staff “burn out” and leave the organization - only to make the situation worse. Not a good plan.

I recommend that you change the way you communicate with your team. I’m not talking style here. I am suggesting that you find ways to spend MORE time with your team during these challenging times. Make it real! Meet more frequently with your team and make time to listen to each member of the team. Give them a chance to talk openly with the organizational leadership. If you support remote locations with remote employees – hit the road more often and visit the remote members of your staff. It matters.

Lead from the front…

By that I mean demonstrate that you are also being asked to do more. Make sure they know that it will take a team effort to get through this difficult period and everyone must do their part. Finally, find ways to do team oriented events that make your team feel liked they are appreciated. It could be starting a regular schedule of events that include attending a ball game, a dinner, a cookout, a movie or some other venue where everyone has a chance to let their hair down and relax. Not everyone likes to juggle more work into their schedule – so let them have some fun! This is a time where we have to do more – at least for the foreseeable future. Things will eventually get back to some sense of normalcy. No one knows exactly when that will happen.

Until then, this is a time where leaders need to lead. Embrace your team and you can step up everyone’s level of play.

Healthcare IT organizations are suddenly becoming flat – more than they were only a few quarters ago. As a result, some of us find ourselves asking our staff to carry the additional workload due to layoffs and hiring freezes. When a team member leaves the organization and budget mandates prevent us from replacing their position – we have to ask the remaining members of the team to take on more and more responsibility.

Comments

Tim Tolan,
Thank you for your excellent pointsand pointersin the above blog. I think your advice will help many CIOs, who are struggling with the mandate to "stretch" existing staff. It is quickly becoming a truism to say that we are wading into "challenging" times, but I believe that CIOs and other healthcare IT executives will indeed be challenged as never before. At HCI, we are working to provide as much insight as help as we can gather, including from leaders in the field like yourself. Thanks again.
Mark

Mark:

Thanks for your post. This "storm" shall pass soon and I really think there is a "silver lining" in what has transpired in the economy. This downturn will no doubt make us better HCIT executives, better business people that will make better business decisions moving forward. This is not a time for the weak at heart:-) We all need to forge ahead and lead!