Stitching Up an Integrated Health System: Spectrum Health’s Roger Jansen

If there’s one phrase the talent leader hears often, it’s business alignment, and for good reason. Without it, valuable resources may be ill-used and opportunities to boost business performance may be lost. Business alignment means different things in different companies and industries, but in health care it begins and ends with integration.

Expertise in business integration and the ability to leverage the power of talent management were the reason Roger Jansen, senior vice president and chief human resources officer for Spectrum Health, was hired almost two years ago.

When he joined the nonprofit health system of nine hospitals, 204 locations and 19,000 employees spread across west Michigan, the company had 11 different HR departments with 700 policies. Now there is one HR department with 50 policies.

“We’re operating as an integrated HR function for the very first time in the system’s history,” Jansen said.

Jansen first began working with the organization as a retained consultant in 2010. Now as its talent leader he has begun turning HR into a consistently strategic function.

“Not that it hasn’t been in the past, but it’s kind of gone in waves,” he said. “We’ve had fits and starts of how we manage and develop people, plan for succession, plan for workforce, what we’ll need in the future, what the industry is bringing us. Now we’re putting those all into a very closely locked prism through a different model of deployment of our talent in human resources and how we’re moving talent across the system.”

For example, in the old Spectrum world there was a high probability an employee would remain in one hospital group for the majority, if not all, of his or her career. That presents difficulty as health care evolves. “We need people who are familiar with the total spectrum — no pun intended — of what we can provide as an organization,” Jansen said.

Spectrum has an insurance arm in addition to delivering patient care, and under Jansen’s leadership it has embraced talent mobility to ensure employees get a 360-degree view of how the organization operates. This enables leaders to make better, more collaborative decisions, which leads to better health care for members and better experiences for employees.

The Best Non-Laid Plans
Jansen said his career has not always followed a plan, but its trajectory did offer Spectrum a useful bucket of skills. After earning a Ph.D. in clinical psychology with an emphasis on neuropsychological testing, Jansen said he spent time in clinical settings before he started consulting to companies about statistics, mergers and acquisitions, and due diligence. He also was heavily involved in identifying selection processes for executive talent.

In 1998, Jansen formed a company called Leadership Capital Group. Eight years later that company evolved into another venture-funded company called ThinkWise. He remains chairman of that company, which is involved in the technology side of talent management and leadership development.

During his roughly 14 years as a consultant, Jansen helped organizations set up infrastructure related to succession planning, universities, executive selection and development, and a number of human capital initiatives such as reward and recognition policies, internal development for people leaving the country and family business dynamics.

“But my heart and my career has always been really focused on how do we help health care,” Jansen said. “When the CEO of Spectrum Health asked me to join the company I was very excited. I had some trepidation because I was giving up running my own shop, but Spectrum Health is such a critical entity to the region I thought it made sense to jump back in and help them on a full-time basis.”

Jansen said he always knew he wanted to work in health care. His mother was a biology and anatomy teacher, so he was exposed to life and health sciences at an early age. But his original plan was to go to medical school. He became consumed by research, however, and thought he might teach at the university level before an interest in business pulled him away from academia and clinical studies.

A self-described nurturer, Jansen said he’s had a number of health issues throughout his life, and was in a wheelchair for a time as a child. “They thought I had some form of polio at one point. Then, before I knew it, I was walking again, so I’ve had enough experiences with health care to understand what works and what didn’t work.”

Raising the Bar
Richard Breon, president and CEO of Spectrum Health, said Jansen has raised the level of sophistication in the CHRO role, breaking down the existing HR processes and rebuilding them with a focus on talent acquisition, recruitment, on-boarding, collaboration and employee satisfaction.

Breon said talent identification and development have been Spectrum’s biggest concerns since he looked around the room at an executive retreat a few years ago and realized more than half of the people present would retire soon. Jansen, he said, has identified ways to develop the next generation of leaders and the culture needed to nurture them, and he quickly gained acceptance from his staff and peers as he articulated and executed a new vision for HR.

“We’ve had a wide assortment of people in the HR position. Most of them are process-oriented people, and I was looking for somebody who would be different, who would bring a focus to what I thought this organization needed,” Breon said. “We’ve had some interaction with Roger in his previous life with various parts of our organization, and all the feedback was quite positive. That was how it all got started, but it was primarily looking at what is it that we needed different than we’ve had before, and Roger fit that.”

Jansen said he made the right move joining the Spectrum team because he can keep one foot in the business and still be on hand as things are changing in the health care industry. This affords him opportunities to be creative and innovate and to establish programs and processes that change the way people think.

“My greatest challenge is not getting people to learn how to do things differently. It’s to unlearn what they already know how to do,” he said. “Everyone has the same access to capital markets; everybody can put up beautiful buildings. GE sells medical equipment to everyone who will buy it. The only differentiator we have is our people.”

To fully leverage talent as a business differentiator, Spectrum has to operate as an integrated health care system. When a patient sees a doctor or primary physician and is sent to a specialist or elsewhere, Jansen said those different caregivers should have spoken to one another. “As health care changes and health care payments and reimbursements change, we’re going to be judged not on the quantity of the work that we do, or the number of patients that we see, but on the quality of the work that we perform. The quality of the work we perform would be much better if we integrate, and integration can’t just be in a clinical setting. It needs to be from an administrative and an operational setting so all those things work together.”

Organizations that have an integrated talent management approach tend to be more efficient, effective and to outperform those that don’t, said Stacia Sherman Garr, principal analyst for talent management at Bersin by Deloitte.

Changes in the health care industry make it even more important for hospitals to leverage the benefits of an integrated talent management system, she said, referencing Obamacare legislation, which could lower Medicare reimbursement rates as a result of patients being readmitted, among other things. “When we think about things like development for employees and nurses, the more engaged they are, the lower the readmittance rates are,” she said. “A second element here is electronic health records. There are currently incentives in place to encourage organizations — hospitals and insurance companies — to implement electronic health records. That’s going to require additional training in addition to the investment in technology, so understanding your people, what they know, what they don’t, who’s taking different courses, that’s going to be an important component.”

Sherman Garr also mentioned the potential for future mergers and acquisitions as another scenario where integrated talent management could create substantive impact within health care. Efficiency in that scenario is critical, as are economies of scale.

Spectrum, which has been around for more than 100 years, has grown by acquisition. “In order for those mergers to be effective, workforces have to be No. 1,” Sherman Garr said. “You have to know who your people are, competencies, skills, all that, be able to fit the organization together, and then have a relatively agile workforce so they can go through those mergers more effectively. Integrated talent management can help with that.”

Proof’s in the Pudding
Jansen said revenue and the organization itself continue to grow since Spectrum’s HR function was overhauled. Increased productivity per worker, efficiency, reductions in redundancy and duplication all make the bottom line look better, as do the organization’s scores on certain measures such as quality outcomes and employee and patient satisfaction, all of which have increased. “I can’t attribute that to any one thing, but it is at least related to some of the efforts we’re putting forth,” he said.

Metrics will continue to play an important role in Jansen’s plans to integrate talent management and make the function more strategic. He said he wants metrics available for every hiring manager and manager in the company on a weekly basis to give them departmental insight, help them make better decisions and help them understand the people aspect of the issues they face.

He also will focus on not just developing great leaders, but developing great followers. Great followers help to get things done, Jansen said, and not everyone wants to sit in the C-suite or be a manager, but they still want to do a good job for the company. He said he will look for ways to invest in and let those people thrive without going into a leadership development program.

Examining the workforce more closely also will be a priority: what skills and structures will be necessary to ensure people want to work at Spectrum? Will the organization be a full-time employer, or will it focus on a variable workforce, flexing up or down to provide working parents, for example, with more flexibility?

Jansen said he also wants to pull a strong scientific methodology into how Spectrum employees execute their work. “If I can change how you think, I can change what you do,” he said. “If I still think the only way I can treat patients is to come into my office and sit in a waiting room, then come back to a solo room where I see you, then you walk out, pay your bill and leave, I’m trapped. But if I think, you know what? Maybe health care can be delivered via an iPad, maybe I can do exams remotely, maybe I can come up with an entirely different way to interact with my patients.”

There is an old saying that if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything. Jansen said it’s absolutely true. “Any time you’re sick you realize how important your health is. Health care can’t just be about treating the sick,” he said. “It’s got to be about preventing what gets us sick to begin with. If I can have an impact on that — and I think I can — that’s a really, really important opportunity to take to help people. That’s why I’ve been so passionate about it.

“You can do something that’s very scientific and very advanced and academically challenging, but [at] the end of it you can make somebody’s life better. That’s about as rewarding as it can get. To me that’s noble. I don’t think you get to do many things these days where you can impact people like that.”

Spectrum Health System’s newly integrated human resources function operates the transformational side of its business using seven centers of expertise. They include:

• Talent acquisition — how people enter the organization.
• Employee lifecycle — the employee experience from hire to retire.
• Workforce planning — future industry needs, workforce changes needed and how those will impact patient care.
• Organizational development — using analytics to drive better decision making.
• Inclusion and diversity — expanding what it means to be inclusive, promoting a broad definition of diversity that goes beyond race or ethnic background to include experiences.
• Spectrum Health University — preparing, propelling and transforming leaders.
• The Legacy Group — identifying potential successors for critical jobs.