Most health care leaders want their organizations to be more diverse. So, where do they start?

Paul Bohne, managing partner and co-leader of Witt/Kieffer’s health care practice, and Mike Supple, executive vice president at B.E. Smith, share insights from their years of recruiting health care leaders.

  1. Make a strategic plan for increasing diversity throughout your organization with measurable goals. “There’s a difference between ‘hoping for’ more diversity and matching aspirations with intentionality,” Bohne says.
  2. Make a commitment. “This isn’t something you can turn on and off,” Supple says. “It requires the support and the financial resources necessary to monitor the program and make changes as needed to achieve results.”
  3. Start at the top of the organization, the bottom and everywhere else. Diversity in the C-suite is insufficient. The value of diversity must be embedded in all levels of an organization, in all programs and within the culture.
  4. Create a diverse selection committee. Members of a homogeneous group are likely to only consider people who look like themselves.
  5. Walk your talk. “So many times I see this: An organization will bring in a panel of diverse candidates, but when it comes to crunch time, they do not go with a diverse candidate,” Supple says. They choose what he calls a “safe” candidate, meaning one who looks like the individual he or she is replacing.
  6. Do not assume that progress will happen as the health care workforce becomes more diverse. Need proof? The vast majority of health care employees are female, but women do not dominate health system C-suites and boardrooms.
  7. Do not engage in window dressing. “As a recruiter, I can vouch for the fact that it is hard to retain and recruit diverse leaders if they sense that their ‘participation’ is only symbolic,” Bohne says. “They expect meaningful, rewarding roles and will take their talents elsewhere if need be to get them.”
  8. Mentor for success. “Women, minorities and other diverse individuals who move into board and executive roles need support and consultation from [people] who can show them the ropes,” Bohne says.
  9. Check yourself. Use employee engagement surveys to see whether your organization’s diverse workers are truly engaged with the health system, Supple says.