This is Part 8 of an eight-part series featuring thought-provoking insights from the Leadership in the Age of Personalization Summit. Here is Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6 and Part 7.
All Employers are in the Business of Health
Glenn Llopis Group, LLC (GLLG)
“My definition of harmony is when your head, your heart, your feet, and your gut are all going in the same direction.”
I love that quote. In the context of business, we could think of the head as your strategy, the heart as your vision, the feet as your operating model and – forgive the metaphor – the gut as your source of fuel. It’s where your resources churn and create the energy that makes everything else possible.
In other words, it’s your people.
Are your head, heart, feet and gut in harmony? Or, more likely, is your gut a little upset? Off balance? Irritated?
Think about how difficult it is to get anything done when your actual, physical gut is irritated. A large organization is the same. You can have a bold vision, a smart strategy, an effective operating model. But if your people are feeling stifled, not activated to their fullest potential, or bogged down by physical, emotional or financial health issues, none of that other stuff will make a difference.
In my last article, part 7 of this series, we heard from healthcare leaders. But the reality is – we’re all in the business of health. No matter your industry, the physical, mental and financial health of your employees and their families affects your bottom line and your ability to thrive as an organization. The health of your customers and the communities you serve also affect the scope of the impact you can have.
How does this fit into this series of articles on our society’s transition from an age of standardization to our current age of personalization? Here’s a story that might help connect the dots.
A few years ago I met with some C-level executives at a company. I made a bold prediction: “You probably have someone at the executive level who has a chronic disease – or cares for someone with a chronic disease – that is not covered by your insurance. They’re probably struggling to get by, even with an executive salary.”
Most respectfully disagreed with my prediction. But one person at the table scribbled a note and the CEO said: “Looks like I’m wrong.” There was a VP who was living out of his car because he was paying for his mother’s cancer and a grandparent’s diabetes.
If we’re leading in a way that honors this age of personalization, everything about that scenario should change. I’ll leave it to the experts to fix our system so caring for sick family members won’t cost so much. But we can at least we can create workplace cultures that don’t make someone feel like they must hide such hardships from their peers.
We need systems in place for getting to know people as individuals. People shouldn’t be afraid to discuss health issues related to physical or mental health. If they are afraid, you’ve got a problem.
In its “Mental Health at Work 2019 Report,” Mind Share Partners shares results from surveying 1,500 people in the United States: nearly 60% of respondents reported symptoms of a mental health condition in the past year; and almost 60% of people never talked to anyone at work about their mental health in the last year. No wonder: when conversations about mental health did occur, less than half were described as a positive experience. One result? You’ll lose good people. According to the survey, 50% of millennials, 75% of Gen Z-ers and 34% overall had left roles for mental health reasons, both voluntarily and involuntarily.
How do we as leaders open ourselves up so that people will be comfortable to be in their most vulnerable state?
This subject was tackled at the Leadership in the Age of Personalization Summit, where senior leaders from industries spanning healthcare, automotive, finance, consumer packaged goods, retail, technology, apparel and more, gathered to explore the tension we’re all feeling in this shift from standardization to personalization.
Throughout the day we discussed building economies of scale around human dignity, how to escape the extremes to achieve balance, how assimilation destroys individuality and inclusion restores it, how to allow personalized values to influence your brand identity, Wall Street’s perspective on how companies are not prepared for what is about to hit them, how a company’s mission is worthless without individual contribution and the importance of what you measure.
Tending to Employees’ Mental Health
Stephanie Neuvirth is the Senior Vice President of People and Organization at Banfield Pet Hospital.
She said Banfield’s people strategy is its business strategy, because to keep growing as a company they need to attract and retain more healthcare professionals – a goal made more challenging by the cost of veterinary school and high levels of compassion fatigue among practitioners.
“The pet space is growing at double digit growth,” she said. “As we look at the growth of our business and the trajectory over the next 10 years, and then look at the supply of the individuals in our space, candidly, the biggest concern to our growth strategy is our ability to find and keep great talent.”
Stephanie Neuvirth and Gyasi Chisley during their panel discussion at the Leadership in the Age of … [+]
Glenn Llopis Group, LLC (GLLG)
Banfield leaders believe there’s a connection between Banfield’s commitment to preventive health for pets and its commitment to the health and energy of employees (whom they call associates). They deal with many of the same challenges as people in human healthcare do.
“We see very high levels of compassion fatigue, high levels of suicide, high levels of burnout,” said Neuvirth. “What we see is a very serious and concerning situation about the profile of the individuals that go into our profession. They tend to be perfectionists. They are burdened with tremendous student debt. All of these things combined make it a very, very challenging environment.”
Banfield’s health & wellbeing approach encompasses five areas: body, mind, finances, career and community.
“We believe that all five parts are very important, and it’s a different combination for every single person,” said Neuvirth. “For some, their biggest stressor is financial. For others it’s about not feeling connected to community. For others, it really is about not getting the career growth that they’re looking for. So we’re focused on how we bring all five parts to life and how to solve for the various combinations.”
I’ve written in the past about Banfield’s Veterinary Student Debt Relief Program (read about it here): “Managing Employee Stress, Debt, and Emotional Turmoil in the Age of Personalization.”
The nation’s largest general veterinary practice is also putting particular attention and resources behind mental health, addressing the suicide epidemic head-on.
“According to the CDC, one in six veterinarians has considered suicide,” said Neuvirth. “Those are staggering and very concerning numbers. In 2018, we hired a mental health professional and are looking at partnering with social workers, not just for our client experience but for our associates.”
She said they recently rolled out a first-of-its kind suicide prevention training for veterinary professionals called “ASK – Assess, Support, Know.”
’ASK’ is intended not only to support our own associates, but also to give them tools to spot emotional distress and suicidal thoughts in their colleagues,” she said. “In addition to making the “ASK” e-learning available to all 19,000+ Banfield associates nationwide, we also closed schedules at all of our 1,000+ Banfield hospitals for two hours to offer an interactive mental health and wellbeing training.”
And they’re sharing the “ASK” training and resources with the industry.
“As one of the largest employers in the veterinary health space, we feel a responsibility to support the entire profession,” said Neuvirth. “In observance of the harrowing 1-in-6 statistic, we made “ASK” available to the entire profession, including U.S. vet schools, on January 6, 2020.”
That last part is so important: finding creative solutions and then sharing them with others.
In past articles I’ve talked about discovering what you “solve for” as an individual – what you solve for is what you consistently think about in a big way, the problems you are typically drawn to, and the kinds of solutions you favor. But it also applies to organizations.
One of the things Banfield is solving for is suicide awareness and prevention among healthcare professionals, and they’ve created a method that can be used by others facing similar challenges. This is what can happen when you start tending to your gut and put individuals at the center of your strategy.
Making Cancer Care More Precise
Going back to healthcare in particular, one of our biggest challenges is to make sure our increasing levels of personalized care are accessible to all people. Next I’ll share the personalization of cancer care from the viewpoint of a physician providing the care and then an executive of an organization expanding access to care.
Dr. Joseph Alvarnas is Vice President of Government Affairs, Senior Medical Director for Employer Strategy, and Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Hematology/Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation at City of Hope.
He described how this tension between personalization and standardization has actually changed paradigms of care.
“I’m a cancer care provider,” he said. “We’ve entered an era of precision medicine. So, things that we would have thought about as one cancer a decade ago – when you look at them very closely on a genetic level, you realize they represent hundreds of different of sub-types of cancer.”
He said there are about 22,300 genes in the human genome.
“That’s the entire instruction set to make, maintain, sustain a human being over the course of our lives,” he said. “Sometimes those genes go wrong in very, very particular ways. We’re learning about these things at a pace that I would never have imagined years ago, and we’re seeing innovations directed at very specific genetic mutations in cancer.”
Dr. Alvarnas speaks at the Leadership in the Age of Personalization Executive Summit.
Glenn Llopis Group, LLC (GLLG)
“This idea that we can understand the genetic nature of someone’s cancer, identify the exact correct therapeutic, and bring it to that individual in a timely, efficient, rapid way,” said Dr. Alvarnas, “so that we don’t give wrong care, we mitigate unnecessary toxicities, we get that person well, keep them home, get them back to life – that’s actually real. That’s the precision and personalized medicine paradigm for delivering care.”
Talk about personalization. But he also posed this challenge: How do you create a system of high through-put knowledge understanding, and then marshal it to the needs of a patient in a family in a highly personalized way?
“Because cancer care is not a technological experience, it’s a human experience,” said Dr. Alvarnas. “We don’t treat diseases. We care for patients and their families, because families are as responsible for good outcomes as any of the most critical elements of what we do.”
Then he made the connection to employers.
“Employers are invested in this, because not only do employers bear the costs for misadventures in care, but they also bear witness to the human consequences of what it’s like to have an employee or a family member, or someone who’s aligned with your company, go through a cancer journey.”
Making Cancer Care More Accessible
Just as each cancer is different, so is each person’s cancer journey.
Gyasi Chisley is another healthcare executive working hard to make those journeys as personalized as possible. He is President of Hospitals and Clinics for Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), a national comprehensive cancer care network with five hospitals around the country and a growing footprint of Outpatient Care Centers and other locations.
CTCA has been around for about 32 years, and its founder Richard J. Stephenson had the notion of creating a patient empowerment platform. Chisley said 82% of their patients live below the Federal Poverty Line. He said consumers come directly to them, usually for a second opinion, which means they’re often out-of-network.
“A lot of the folks that were suffering from cancer or had that evil diagnosis were, number one, scared, and then number two, didn’t have an opportunity to get that second opinion,” said Chisley. “So we started expanding through a footprint of what we call OIS, which is Oncology Information Systems – just to get information out there directly to the patient. And that’s been happening for 32 years.”
They also took a holistic approach.
“Our chairman had the foresight to say let’s treat the patient holistically, with things like massage and acupuncture – almost regardless of cost – because we think that’s better in the long run,’” said Chisley. “But even more, what are the patient’s goals? What are they really trying to achieve?”
Chisley said one of the things they’re working on is going direct to employer, and having those crucial conversations with employers that will help them look at their workforce planning and look for opportunities for interventions that will ensure that the continuum of care is top of mind.
Glenn Llopis and Gyasi Chisley during their fireside chat at the Age of Personalization Executive … [+]
Glenn Llopis Group, LLC (GLLG)
“We’re not the most popular people in the payer’s eyes these days – we’re doing things like having diet consults, we’re doing things that are out of the box, if you will, for new cutting-edge clinical trials, and not always getting reimbursed from the payer,” said Chisley. “But you know what that is demonstrating? It’s demonstrating to the employer that we’re taking care of their people, and that’s why we’re going direct to employer and direct to consumer. So, that’s opportunity for us, not only to be evolutionary, but revolutionary.”
Chisley said after a day of hearing executives talk about personalization at the summit, he’s inspired to dig even deeper as a leader: “We see our patients come in at their most vulnerable times, particularly with this despicable disease of cancer. I’ve been vulnerable, but I haven’t been vulnerable enough. And that’s opportunity for me to be humble and make sure we’re meeting our patients where they are.”
An Appeal From Gen Z
Meeting people where they are. That’s what this age of personalization is all about.
After a full day of C-level leaders sharing their experiences and being vulnerable with each other, we closed the summit with a different kind of VIP – your current customer, your future employee and, frankly, your future leader.
Brielle Lubin is in 8th grade. She describes herself as born from a Jewish-American father and a Japanese mother from Tokyo. She is very proud of her Jewish-American culture and is equally proud of her Japanese culture. At her school in Los Angeles she leads two clubs: the Gender Sexuality Awareness Club and the Asian American Cultural Club.
Throughout the day of the summit, she had been playing piano in the background. When she addressed the audience from the stage at the end of the day, she did it with the confidence of someone who already gives thought – and action – to these ideas of personalization.
Here’s just a sampling of what she shared with us:
“As a part of the youth community, we’re always told, ‘You have no idea what you’re talking about. That’s so ridiculous. That’s frivolous. You’re too young.’”
“I may not be the CEO of a company like everyone else here. I’m just some 14-year-old kid. But you know what? When we’re told when we’re younger, ‘Hey, you can be yourself, you can express your opinion, there are places where people can talk to you and help you’ – I find that to be the most important thing. Because we cannot start assimilating when we’re young, if [our goal is to] avoid assimilating when we’re older.”
Brielle Lubin speaks at the Leadership in the Age of Personalization Executive Summit.
Glenn Llopis Group, LLC (GLLG)
“Everyone is a different shade of a color in the entire color spectrum. None of us is exactly the same. There’s always some sort of shade that’s just a little bit off, and that’s the most important thing and we need to acknowledge that – because identity crisis occurs the most when we don’t recognize that difference, when we think we need to blend with other colors.”
“When people try to paint something, they don’t just blend every single color of the rainbow together. They use all the colors individually, use them as a different shade on a different part of the paper, and that’s what we are. We are all that different shade of a color on that paper.”
Welcome to the Age of Personalization
Consider what Brielle said. This is the thinking that’s already entering your workforce today, and will be in full force within your organizations in the next 10 years.
If you’re not already trying to create the systems that allow for this level of inclusive leadership, you will not remain relevant in a marketplace where consumers and employees value their individuality.
The luxury of time is over, and I want to leave you with this sense of urgency. Throughout this series we have explored the difference between leadership in the age of standardization and in the age of personalization. But this is just the beginning.
Knowing something is right isn’t enough to start doing it. And knowing something is wrong isn’t enough to stop doing it.
We are a nation burning out at work – not just because we’re working so hard and so much, but because we’re doing that without any sense of who we are and any connection to what we are doing. Engaged or not, the negative forces of standardization have stripped so many of us of our identities.
Only by rediscovering who we are as individuals and embracing that individuality in others can we find our purpose and contribute to a healthier whole.
Leadership in the age of personalization is about creating healthy environments we can all thrive in. It is the force that will push us to start over again. I see this as the beginning of a movement. And now the question is: what are you going to do about it?