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Healthcare Workforce Adaptability in the Workplace

Healthcare Workforce Adaptability in the Workplace

Workforce Adaptability and Flexibility in the Healthcare Industry

In recent years, the healthcare system has been enduring the strain of the increasing demands to rectify health workforce shortages and limit corresponding expenditures. Current solutions for staff shortages may have created some ease, but it must be met with gratifying results that would ultimately produce efficiency and sustainability among workforce resources.

A Harvard Business School Project, that was conducted in 2018, attempted to recognize the different factors affecting the nature of work. The survey featured 11 major countries – The United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Sweden and the United States, examining 1,000 workers from each. The findings contradicted what was initially thought of the attitude and commitment that employees would have for their work. It declared their interest to learn skills and their willingness to adapt to change.

For the healthcare industry, workforce flexibility is introduced as a good way to address both concerns on employee shortages and meeting patient needs. To welcome and enhance adaptability, tasks and skills acquired through traditional role boundaries will have to be broken or altered.

Workforce flexibility determines an employee’s ability and interest to work. To tackle cost-efficiency and productivity for clinical activities, approaches to better workforce output are decided based upon initiatives to improve staff retention and motivation and this can be done through:

Workforce planning to align the needs and priorities of the organisation with the staff. This can be achieved by allowing more flexibility in career and job planning. This could include, creating reliable staff schedules and more opportunities for professional development.

A work environment or culture that encourages employee participation, where there are effective decision-making and communicative strategies.

Workforce adaptability determines an employee’s ability to acquire new skills as well as their willingness to comply to changes or new situations. At first glance, introducing technology in the medical field can be quite daunting but not impossible.  For hospitals and healthcare organisations to stay competitive, it is imperative for them to stay innovated by being accustomed to or applying technological advances. Robotics, AI and Virtual Reality are the new improvements making headway into the medical field, yet surprisingly only about 40.3 percent of organisations globally are sufficiently well prepared for this change into patient care.

Adaptability and flexibility advert to the concept of adding value to the workplace, that is, a more ‘agile’ environment. Agile organisations are more stable and dynamic as they cope with ambiguity better and manage uncertainty in a more efficient way. Company leaders struggle with change and oftentimes face difficulty with being slow or too bureaucratic and unresponsive. Leaders should be more agile through adaptability and flexibility, as it leads to better business outcomes.

Hospitals and other medical organisations suffer the stoic, all too traditional work approach.  To be more agile, organisations like those need to eliminate predictability and improve quality. This can be achieved by enhancing staff adaptability, which can be simply through task shifting or task reorganisation. Such techniques can develop human and digital skills to embrace technological progression. Senior Management and Human Resources professionals should seize the opportunity to collaborate technical skills with cognitive technological skills to allow hospitals to function at its opportune best.


  1. Your Workforce Is More Adaptable Than You Think, May 2019, HBR
  2. Six principles to enhance health workforce flexibility, April 2015, NCBI 
  3. Time to Care: Securing a Future for the Hospital Workforce in the Future, November 2017, Deloitte
  4. 2018 Healthcare Trends: Succeed with an Adaptable, Innovative, and Customer-Focused Workforce, Jan. 2018, SkillSurvey
  5. Agility at the top: Want a more agile company?  Become a more agile leader. McKinsey & Company
  6. Leading agile transformation: The new capabilities leaders need to build 21st-century organizations, McKinsey & Company