Growing Leaders

BJC HealthCare’s talent development initiative emphasizes leadership skills, technical skills and project-based learning

Nancy LeMaster

BJC HealthCare is creating a talent development approach focused on strengthening its supply chain’s current and future leaders.

“What we’re trying to do is teach our team members how to go about developing both themselves and the people that work for them,” says Nancy LeMaster, vice president of supply chain transformation.

Rather than think of it as a program, a term she feels is prescriptive, LeMaster prefers to think of it as a process of developing unique plans for each person. “We’re trying to create individualized plans, but also create structure so everyone isn’t starting from scratch.”

These plans – which she hopes will ultimately be implemented with all supply chain employees – cover concepts across three tracks: leadership skills, technical skills and certification, and project-based learning. Managers participate in a mix of BJC development courses, local university classes, and national conference attendance, as well as on-the-job training.

“We are working with each individual to determine what leadership courses they need to take and then what supply chain-specific skills they want to enhance,” says LeMaster.

Developing supply chain leaders
The defining qualities of a good supply chain leader are authenticity, integrity, respect, and the ability to build trust while generating results, says LeMaster.

“You don’t want to set up a culture that says the end justifies the means,” she notes. But at the same time, “you don’t want to set up a culture where…nothing gets done.” A leader must be there to help their staff succeed, and they do so by practicing such skills as collaboration, persuasion, critical thinking, and communication. The talent development program aims to help them do so.

“Technical skills are always going to be important. We always want to grow and enhance them,” she says. But in order to get results in an increasingly complex environment, managers will have to learn how to collaborate with team members outside the supply chain: physicians, nurses, administrators, etc. “We can’t work in a silo.”

The talent development program also focuses on employee retention. Traditionally, upward mobility has simply meant obtaining promotions and higher titles. LeMaster says the definition has expanded. “What I’m seeing today is the quest for meaningful work and variety. People do want to move up, but they also want varied experiences.” For her, this includes exposing employees to a variety of career options, as opposed to a narrow path, for example, from manager to director to vice president.

She feels that the key to helping employees get meaningful work experience is to make sure that the supply chain’s mission is tied to the goal of the organization. “It’s about the patient,” she says. To that end, employees – including those in corporate office functions – should rotate through the entire hospital system, in order to see the work being done with patients.

BJC’s talent development initiative is still in its early stages. LeMaster says that the supply chain administration is busy moving it from concept to reality. However, through the work, she hopes that the program will help BJC’s employees think of healthcare “in the broadest sense of the career.”

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