What if I told you that you could learn valuable talent management lessons from one of the most successful artists in the music industry? What if I told you that this artist was 25-year-old Taylor Swift…? Before you stop reading this article and go all “Kanye” on me, sit tight and let me finish—because sometimes you really can find inspiration in the most unexpected places. Taylor Swift’s education and experience may have come courtesy of the music industry, but the lessons apply to a much broader audience, including talent management professionals.
Love her or hate her, there’s no denying that Taylor Swift is one of the most influential cultural icons of our time — Time Magazine has even gone as far as to call her “America’s most important musician.” She has broken records, racked up dozens of high-profile awards, and amassed a fortune most people only see in the form of Monopoly money. While many of her peers are off “twerking” their way through a gauntlet of paparazzi, Tay-Tay (I can call her that, we’re besties) is busy building an empire using the kind of business savvy and candor that most people often lack. So how did a 25-year-old do it and what lessons can healthcare organizations possibly take away from her? Well, after countless hours of songs on repeat and sleuthing lyrics line by line, here, inspired by Taylor, are four life lessons in healthcare talent management:
1. Be revolutionary
It takes some serious guts to switch genres in a business where the slightest misstep can cost you your entire career, but that’s just what Swift did with her latest album. It wasn’t too long ago that Taylor Swift was the girl with long blonde curls and cowboy boots who sang about pickup trucks and a boy named Drew who was the reason for the teardrops on her guitar. For most, it’s hard to even recall the fact that the pop-star we know today got her start in country music opening for Rascal Flatts and George Strait. The back-woods twang, fiddle chords, and banjo harmonies synonymous of her older songs are absolutely NOWHERE to be found on the new album, 1989. 1989 is a full-on pop music extravaganza, and it could have been a disaster, but instead it broke records. Swift has undergone a complete transition from country to pop, and it’s a testament to the fact that sometimes doing a 180° and changing course is the best decision anyone can make regardless of the situation they’re in.
For example, if you are finding that the phone-based processes you have in place for reference checking is getting to be too much, then it may be time to take a page out of Taylor’s book and ditch what worked in the past in order to embrace something new like an automated reference checking solution. Simply because a process was put in place because it was once a “best practice” or senior leaders claim that “it’s the way we’ve always done it,” doesn’t mean that it is necessarily the most efficient or effective process to be in place today.
2. Take risks, have confidence
As an artist who became a worldwide sensation in her teens, it would be easy for Taylor to play the part of a pretty little puppet, allowing her management team to steer her along from behind the scenes. However, Taylor’s not one to take the path of least resistance. When everyone told her that a pop album was a bad idea, particularly a pop album with a weird name (1989), with an even weirder album cover (she’s wearing a sweatshirt with seagulls on it and only half of her face is seen), she did it anyway. She also makes no apologies for the recent move to pull her music from Spotify. Some may not agree with her decisions, but one thing is for sure: she is an incredibly savvy businesswoman who isn’t afraid to take big risks. She knows her fans, she knows what they want, and she’s not afraid to give it to them. You do you, Taylor.
Taylor’s confidence to make major changes and quite possibly “risk it all” is only possible because of the deep understanding she has of her fanbase. Saying we take risks in healthcare sounds scary, but believe it or not, we take risks everyday. We’re creative. We think outside the box. We solve problems. We come up with unique solutions. Whether it’s incorporating “Ice, Ice Baby” into your patient safety videos, or implementing a “90 in 90 Initiative” to increase HCAHPS scores within 90 days, we too take risks.
3. Be open and honest
There’s a lot to be said for honesty and authenticity, and Taylor Swift has buckets of both. There is nothing more refreshing than when an organization or public figure is genuine. Taylor is more than happy to let her the world know how just how “normal” she is by posting embarrassing childhood photos and admitting that she binge-watches Law and Order SVU just like the rest of us. Music is a powerful thing, and Swift’s willingness to emotionally purge through the lyrics she writes, and her candidness about her life is what makes her so relatable to fans. Namely, she doesn’t act like the biggest pop star in the world — she acts like your best friend.
Similar to the way that Taylor makes her fans feel like “besties”, talent acquisition professionals can likewise connect with candidates during the interview process. While it’s crucial to know what type of candidate you’re recruiting for, it’s important to be transparent in the hiring process. Talent acquisition teams must work with hiring managers and frontline staff to determine what information is important for candidates to have upfront. By providing honest and realistic job expectations during the interview process, candidates understand the organization’s culture and what is expected of them to be considered successful before accepting the offer.
4. Learn to shake it off
Great success spawns criticism, and Swift has had more than her fair share of less-than-stellar things said about her. From critiquing her dance moves and dating history, to Kanye West’s very public disapproval of her award win, Swift’s persona and abilities are constantly under attack. Somehow she fends it off with style and grace while her smile intact, and perhaps the most impressive part: it’s downright endearing. They say when life gives you lemons you’re supposed to make lemonade, right? Well that’s exactly what Taylor does, because nobody pokes fun at Taylor Swift quite like Taylor Swift. Anyone with ears knows that she’s a master at turning her lesser moments into lyrical triumph exhibited by songs like Shake It Off and Blank Space where the witty and self-aware songstress cleverly responds to all of her “haters.” In ASOS magazine’s January 2015 issue, Swift says, “As much as I would really like to have saved myself heartache, embarrassment or gossip, I also know that my biggest mistakes have turned into my best lessons and sometimes my greatest career triumphs… If my life had been turbulence free, no bumps in the road at all, maybe my music would be more beige.”
Not everything goes according to plan and gets approved the first time around. There’s going to be roadblocks in any instance worthy of significant change. For example, when implementing a learning management system, you may need pitch your idea more than once to get buy-in from senior management. So often people fall into routines where they run on autopilot and a bump in the road can cause you to stop and think about what you’re doing and why—creating a more streamlined, efficient plan than what you had to begin with.
For someone who lives under never-ending scrutiny in a very competitive industry, Taylor Swift has done an admirable job of achieving success without compromising her good-girl morals or her boundless vision. Even for those of us who avoid the lime-light in favor of making a difference behind the scenes in healthcare by recruiting and retaining top talent, there are valuable lessons to be learned. By keeping simple core values front and center and being receptive to change, you can build the kind of durable foundation that can lead to success in all aspects of your talent management organization.