high-performance work practicesManaging talent in a healthcare setting can be a challenging prospect, especially with all the pressures and demands that come from trying to improve everything from staff retention to patient safety to overall outcomes for your healthcare institution. Fortunately, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has identified four key high-performance work practices, or HPWPs. These evidence-based practices can help improve your organization’s capacity to effectively select, develop, and deploy personnel in ways that best support a high-performing healthcare organization.

When you and your team begin to focus on the HPWPs, you’ll find actionable solutions and real results. Learn more about these four high-performance work practices to start making a measurable difference at your healthcare organization:

1. Organizational Engagement

This first HPWP refers to the work of generating buy-in from all employees and stakeholders around the organization’s shared mission. When all employees understand the goals and the practices put in place to meet those goals, an organization is better positioned to improve employee engagement and build upon that culture of success. Successfully engaging employees, as described by the 2010 AHRQ report, means committing to the following practices:

  • Communicating mission, vision, and values
  • Sharing performance information
  • Involving employees in key decisions
  • Tracking and rewarding performance

Using a performance management system can help your organization support these practices, but keep in mind that no one program or tool will create engagement. When you begin to zero in on your mission and values and work to communicate that vision to involve employees in the shared pursuit of your organization’s goals, you will begin to see a real shift in the overall levels of employee engagement and morale.

2. Staff Acquisition and Development

The second HPWP focuses on practices related to recruiting and retaining high-quality staff. This practice makes clear that all four high-performance work practices are deeply interconnected. For example, when hiring in healthcare, talent acquisition can use behavioral-based assessments to ensure that candidates’ inherent behavioral competencies align with the overall mission and values of the organization as a way of fostering engagement and supporting retention from the start.

The AHRQ outlines the following best practices to use when hiring staff and developing your current workforce:

  • Rigorous recruiting
  • Selective hiring
  • Extensive training
  • Career development

This practice prompts talent management to take a fresh look at internal practices for training and developing staff. Selective hiring processes are not enough; healthy organizations continue to offer opportunities for staff to grow and learn throughout their entire career.

3. Frontline Empowerment

The third HPWP tasks talent management professionals to leverage the leadership strengths of their frontline teams. When frontline staff are empowered to make decisions on a foundation of evidence-based practices and mission alignment, patient safety and outcomes improve. To create an empowered staff, you must ensure employees feel safe and secure in their role and aren’t afraid to speak out for fear of job security or punitive reprimands. Communicate expectations clearly, and then encourage staff to actively work to identify aspects of improvement in their daily work.

To do this successfully, the AHRQ recommends the following practices:

  • Employment security
  • Reduced status distinctions
  • Teams/decentralized decision making

When individuals on a team are able to make decisions in the moment instead of waiting to go through a lengthy formal channel for feedback, they feel more invested in patient outcomes and will work to improve their own sphere of influence each and every day.

4. Leadership Alignment and Development

The fourth and final HPWP helps talent management develop a leadership pipeline with internal candidates. When staff members are given the tools and development opportunities they need to expand their skills and shift into leadership, your overall organizational culture is given a major boost. In addition, your organization spends less time and resources on recruiting outside leadership, and more time and resources on developing an excellent team from the inside out, and from the bottom up.

The AHRQ advises that talent management teams work to do the following to grow excellent leaders who are aligned to their institution’s mission:

  • Linking management training to organizational needs
  • Planning succession
  • Tracking and rewarding performance

The practices in action will vary according to your individual institution’s needs, but the idea is the same: recognize excellence within your team, and make a clear plan for developing leaders and smooth organizational transitions.

Integrating these four high-performance work practices into your organization’s daily way of working can help improve patient safety and employee satisfaction. It’s a holistic approach to healthcare talent management that allows employees at all levels to feel more empowered and knowledgeable in their approach to patient care.


Are you interested in learning more about how you can improve employee engagement in your healthcare organization? Download:

[How-To Guide] Building Employee Engagement: How to Improve Employee Retention and Increase Patient Satisfaction

high performance workplace practices

About The Editorial Staff

The Editorial Staff is a team of writers with a passion for helping healthcare organizations manage their biggest and most important investment: their employees.