In a Princeton University dorm room circa 1948, a man named John Nash was working on a dissertation that would later prove to change the way the world understood economics.
Nash Equilibrium was developed with the thought that in any situation where there are two or more variables, much like the way there are multiple functions within an organization, by establishing a perceived shared solution by all parties involved, equilibrium can be achieved. What Mr. Nash did not recognize at the time was how this “game theory” approach to conflict resolution had a myriad of applications; not the lease of which is the potential of its remarkable impact on corporate engagement.
In our specific industry, it is all about measurement. This makes the function of Human Resource Management a keenly unique piece of the overall effort to engaging the workforce.
Measuring anything requires a baseline, common goals, and an understanding that the shared vision is likely a result of an amalgamation of several unique solutions. Equilibrium here is not just the synergy of a few variables, but rather hundreds.
Each individual clinician and member of the administration require different levels of management and varying degrees of connection. To understand how to ensure there is a win available to all, HR is compelled to connect with each moving part of the system, every individual representing the whole, and work to align them with the corporate goal. It requires strategic thought and a strong emotional intelligence. This is how we settle our people into a position of being receptive. Once we have arrived here, operationalizing the system is imperative.
From an operational standpoint, the organization and its stakeholders need to be unified in their objectives and goals to achieve this Nash Equilibrium. In healthcare, for example, the primary objectives should be improved patient experience and health, reduced healthcare costs and decreased clinician and staff turnover. Employee evaluations should be framed within the context of their contribution to these objectives. But even in the absence of performance evaluations, the organization wants employees that believe in and push these outcomes. This allows the organization to strike a Nash Equilibrium between the operations and all its stakeholders.
Often this equilibrium is disrupted by an organization that has stated primary objectives, such as quality patient care, but creates standard operating procedures that are contradictory or misfocused. This could look like a health system focusing on profits rather than patients, or a nonprofit that spends more of its contributions on salaries then its stated purpose. This serves to deflate employees, decrease productive output, and increase turnover.
To align the organization and its stakeholders, it is important that the vision of the company be clearly defined and that the employee’s outcomes are viewed in their advancement of that vision. Managers in this environment will work with their direct reports to create goals and metrics that will hold them accountable to this vision. Employees who do not move the vision forward will be coached, re-assigned, or removed. Likewise, Board of Directors will hold the executives of the organization to the same standard, ensuring that the equilibrium between the organization and its stakeholders is constantly achieved.
We certainly have not nailed this down to a science. But we are getting there. It took Mr. Nash the better part of a decade to realize how his theory of conflict resolution could change the way every economist and mathematician viewed solution-based decisioning. Our engagement continues to improve with the littlest of tweaks. We have become remarkably aware that when growing the muscle that is an organization, slow changes over time tend to fair better than drastic change all at once. What we are building is not just about patient care and employee engagement, however. We are, in fact, developing a playbook whereby growth and scaling can be done in a manner that is not only healthy, but welcomed. And, in any organization, that may be the single most common goal for which any could hope.
Brandon Rogers is chief financial officer for Verber Dental Group, in Camp Hill, Pa. His past experiences include roles at Giant, Highmark, and JPMorgan. Dr. Kolts is a seasoned dental executive with experience operating and growing dental health organization. He serves as the President and COO of Verber Dental Group.