People-First Leadership: 5 Roles Putting the Care Back into Healthcare

Here are 5 emerging people-first leadership roles that improve employee experience and increase wellness across the healthcare industry...

Here are 5 emerging people-first leadership roles that improve employee experience and increase wellness across the healthcare industry...

Healthcare organizations have been trending away from a profit-first focus to people-first leadership. Successful teams recognize that people want to work where they feel supported and valued. 


Every day heroes do not wear capes, and behind the mask, healthcare workers are experiencing burnout and leaving the workforce at an alarming rate. In fact, 55% of front-line healthcare workers report mental and physical exhaustion from chronic workplace stress.

The industry has always been one of high stress, increasing workloads, understaffed facilities, fatigue, and limited career advancement opportunities. So, the addition of the pandemic more than exacerbated an already fragile workforce. Despite these challenges, some organizations are thriving because of their commitment to employee wellness and engagement programs. This people-first leadership approach is putting the care back into healthcare.

Leadership has been trending away from profit-first toward a people-first, consumer-centric focus for some time because when people are valued, profits follow. Successful healthcare organizations recognize that people want to work where they feel supported. Happy, engaged employees are more productive, loyal, and achieve better results. By being in tune with their team, leaders can be more empathetic and compassionate, allowing them to provide real-time solutions to reduce burnout. With this support, the quality of patient care is maintained and often improved.

How can organizations support people-first leadership? By creating employee experience roles dedicated to improving the well-being of the workforce and transforming culture. Here are 5 emerging people-first roles helping healthcare organizations focus on team engagement and cultivate a culture of wellness.

1. Chief Wellness Officer

Wellness is the journey to becoming your best self physically and mentally. To envision the Chief Wellness Officer (CWO), think of a personal trainer and mindset coach for the entire organization. This person inspires, motivates, and encourages healthy habits to help employees reach their full potential, improving business results.

Altogether, the CWO develops and executes long-term strategies employees can use that promote more positive lifestyles and work habits. This leads to better engagement, resilience, and productivity, creating an overall culture of well-being. The CWO is essential because employee wellness is critical to overall performance. And just like our bodies need exercise, sunlight, and nutrient-dense foods to prosper, healthcare organizations need a CWO to thrive.

2. Chief Experience Officer

Organizations often need to remember that employees are customers too, and their experiences, along with external customers, matter. The Chief Experience Officer (CXO) is the customer service champion for the entire organization, and this people-first leadership role is vital in today's consumer-driven healthcare industry.

CXOs create positive, memorable experiences for patients and employees by designing and implementing employee experience strategies. These strategies elevate patient experience and ensure quality interactions with staff. Another key benefit of CXOs is that they create policies that boost patient satisfaction and loyalty. CXOs lead the entire healthcare orchestra, ensuring every note is in tune, and playing a beautiful symphony of service excellence.

3. Chief People Officer

A Chief People Officer (CPO) is the ultimate talent advocate for healthcare organizations. Like a coach, the CPO ensures every employee has the tools and resources needed to do their best work, helping each team member reach their full potential and make a difference in the lives of patients and families. Equally, their team-building expertise makes them experts at creating and fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace that encourages employee growth and development. The CPO is universally known as a culture leader. They attract, retain, and develop top talent by implementing innovative and effective talent management strategies.

4. Chief Engagement Officer

The Chief Engagement Officer (CEO) is the heartbeat of the organization. They promote a positive company culture where employees feel part of something bigger than themselves. And like the heart, they are the center of great culture, permeating each vessel of the organization to ensure everyone feels seen, valued, respected, heard, and engaged.

CEOs are responsible for creating processes and systems that make it easier for employees to do their work and recognize and celebrate employee successes. Furthermore, they promote positive communication between departments and individuals and ensure everyone clearly understands the organization's vision, mission, and goals. Their goal? Improving employee experience, satisfaction, productivity, and retention. By doing so, they enable the healthcare team to provide exceptional patient care and create a lasting, positive impact on the communities they serve.

5. Chief Culture Officer

Recently, your organization may have experienced a positive cultural transformation that improved the workforce. Congratulations! Following this path, you may be in search of a guardian to protect the new culture and prevent your team from returning to old habits under stress. A Chief Culture Officer (CCO) may be the solution.

The CCO's job is to ensure the culture stays strong. They are dedicated to cultivating and maintaining a workplace that values employees, encourages collaboration and innovation, and drives patient satisfaction. In their daily work, CCOs engage with teams across all levels of the organization to identify areas for improvement and implement strategies for effectively addressing those needs. Likewise, they are responsible for ensuring the organization's core values are reflected in daily operations, from hiring processes to promotions.

CCOs are a critical component of healthcare organizations today because they understand that a positive culture that upholds company values is essential to organizational success. And they work diligently to help teams work harmoniously and deliver exceptional patient care.

As uncertainty continues to dissolve the line that once separated our work lives from our personal lives, wellness is vital to organizational success and retaining top talent. More than that, healthcare teams that prioritize a people-first mindset develop resilience and navigate challenges with ease. Having a C-Suite leader dedicated to people-first leadership ensures that wellness and well-being are prioritized and brings intentional focus to integrating care and compassion into everything you do.

Which of these new titles has or should your organization consider?





Published by Jessica Homann, Vice President - Furst Group