5 People-First Leadership 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.  Here are 5 emerging roles helping with team engagement and a culture of wellness from Furst Group's Vice President Jessica Homann as seen in her recently published article in Wharton Healthcare Quarterly


As a leader in the healthcare industry, you are more than familiar with high-stress environments, limited resources, and often understaffed facilities. Still, the added strain from the pandemic exacerbated these conditions resulting in more than half of healthcare workers reporting experiencing physical and mental fatigue from chronic workplace stress.

Consequently, burnout is a pressing issue that demands our attention. It not only causes phenomenal colleagues to consider leaving the profession but reduces team well-being and performance, ultimately impacting patient and client outcomes.

Though these strains are occurring across most healthcare delivery organizations, there is a silver lining. Your leadership approach can make a significant and positive impact. Many organizations have flourished because of their commitment to employee wellness and engagement programs. Accordingly, this compassionate and empathetic approach is putting care back into healthcare.  

What is People-First Leadership?

Recent years have taught us that putting employees first is critical for the success of any organization. Healthcare leadership has been trending away from profit-first toward a people-centric, consumer-driven 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 leadership put people first? By creating employee experience roles dedicated to improving the well-being of the workforce and transforming culture. And once you've identified the need, you can fill the gap by identifying authentic leadership qualities in the hiring process.   Here are 5 people-first leadership roles in healthcare boosting team engagement and helping organizations focus on enhancing 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. The goal? To build others up. This leads to better engagement, resilience, and productivity, creating an overall culture of well-being. Sharing servant leadership principles, a CWO promotes a people-first culture that emphasizes the importance of empathy and compassion toward not just team members but also towards self. The CWO is essential because employee wellness is critical to overall performance. 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 (often called chief employee experience officers) 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. Thus, they work diligently to help teams work harmoniously and deliver exceptional patient care.

The Future of Healthcare Puts People First

These five emerging roles are not just additions to an organizational chart. They represent a seismic shift in healthcare leadership that values people and recognizes the importance of creating positive patient and employee experiences. This leadership model infuses care and compassion into every aspect of an organization, ultimately improving the bottom line across every metric.  

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