3Sixty Insights #HRTechChat with James Norwood, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer of isolved

Consider: It’s not necessarily that an employer has a performance management problem or, say, a learning management system problem. We must strive to marshal the discrete domains of human capital management, the silos, as one multidisciplinary instrument to solve employers’ people-related needs and challenges. This is the high-level strategic value in industry-specific and industry-tailored suites for HCM, in my opinion. They help us think about HCM more holistically. They help vendors and users alike of technology for HCM break free from silo-think.

There’s plenty additional value, as well, for the industries these tailored HCM suites address. Software-as-a-service provider isolved recently launched People Cloud for Healthcare Services, a version of its HCM software suite exclusively for employers in health and medical services. To discuss the new product (and accompanying professional services) James Norwood, chief marketing and strategy officer at isolved, joined us for this episode of the #HRTechChat video podcast.

“Once you’re in a battle for talent, and it becomes a seller’s market, then you do have to invest in these things,” James says. He’s speaking of the perennial need for registered nurses in healthcare and the need to combat and address this with people-focused solutions.

RNs are always in short supply, it seems. It’s a top-of-mind challenge in the health and medical services space. The pandemic has only exacerbated this shortage to become even more acute (if that was even possible). The vendor’s own research shows 100 percent of HR leaders in assisted living facilities saying its hard to retain RNs.

You read that right, by the way. In a large isolved-initiated survey of many subsets of the healthcare space, yes, all the HR leaders working in assisted living reported difficulty in retaining talent. It’s indicative of the urgent and deep challenges related to employing people in the healthcare space.

“What is isolved doing? We’re helping on some of those things,” James says. For healthcare-related employers, through the new healthcare-focused version of the suite, “we’re helping with people getting onboarded. We’re helping them get compliant. Our learning management system has very industry-specific certification training courses, which will automatically notify people in advance when a particular certification might be coming up to expire. So there’s lots of things that can be done to work with employees, to make them feel like they have more control in their own destiny.”

The new version of the suite does a number of things to address the idiosyncrasies of healthcare employers’ people-related needs, and we recently published our analysis of the People Cloud for Healthcare Services launch. I encourage you all to watch this episode. James and I delved deeply into the rationale behind isolved’s decision to launch this new version of its product, how it helps, where the vendor looks to tackle industry specialization next, and much more.

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Brent Skinner 00:00
Well, hello, everyone, and welcome to the latest episode of HRTechChat. And I’m very happy to have with us today James Norwood, who is Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer for isolved. Welcome.

James Norwood 00:15
Hi, Brent. Happy, happy to be here. Thanks for having me.

Brent Skinner 00:18
Oh, absolutely. The pleasure is all ours. Thanks so much for agreeing to do this and a couple of things. So we’re going to focus on something really interesting that I saw just recently did and that is they want you folks launched a health and medical industry specific version of your of your people cloud full HCM suite. And that’s a pretty big deal. And I know we’re going to get into that quite a bit today. But first, I just wanted to let our audience know that just a little, just as a little bit of background on you. Maybe you could elaborate on this. I know that you’ve been in the enterprise software space for I think, about three decades now. And so you’ve I guess a way of saying it is that you may have seen it all. So maybe you can just elaborate a little bit there.

James Norwood 01:08
Yes. I hate to actually admit to that room. But yeah, after, I think I started my career in software in 1988. So pre the World Wide Web, pre mobile phones. I think networks were just starting to come out. So yeah, I’ve been around a long time, perhaps longer than I should. But yes, I’ve been through many different changes and reinventions. And one of the things that of course, is always a constant in technology has changed. So yes, excited to still be part of it.

Brent Skinner 01:41
Oh, that’s great. That’s great. You know, I’ve I wish I’d been in, in my profession, various professions, I think maybe about 30 years now or 25. Anyway, but I wish I could say I’ve been in the same one, that time. So you know, you have that going for you. I know that I saw just to set the stage here because they’re there to get into, you know, the, the meat here. The health and medical fields, especially over the past couple of years, but just in general, they have a lot of unique challenges. And I know that you folks have. And we’re going to speak to some of those. But I know that you folks recently did a couple of surveys of HR leaders across many industries, and then a deeper dive into the health and medical field. And he found out some interesting things. Maybe you could share a few of those with us.

James Norwood 02:36
Yeah, no, absolutely. And, you know, it’s one of the driving factors for why we released isolved for health care services was the feedback that we saw, amongst the survey results that we do with our annual was actually our second annual HR leaders industry survey, which was published in February, you can get it from our website, it’s up there. But very interesting, obviously, the last two years has been so dynamic for every industry, because of course of the pandemic. But healthcare has been at the, you know, has borne the brunt of most of the challenges and changes that have that have happened, simply because it was a pandemic. And then a lot of that was coming through in our survey. So just to give you an example, you know, recruiting new talent was seen as 65%, harder in the last 12 months, and it was the prior 12 months. And for good reason. There’s the maybe more registered nurses than ever before, but there’s a national shortage of registered nurses than ever before. 70 And that led to 73% of the leaders in fact, 100% in the assisted living area where, you know, we’re talking about care workers, finding, you know, talent retention was hard. So not only is it is it increasingly hard to find people, but it’s very, very hard to hold on to them. And then a couple of other things that I thought were very interesting is around the financial aspects of this. Healthcare workers are missing shifts in greater numbers than ever before. And a lot of it is not just due to the burnout, that they’re having, from what you know, being in ICU for the last two years. I shouldn’t laugh at, you know, all credit to them. But 31% of HR leaders were attributing Miss ships to financial strain on their employees. And I’m likewise even though 85% of of employees would like access and would if they could make use of things like earned wage access, you know, on demand pay, and other financial wellness applications. Only 25% of leaders in the space are actually providing, you know, things like that to help Folks with work life balance and better health and well being. So it’s really interesting to see some of these things coming up. And the last stat I’d give you is not unsurprisingly, 78% of healthcare leaders are now focused on employee experience as a top priority this year.

Brent Skinner 05:18
Who would have thought? Thought? Right? You know, what, that one that really stands out to me? Is that so 100%? In the assisted living space, I think it was you mentioned, I mean, how many times you have a survey that, that were 100% of respondents.

James Norwood 05:41
You know, that’s exactly retention, you know, like, it’s been, it’s been COVID, 19 was so tough for for health care workers, and not just in primary care, but you know, those that are going out and doing care in the community and working in care homes, where, when someone got it, everyone got it, it’s, it’s been tough. So hanging on to those folks has been hard, you know, and just, you know, having to go from one place to another, to help out and to cover a shift simply because a care worker at this particular home, came down ill or sick and therefore couldn’t come into work. And so you have to cover that shift, there’s a lot more financial hit to the employees, because they’re having to take greater expenses to maybe drive to a location they wouldn’t do. And then they need to get reimbursed quicker. And you know, and again, that that becomes a challenge. So it’s not, it’s not unsurprising that people have been that healthcare workers have been a very large percentage of the great resignation or the great recalibration, however you want to call it, that they’re sort of looking at their lot, and they’re saying, Maybe I should be going elsewhere. I don’t know if you saw, right, but I read today, a new study by L. Salvia health. And they’re predicting a mass exodus of healthcare workers from the economy by 25, of up to 75% of the folks that are currently there, today. So by 2023, they’re saying that we have, there’ll be a shortage of around 140,000 physicians nationwide. So this is a real, this is a real problem, that’s not going away, even if the pandemic does.

Brent Skinner 07:23
Yeah, I mean, imagine that the burnout is probably just absolutely fierce. Right now, you mentioned employee experience. And that to me, and this is probably a good segue, obviously, the, the, the providers, it’s the solution providers that can really help these organizations in these fields addressed that employee experience are going to be the winners, honestly, in the space and in, in, in what occurred, you know, what, what occurred to me as, as you were describing that, is that, again, is it this idea that the employee experiences, yeah, there’s some things you can do with the employee experience are kind of soft, and sort of empathetic, these kinds of things, but, or read, they seem empathetic, and they are, but there are other things that don’t readily seem empathetic, but are right and also affect the employee experience like, like making it easier to process expenses, or making it easier to swap shifts and these sorts of things. And, and, and, and I know that there are some unique challenges, or, or acute or exacerbated challenges in the health and medical fields, around scheduling and some of these things. And maybe, maybe you could get into share with share with our audience a little bit about what the isolved people cloud for health care and medical services. How that I think I got that wrong. Sorry. But how that how that addresses some of this functionality that these places need to provide a positive employee experience.

James Norwood 09:16
Yeah, no, no, absolutely. And first off, you’re absolutely right. There is the softer side of employee engagement, but it can be as simple as getting expenses paid or getting access to your, to your own wages ahead of time. That’s going to its financial wellness, but it’s still it’s still part of it. But yes, I mean, so I sold the health care services to give it its full name via it came about because, you know, it’s an area that’s clearly suffering from not just from staff shortages, but even finance, healthcare providers are struggling with meeting their financial performance side. So they’re turning to look at cost efficiencies. They’re looking at their tech stack. I don’t know then the last time you went to the dentist or to a medical professional. But there’s a Windows eight system usually on the, you know, in the background, it’s all aging tech. And so there has been a lot of verticalized point solutions that existed. But trying to holistically put it all together for us was a way to help them actually reduce their costs, the healthcare providers to reduce their costs. And when we started to talk to customers in the space, and it’s around about 10% of all of our customers are in some form of health care. They told us in the early days, while you’re missing some of these features that we need, which is why we have these industry specific solutions. So we worked very hard in conjunction with our customers to build out those things. And a lot of it is in the area of workforce management that’s very specific to health care, to ensure that, okay, if you’re using this point solution to do this, we now have those three features or what have you. But we went a little further than that is not just building in the product features. And I can get into them in more detail, but also wrapping the package with a series of best practices, services, which we knew that we needed to deliver each time to make those customers successful. And so packaging them up and making them available, as well, for example, around talent acquisition, just teaching them how to write better job descriptions, teaching them how to optimize that for that content, putting in place in the package, all of the healthcare specific job board connections, so that when they launch that job description, it goes to, not just to indeed, and Monster, which is where most of them throw it up. But it goes to all of the places where folks are looking, and just helping them to get their story across better. So there’s a lot of services as well as, as functional aspects to the product.

Brent Skinner 11:49
Yeah. Thinking about nurses again, right, and how difficult it is to to capture their attention and get them to work for you, as opposed to somebody else they have. They have so many options. It’s really interesting how there’s, there’s, there’s this sort of, there are these two almost competing ideas going on right now. One is where there’s this this, you have nurses who, who sort of have their pick of the litter of where they want to go to work next. And, and whereas at the same time, there’s, there’s a mass exodus where people are leaving, leaving the industry that, to me, that’s, that’s, that’s curious.

James Norwood 12:32
It’s part of the problem. And so again, there are more registered nurses as nurses today than there’s ever has been, but not all of them can get certified. Not all of them want to work in ICU, you know, so it’s, it’s, it’s the job Paul doesn’t, which has a shortage anyway, it doesn’t naturally fit with the types of work that that’s available. And, you know, if you’re, if you’re a healthcare worker today, not only are you in a better position to leverage a better pay, and better sort of work life balance options and flexibility, but you’re also in a position now to take more control of your own schedule, and healthcare providers need, if they want to retain that talent, they’re going to have to do that. So a lot of what we did in the audit was around sort of workforce scheduling was allowed around people being able to bid on shifts, or takeover ships from someone who was sick or a friend without even having to involve an HR administrator, who’s then going to call around or email around to try and find cover, because the system is going to say, you’re you have the qualifications to do this, do you want it and they can, they can just go take it, which is great for the business and good for them. So having, you know, not just shift swats but being able to work out who’s available who’s qualified for that was one big part of it. And another thing as well as just doing right push, scheduling around things like occupancy, like how many people how many beds have we got filled? How many people do we need here? And using that to generate the demand? And then have people come in and say, Okay, that’s local to me, I can take that. So transferring more control back to, to the healthcare workers, which haven’t always had is, it’s better for them to

Brent Skinner 14:19
Yeah, empowering them empowering their those employees? Yeah, I think it’s a is key. When nurses just to sit on this point a little bit longer when nurses and other types of employees that that, that work in these fields have so many options, because there are so many job openings, and there’s a relative dearth of their avail the availability of the talent, what can that help that organization do to say convince persuade RNs to do ICU work as opposed to doing some of this more interesting stuff? Like what are some of the things that they can do?

James Norwood 14:58
There’s a lot of things that I mean, The simpler things would be get given tools that are simple and easy to use and don’t, you know, don’t stress them out, help them get on boarded and trained. And I mean, very strict compliance in this area, but help them with that. So becomes less onerous. also support the remote workforce better. I said more control of their schedule is very important. But, but investing in health and wellness programs, even things like child better childcare support, is, you know, which isn’t always there. So I just went, once you are in a battle for talent and the shortage, and it becomes a seller’s market, then you do have to invest in these things. All, what is isolved doing, we’re helping on some of those things like helping people get on boarded quickly, helping them get compliant. So we have industry specific learning, our learning management system has very industry specific certification training courses, which will automatically notify people in advance when a particular certification might be coming up to expire and help get them through without it being a rush to ensure that they’re, they don’t get turned down for particular work, then. So there’s a lot of things that can be done to work with the employee to make them feel like they have, you know, more control in their own destiny.

Brent Skinner 16:23
Some of this stuff sounds like it’s perhaps transferable to other industries as well, some of this functionality.

James Norwood 16:30
Yeah, I mean, certainly a lot of the workforce management we’ve done, you know, you know, shift coverage requesting other ships, things that that would apply to retail, it would certainly apply to hospitality. So it’s not, you know, we built it with healthcare in mind, that they were the ones that had some very industry specific solutions, but we found very quickly that those very same features were, you know, we’re going to be desirable to other space, right, retailers know how to market their jobs, they’re better at that. But certainly the workforce side of things, you know, that shipped coverage, reducing the manual labor from picking the right folks just being able to see who’s qualified or certified to do certain things and transferring more control over to managers and employees themselves to, to apply for particular shifts, and, and do that, absolutely retail and hospitality, who have both also undergoing, you know, staff shortages, due to the pandemic, their benefit from it, as well, so that the same functionality we’ve built in for that will, will surface up in our industry solutions for those folks when we get to them?

Brent Skinner 17:42
Yeah, seems wise to tackle the healthcare space first.

James Norwood 17:49
Yeah, you know, it’s, it’s the largest, winning the most business, which tells you that, you know, there’s a demand for our technology, that they tend healthcare, does tend to take more of the people Cloud Suite and packaging it up, as you know, as I sold for healthcare services, they can certainly, you know, take, take it piecemeal as they go, but at least they have a roadmap now to say these are all the things that we say, are going to help you from talent acquisition through talent management, HR, payroll workforce management in between. So they have this roadmap, or this blueprint of best practices that they can follow in these types of industry specific solutions, not the point solutions, the sort of human capital management industry solutions you didn’t typically find outside of the very big players that are serving the enterprise. So for isolved to do this for small to medium sized businesses and mid market companies, it’s quite a new thing. And it’s, it’s going to reduce their costs. It’s going to improve employee engagement and the overall experience that they have of that company. So yeah, it’s I think it’s, it’s a natural place to start. It’s got the most experiencing the most pain, but if you crack this one, then it gets you a head start into other, you know, gray color white and gray collar areas.

Brent Skinner 19:14
Yeah, I think so. It’s a great point to do. This is where the solution provider industry is going is kind of moving in this direction. Do you think?

James Norwood 19:27
Yeah, I’m, it’s, it’s, it’s the way it should go. I mean, it’s the hardest thing to do. You know, if you think about it, like isolved began, probably more than 30 years ago. In fact, we came into being to help companies deal with Cobra when that became a thing back in 1985, which you could think of as a vertical thing. It’s it’s human resource issues brought about to govern government legislation, and that’s kind of been everything we’ve done ever since, you know, Americans with Disability Act came about and then obviously, you know, with COVID, and all the legends ration around that. So you could say that everything we do is kind of a vertical, but then to tailor it to industry, it’s kind of the last. It’s that last piece that not many folks get to. And you can’t do them all, I don’t think you’ve got to pick the areas where you’re going to be strongest. So we’re picking on where we have the most customers, and where the most pain seems to be right now. So yeah, I don’t think we’ll we’re the first and I don’t think we’ll be the last but I do think our approach which is not just a sales and marketing approach, its products and services, and best practices, based on a lot of experiences is the way to go.

Brent Skinner 20:40
The services piece of it, that is very important. And it’s what it’s what all the bonafide true full suite HCM providers are doing right now they’re providing those, those comprehensive services because you want your your users to, to, to understand how best to use the solution and, and let users know their business. But at the same time, they may not know all the best practices and they put this differently a provider of solutions of technology for software for any given industry is going to have that perspective from having a number of users in this space, that maybe the one user doesn’t have. They know their own business, but they don’t have that broader perspective.

James Norwood 21:30
Absolutely. And that’s the very reason why we have an isolved We have teams of tax specialists, we have teams of accountants, we have legal specialists, we have benefit specialists. And so when you know, an every customer that joins as part of AI solve for healthcare services, bhandal will get access to you know, a dedicated customer service representative or team that they can go to for any tax or Treasury question, any financial question, any benefits question, and that team is going to help them not just with the knowledge of their industry where they probably got fair bit themselves, but with a broader knowledge of overall legislation and, and requirements that they perhaps don’t have, you know, we provide, you know, ACA compliance, FMLA administration, all of that as part of the bundle. Now that could uncover administration and all that can apply to a lot of industries as well, but it’s our depth of knowledge there, across every tax jurisdiction, you know, in every state in the country, that that helps bring an added level of, of expertise to what they’re trying to get solved. Yeah.

Brent Skinner 22:38
As a tangent, we spoke with a user reviewers, Crescent Community Health Center a few months ago, and, and just speaking to your origins in COBRA administration, helping with that, they just very recently, this past year, sang your praises at isolved. Around your ability to help them navigate some new rules around that. So you’re still evolving, even in that area.

James Norwood 23:02
Yeah, I mean, that that, you know, crushing that part of the federal qualified health center program, which again, is another example of, you know, a serving help health centers, walk in health centers, community centers around the country, and there, they are all adding staff, you know, they’re all increasing staff, but they don’t want to increase their costs, including their HR costs as part of that. So they aren’t there are a good example. Yeah, I mean, you know, Cobra, is where we began, believe it or not, but we expanded into the full human capital management suite over a period of time and crescents a good example of a customer that started with one part of the system and is grown into other areas, helping them with our acquisition, as well as core HR payroll and benefits enrollment and administration and, and those areas.

Brent Skinner 23:51
Yeah, that’s, that’s a great point, whether you’re in healthcare, or in any other industry, frankly, as a small business growing, you have your sort of your acute, immediate urgent needs in HR with around administration and getting things just under control. So you can so you’re not just overwhelmed by it. And but it’s important at that point in time to be thinking about HCM more strategically right from the outset that that’s, that’s been our, our sort of observation looking at a number of users is that when they think about HCM strategically from the very beginning as opposed to it being sort of an administrative or an efficiency play solely right. Those organizations really set themselves up they set themselves up for notable success over the long run.

James Norwood 24:49
Yeah, I concur. I degree in it, you know, a center like Crescent or near cch Ah, see, as we call them. You know that there are a community service that, that looking after walk ins, you know, regardless of their ability to pay that they’re not going to turn anyone away. And it’s anything from medical dental, to, to just regular health checks or your someone’s got an emergency there, that they’re there for them. And so it’s quite sophisticated, it’s quite complex, and it’s changing rapidly. So it’s, I mean, they’re, they’re a good example of someone that seems small from the outside, I think they’ve got about 120 employees, you know, but they serve 27 counters. And yet their level of sophistication from a human capital management standpoint, is helping them to manage their costs and deliver those excellent services without having to increase you know, the amount of staff and the administrative overhead of handling it. And you know, I read a statistic the other day, I think it was from the ah, let me just bring that up. The htm SS, which is the Healthcare Information Management, system society, I think they said that 86% of all mistakes that are made in healthcare are administrative, they’re not operational, they’re administrative. And so just tells you that they have an issue, the back end. So it’s, you know, they have to invest technology doesn’t fix everything, but technology that comes with the best practices built in, will help them to grow their administrative side, slowly work, where they can still offer a very sophisticated solution to underpin the services they’re offering. And that’s, you know, if we can do that, so it’s not a bad thing.

Brent Skinner 26:33
Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Anytime that you can reduce error is, is a big deal. And if you can make any kind of a dent in that, and that number, that’s, that’s, that’s a high percentage. Just the other thing that I love about this is, from a broader standpoint is, you know, when you, when you develop a, when somebody develops an industry specific HCM suite, it’s a way for everybody to think about HCM more as a whole thing versus, you know, we think about AC HCM. So often as, as it’s, you know, it’s discrete domains, or, you know, it’s silos and oh, that person has a performance management needs a performance management solution, or that person needs a scheduling solution. I think it’s still, when you think that way in WFM, maybe still, it makes a little bit more sense. But, but what I love about these industry solutions is that it really gets the gets everybody thinking about HCM more holistically because every business or every industry at least is different. It’s not everybody has a performance management need, they have a more of a of a, this is where this is where I’m not quite sure how to describe it. But it’s a way to break free from that, that, that conventional thinking that’s, you know, that was useful maybe 1015 years ago, but maybe we’re kind of moving away from

James Norwood 28:05
Yeah, no, you’re absolutely right. And look, I mean, the healthcare industry, it’s full, like most industries are a lot of points solutions that have been acquired over time, and then you’re bad, badly integrated, or good, well integrated or not that that that becomes, you know, over time, it becomes a mess. And it’s it’s siloed systems that you have to learn each one differently, they look differently, I mean, that the whole idea of having an industry specific platform is say, like, I move from one area to the other, and it all looks and feels the same, that that immediately takes off a massive overhead from the people that are using those platforms that need to use them to do their jobs to get productive to get compliant. But it also reduces a ton of complexity and cost in the back end as well. And so yeah, it is a opportunity to look more holistically as HCM as a solution rather than as a series of point solutions. But, you know, there’s a reason that people went out and bought those points, which they didn’t have they didn’t they weren’t given the budget or it was very specifically that met their need. It’s only more recently that solutions like you know, I sold the health care services has come about to say this is a broader suite. Now that introduces things which you may be able didn’t think you needed, that it part of HCM, but they’re delivered to you in a way that’s going to make sense to you and your business performance management team. Being part of that, so yeah, maybe our product isn’t as deep, fundamentally as deep as every single point solution they acquired but it’s probably gets the most of the way there and the benefits they get from it all been on one platform with all the related services and being easier to use and probably lower cost to operate outweighs that.

Brent Skinner 29:56
Yeah, yeah, well put. It’d be interesting. To see where things go in the next 10 to 20 years that maybe that’s a little bit too far out. But how far away we’re able to get from that that sort of initial original sort of silo thinking to more of a, maybe a completely different calculus.

James Norwood 30:16
Well, you know, this is a problem that’s not going away, you know, that we’re doing telehealth now, there’s, you know, patients are more empowered, everyone goes on WebMD then calls up and says, I think I need this and I think I need that, you know, we transition to home based care, and of course, the elephant in the room, not your good self, because you’re a young man, Brent, but the aging population with incremental health care needs is, is is not not going to go away. So this is a problem that’s here to stay. And so it’s, I think it’s important for companies like aI solve to take it seriously and play our part and do what we can to help remediate some of those issues.

Brent Skinner 30:54
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. This has been a fantastic conversations. Thank you so much for joining us, James.

James Norwood 31:03
Thank you so much for having me. I love chatting

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