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Shaping the Workplace of Tomorrow

Members of the Work of the Future subgroup.

Members of the Work of the Future subgroup at the March kickoff for 2015 National Bargaining in Southern California.

Major topic at national bargaining is how to prepare frontline workers for the dramatic changes coming to health care

Equipping frontline workers with the skills and knowledge for tomorrow’s jobs—an essential element in preserving Kaiser Permanente’s competitive edge—is the focus of the Work of the Future subgroup at National Bargaining.

The negotiations this year focus on three topics, in addition to wages and benefits:

  • Workforce planning
  • Training and development
  • Innovation and technology

“Health care is changing,” says Hal Ruddick, the executive director of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions. “We have a huge new influx of members because of the Affordable Care Act. We have to meet their needs differently—and we can do that through the solutions we create bargaining in partnership.”

Planning for change

Flexibility, foresight and planning are essential to developing a workforce that is ready for coming changes in the health care industry, said Zeth Ajemian, the director of Workforce Planning and Development for Southern California and Hawaii.

“To prepare our workforce for the future, we need to align staffing with current care delivery transformation, innovation and new technologies that meet the evolving needs of our members,” he says. “We're entering a tremendous era of change. A portion or all of an employee's work will change and their skills, training and experience will need to change to fit that job.”

Creating career pathways that allow current KP employees to move into new roles is essential, says Brian Lockhart, security lead at Sunnyside Medical Center in the Northwest and a member of ILWU Local 28.

“We want some flexibility around the experience component,” says Lockhart, who explained that employees who have trained for new roles are sometimes unable to move into them because they don’t have the necessary work experience.

Role of technology

Leveraging technology to meet the emerging needs of our patients will be another key issue for the bargaining team, says Dennis Dabney, senior vice president of Labor Relations and the Labor Management Partnership.

“We need to decide how we bring that new technology into our work environment,” he says. “We need to react more to what our patients want, rather than what we want to give them.”

Whatever innovations are designed and implemented in the future, frontline workers need to be engaged from the start, say union partners.

“Kaiser Permanente is on that bullet train toward the future and if the labor movement is not on that train, we are going to be left behind,” says Janis Thorn, interim president of United Steelworkers Local 7600.

Work of the Future is one of three subgroups tasked with crafting the next National Agreement. The other two are Total Health and Workplace Safety, and Operational and Service Excellence in Partnership.

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Meditation/Yoga - Color Flexibility at Work

KP employees are already demonstrating the flexibility and resourcefulness needed to adapt swiftly and successfully to the changes coming to health care. See what ideas you can adapt for yourself and your team:

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