• Top Human Resources Exec Joins Healthcare Faculty

11/16/2010

Strategic focus is classroom goal

 

Althea Lyons

Althea C. Lyons

No organization can transcend its employees’ abilities. Recruiting, managing, developing, and retaining talent is the heart of human resources, and human resources management is at the heart of healthcare administration. But in some organizations, HR is still viewed as a paper-pushing, back-office operation.

Althea C. Lyons sees it differently. Vice President of Human Resources and Development at Northeast Hospital Corporation, she’s made a career of harnessing HR as a driver that directly advances corporate strategic goals. She’ll bring that perspective to Suffolk when she teaches the core course Healthcare Human Resources Management.

“The healthcare industry presents particularly difficult HR challenges,” Althea observes. As her bio puts it, this complex industry is “undergoing rapid change and is increasingly competitive. Administratively, it’s subject to federal and state regulations. Legal liability is a risk. It’s technology intensive, demanding highly specialized skills. Some workers are unionized. Workforce development is a high-stakes enterprise for the entire industry.” Managing HR in this context demands a broad understanding of how the industry is evolving, a pragmatic understanding of what workers with markedly different skills actually do, and the ability to design and implement HR programs that contribute to positive patient outcomes, serve employees well, achieve legal and regulatory compliance, and meet business goals.

Althea gained her expertise by working her way up from an entry-level HR position to the top of her profession and immersing herself in day-to-day operations. “If you don’t know what a nurse does, how can you recruit one?” she asks, noting that nursing shortages are a serious problem. Her experience has spanned all HR functions. “I love HR, I love my job!” she declares. “No two days are the same, no two cases are the same. The industry is so dynamic that new issues keep arising. I’m learning something every day.”

Althea’s classroom goal is to make the subject of HR come alive, so students understand what it means in real life. For example, resolving employee attendance problems that reflect problems at home demands skills and insights that no textbook alone can teach. So does preventing workplace violence, a paramount concern for management. Helping all employees understand the patient perspective is vital, she stresses.

Althea views managing employee performance as a continuum of orientation, training, feedback, coaching, and evaluation; evaluation should never hold surprises, she contends. Helping staff develop leadership and negotiating skills and the ability to manage conflict is another HR priority.

Reflecting on her field, Althea points out that knowledge of HR will be valuable no matter what students do professionally. “It’s all about the talent,” she concludes.

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