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3 Areas To Evaluate In Order To Increase Efficiency In The New Year


When we finish celebrating the success of the previous year and focus on the possibilities of the new year, there are 3 areas we tend to evaluate in an attempt to increase efficiencies here at SAKS Health. We do this by activating a two-step process with our teams that looks back to move forward. This “looking back to move forward” process flows throughout our project and program management team, a team that works seamlessly as our “red thread” across all the SAKS Health practices. Our project management team is our organization's backbone and the DNA blueprint to creating success. We use the “looking back to move forward” process to continue to grow as a company, to reflect on all that was accomplished, and to see what did and did not work well.

If you’re in the process of evaluating all of the opportunities in the new year, these are some ideas you can model as you optimize your team for the new year:

  1. Step back to review the prior year. We think of this as sort of an old year closure and a setup for the coming year. We ask ourselves “What went well? What could be improved?” While our weekly internal and client status meetings always allow us to course correct while we’re executing projects, it’s amazing what can be learned by taking an overview of the past year with specific team members and key client contacts.

  2. Execute a prospective planning session with your teams: What does the coming year look like in terms of major projects and associated events like conferences? What’s the timing and format, ie, hybrid, live? How do we optimize that which went well last year and problem solve for that which could have been improved? One of the biggest areas to concentrate on is resourcing. At SAKS Health, the teams are very cognizant of the importance to forecast timing and workload curve so that we resource appropriately.

While we work across our teams to dive into the above two-step process, one challenge that we continue to face globally is COVID-19. Even though at SAKS Health we have always been a completely virtual organization, that doesn’t mean we’re immune to challenges that our clients and partners have faced related to virtual collaborations. Below are three specific areas we took time to work through our two-step process of looking back to move forward this year. We found these areas to be particularly useful as we all continue to remain virtual and co-navigate with our clients and partners in the new reality of virtual, hybrid, and in-person engagements.

1. Systems

Whether these are internal tools or industry research we do to support our clients, these are the questions we talk through.

  • What did we do to support our clients’ strategic planning?

  • Could we have done more to support their goals?

  • What would that look like and what would be needed?

  • Did we have the right mix of operational tools in our organization’s toolkit?

  • Are new systems such as project management, financial tracking, or workflow management needed?

  • What’s the return on investment for these new operational tools?

We know that consistently checking and improving our systems pays us back immensely from time saved and efficiencies gained – both internal and for clients. Staying current on systems also attracts staff as it maintains their currency.

“This is fantastic - thanks to the SAKS team for making this happen so quickly! I think this will really help in moving our program forward!” ~ Senior Director, Pain & Inflammation Start-Up

2. Staffing

In order to provide the most effective and efficient output on projects and programs a well staffed organization is needed. This doesn’t mean the more employees the better but rather quality over quantity.

Questions we asked our teams:

  • Were there staffing gaps last year that we need to take into consideration in 2022?

  • Were the right mix of FTEs and freelance contractors in place?

  • Were the right people in the right positions?

  • Who and what will be needed to support the new work coming in?

  • Define the positions we will need to fill in 2022 – writers, designers, etc. – and what is the right mix of FTEs vs freelance contractors?

  • When should these new roles be on-boarded to have them trained and effectively performing to align with the new work?

This leads to the timing to identify and recruit candidates. We also consider developing a pipeline of candidates so we stay flexible if unplanned work comes in. The last item we evaluate regarding staff is training and development.

  • What was done last year and how successful was it?

  • Did these activities actually allow existing staff to grow into new roles?

  • What will be needed in the coming year for existing and new staff?

An organization thrives based on the staff that supports it. Here at SAKS Health, we’ve seen interns develop into fellows and grow into critical members of our clients’ support teams.

At SAKS Health, training has become our 5th core value. We work with our teams on formal and informal learning and development programming. In effect, our quest for better is unending.” ~ Chief Growth and Client Experience Officer

3. Client Engagement

While COVID-19 continues to prevent many face-to-face interactions, client engagement is nevertheless essential. The fundamental question here is how do you continue to create impactful client engagement in a fully virtual, hybrid, or in-person environment?

  • Could you use a client satisfaction survey to gather client input and assess what went well and what could be done better in the future from your client's perspective?

  • What other ways could you gather client input and feedback?

Gaining feedback on the things you have done well and areas that could be improved upon is essential for growth! You may have to tap into your knowledge of your client services teams here. A survey may not be the best way to gather feedback from all your clients, would a one-on-one call fit some of your client relationships better? Or something else entirely? Get creative here. The goal as always is to continue to improve upon that client relationship, so find ways to do just that.

If you did not start these discussions in Q4 of 2021, then hop to it early in this new year to effectively impact 2022. This two-step process of looking back to move forward is not solely to be used at annual intervals. Be sure to find a way to incorporate at least quarterly check-ins with your teams in an effort to continue to improve and be as efficient a team as possible. Strong processes and systems will help your organization see the way to Better Healthcare Tomorrow™ for all.


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