Recorded live at HFMA ANI 2016, Bill Galinsky, VP of Government Finance at Baylor Scott & White Health, discusses the skills and attributes needed in the next generation of hospital finance professionals.
Mike Passanante: Hi, welcome back to the Hospital Finance Podcast. This is Mike Passanante. Glad you could be with us. Today, I’m joined by Bill Galinsky who is the Vice President of Government Finance at Baylor Scott & White. Welcome, Bill.
Bill Galinsky: Thank you.
Mike: So, Bill is going to talk to us today about some of the things you should be looking for in the next generation of hospital finance professionals.
So Bill, let me kick it off. What are financial professionals expected to do now that they weren’t expected to do 20 or 30 years ago?
Bill: One, be technologically-savvy, the technology has exploded so much in the world of finance—and not just spreadsheets either, databases and humongous amounts of data that have to be manipulated, stretched, converted, and taken in all different kinds of ways so that we can do our jobs.
And they also have to be willing to really work hard, which was there 20 or 30 years ago, but you can do lot more probably because of the technology. You can do a lot more with less staff now too.
So, in some ways, it’s made our jobs easier. And in some ways, it’s made them tougher.
Mike: And finance is really very strategic now—not that it wasn’t before. But you’re contributing to some big decisions. Things are changing with bundled payments and…
Bill: Yeah, bundled payments have taken off huge. We’ve actually got some hospitals in a couple of markets that we’ve been working on the bundled payments with. And so, yes, it’s a huge deal in finance.
We really see our role changing. We try to be reimbursement government finance consultants to our constituent hospitals.
So we’ve got 25, I think, hospitals, we’re directly responsible for. We provide support to other hospitals that are joint venture as well, but we’re not directly responsible for the preparation of [cost reports for] other things. But we do provide a lot of support for those.
Mike: You need strategic thinkers. You need problem solvers.
Bill: Problem solvers, yes. That’s an excellent way to put it.
Mike: So, looping off the points you made before, what kinds of technical skills are you looking for in new hires?
Bill: Definitely somebody that knows more than I do, which is not hard. Sometimes, some of our systems, I’ve used so infrequently that they just start giving me passwords. Every time I use them, I have to get a new password because I would forget or I wouldn’t use it in so long that the password would just expire.
So, it’s not hard to find people that know more than I do. But yeah, they’ve got to be willing and able to adapt, look at different technologies. It’s an ever-changing world. We’ve got hospitals on all sorts of different platforms.
For general accounting, at the merger, we had Peoplesoft and Lawson, and now we are all on Lawson. Patient accounting, EPIC and central division, North. And so different technologies. And North is going to be changing.
So, you have to be willing and able to adapt and learn new technologies and do it quickly.
Mike: So, flipping the coin, soft skills. You have to talk to people in this role.
Bill: Yes, yes.
Mike: What do you look for?
Bill: Somebody that’s going to be a good fit with the team that has met the expertise criteria. But then we’re looking for somebody that is willing to work for the team, somebody that is not afraid to dig in and get their arms dirty or hands dirty and make sure the job gets done.
But also, personable and with a good personality that would fit and work with the team.
And so far, we’ve got a really great team.
Mike: How about presentation skills? How does that play out?
Bill: We’ve got a few, but some that are more comfortable than others in doing that. It is becoming more critical. There’s a lot of the support that goes on. We have people in my group that go out to the hospitals and talk to the CFOs and the presidents of the local hospitals to show them what we’re doing, giving reports, get their feedback, and see what else we can do for them.
Mike: Do you find that there is a trend towards specialization in certain niche areas of finance or technology?
Bill: Yeah, there is. One of the things I like to say is “hire them young and screw them up for regular accounting forever” because we are a niche area. Government finance, government reporting, it’s kind of like tax. There’s a huge government form we’ve got to fill out.
Our group is very specialized. But within our group, we’re working on a concept of a directory of expertise or a—what did we call it the other day? We had a better word for it. Just within our group that said that one person isn’t always the go-to person on all topics because that could cause burnout.
And so, what we’re working on is developing a network of expertise—that’s really what we call them, a network of expertise—that somebody is familiar with this part of what we do, and then she/he becomes the go-to person for that and for questions related to that topic.
Mike: And cross-training.
Bill: And cross-training too, yes, absolutely.
So we try not to be too isolated, too specific in our training or in our areas of expertise. But we are a different animal. We’re not general accounting.
Mike: Yeah, yeah.
So if you would talk to a young person that’s green, right out of college, why do you think hospital finance would be an attractive profession for them?
Bill: Because everybody is going to need health care. It’s not a business that’s ever going to go out.
And in fact, ever since I got into this business 30 years ago, there was talk of “the end of cost reporting. We’re not going to need it anymore. Everything is going [into perspective], blah-blah-blah…”
And it’s never happened, but they’ve taken and done different things with the information. They utilize it for rate setting and other things. So it’s still a very critical job, and likely will be for a very long time.
Mike: So last question, Bill, if you were to make a recommendation to your colleagues when it comes to recruiting and retaining top talent for an organization, what would you say are important factors?
Bill: Definitely, it’s a buzz word that sometimes sounds cliché, but work/life balance. Make sure that that’s available. I almost lost an employee recently because she thought she needed better work/life balance. I come to find out the place she was intending to go is harder on staff than we are!
Work/life balance, but also, to develop a team atmosphere and a camaraderie. It makes the work a whole lot easier and faster if everybody likes what they’re doing and likes the people that they’re doing it with.
And avoid the silos. We just went through a merger a few years ago and had two very different approaches to the work. One side was very team-driven. The other side was very siloed. They had their hospitals that they worked on, and that was it. They didn’t work on other hospitals.
Everybody had a little bit of a different way of doing things. So we’re working on building standardization and that team environment. And I think it’s going well. It makes it easier to build the team environment when you’re hiring young staff because that’s what they’re looking for. That’s what the millenials are looking for.
Mike: Flexibility, a team.
Bill: Yes, we’ve got some that work from home now a couple of days a week; some that are telecommuting.
Mike: I guess you get used to measuring outputs versus inputs. I think that’s one of the mindset changes that organizations are making. It’s not about necessarily where you are, or how many hours you put in even. It’s getting it done, and getting it done well.
Bill: Yes, get the work done, and then you can have some playtime.
Mike: Yeah, got it! Well, let’s go have some playtime. It was good talking to you here tonight, Bill. I hope you’re having a great show.
Bill: Likewise. Yes, I am.
Mike: Thanks! Great! Exellent! Well, thanks for spending some time with us.
Bill: Thank you.