People First: Helping Employees Navigate Work, Change and Patient Support

By Karen Rice |

Karen Rice, Vice President of Human Resources at Lash Group, shares insights on change management, culture and cultivating talent.
patient support call center headset for remote employee

Patient support programs have swiftly pivoted to a new normal amid the COVID-19 pandemic, upending typical change management protocols as they aim to balance patients' needs with the safety of the healthcare workforce. Karen Rice, Vice President of Human Resources at Lash Group, shares how she's helping employees navigate that change for the good of patient care.

Q: What is HR's role in supporting people through the COVID-19 pandemic—and change in general?

Karen Rice: We're addressing this from an angle of crisis and change management. COVID-19 is unprecedented—and like any other period of transition, we have to work together to get through it. As the crisis took shape, we knew the safety of our associates would take priority, along with continuing to support our patients. Right away, we moved to remote working to reduce transmission risk. At the same time, patients were understandably worried about the coronavirus and they had questions. So, we aimed to make the transition seamless, giving our associates the equipment and tools to continue delivering exceptional service even during social distancing.

Q: In a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, you don't always have time to go through a standard change management process. How do you pivot quickly?

KR: You do things in parallel and it requires cross-collaboration. With COVID-19, we aimed to get all associates working remotely by a specific date, but we were ready a week ahead of schedule. People jumped in to help, no matter their role. From reviewing HR policies to breaking down equipment and shipping them to home offices, everyone pitched in for the good of everyone else. You had people from HR, talent acquisition, product management, client analytics, operations, IT, marketing and other departments unite and do what needed to be done. It was amazing to see.

Q: What aspects of Lash Group's response to this crisis make you most proud of your organization?

KR: What struck me was the commitment of the leadership team. They came together on daily working session calls to keep everyone updated, find solutions and rally action. Also, the swift movement from our executive management committee to create recommendations and policy changes has been remarkable. People stepped up to offer help and their contributions were immediately supported, codified and put into action.

Mostly, I'm proud of the grace we've been giving each other and ourselves. Associates now dually manage their personal and professional lives at home. Not only did they have to adapt to remote working, but they also have competing responsibilities like childcare. We all understand that this new normal is a balancing act and we are committed to helping our colleagues adjust.

Q: Crisis or not, the need to find and retain good people is essential. What is Lash Group's strategy for doing that?

KR: The right talent is out there, and we're refining our capabilities and technology to find and keep them. Over the past several months, we've implemented a technology-based assessment for candidates of certain roles to boost our placement strategies. It's a simulated call that candidates take with a hypothetical patient, and it serves two purposes: For one, it helps applicants get a sense of what the job entails. And secondly, it shows our hiring team how candidates would handle certain situations.

From a retention standpoint, associates have said they're happiest when they can best serve patients without the burden of administrative barriers. Our Fusion platform addresses that by walking employees through different screens in real-time during patient calls. These screens act as guideposts for patient interactions, so that staff can elevate their conversations and make the most of their consultative approach.

Q: What role does internal culture and career development play in Lash Group's talent management?

KR: A ton! We're an organization that's focused on inclusion, diversity and bringing your whole self to work. That plays out in several ways, including associate engagement. Fun and learning are major pillars of that engagement model—from cube decorating and holiday recognition in the office to our leadership development programs, lunch and learns, and our new associate feature that encourages engagement during remote work. From a diversity and inclusion perspective, we've launched employee resource groups, including those for our LGBTQ employees, veterans and employees from different cultural backgrounds, among others.

Q: What do you find most rewarding about your work?

KR: Our associates. We're bringing in people who have a daily commitment to putting patients first. The passion they have for helping clients and patients is incredible, even during volatility. When you talk to employees, it's evident that helping people is what they're most proud of. They care not just for patients, but for each other as well. Before we all went remote, I would walk through the hall and often see people collaborating over lunch with smiles galore. It's refreshing to be part of that.

Q: What inspired your interest in HR and in being part of Lash Group?

KR: I find purpose and enjoy helping my colleagues develop, and I get energy from seeing our workforce grow and succeed. People deserve the opportunity to put their best foot forward and have their achievements recognized by leaders who have their back and support them, no matter what. That's the legacy I want to leave behind.

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About the Author

Karen Rice

Vice President, Human Resources
Lash Group

Karen Rice is the Vice President of Human Resources for AmerisourceBergen and works in support of the Lash Group business. She is responsible for the strategic planning and capability of human capital to meet business challenges and capture opportunities for sustainable corporate growth and financial success. She guides her team in the development and execution of best-in-class programs for talent management, competency management, knowledge management, the human resources organization, and leadership-succession training. 

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