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CASE - Solving complex business challenges with a remote workforce - insights from healthcare

How to solve complex business challenges in a multinational environment with expertise spread across geographies and divisional boundaries? It’s a challenge many global companies struggle with.

Recently, the management team of a global healthcare solution provider specialized in diagnostic imaging launched an initiative to foster innovation and entrepreneurial thinking in the organization. The overall goal? To boost company growth.

The management team decided upfront it was important to have a global footprint for the initiative. They realized they had the expertise in-house, but the know-how was scattered over different locations and regions. They further understood that, for the success of the initiative, it would not only be crucial to bring this expertise together, but also to empower their experts to step out of their comfort zone, to voice their ideas, and to form cross-regional and -functional teams.

That’s how they decided to go for remote digital collaboration, mobilizing their troops all over the world. What follows are 4 take-aways to take into account in the set-up of similar initiatives.

Provide a well-defined business challenge

The management team onboarded their experts with a clear challenge: identify valuable adjacent markets for our technology, so that patients can benefit from even better healthcare services.

This clear business challenge motivated employees to get involved in the initiative, because they felt the purpose in their work.

People are intrinsically motivated when they feel inspired, find meaning, and see the impact of their work on others. And when they do, they’re more engaged, innovative, and productive. You instill way more purpose by onboarding employees on a meaningful challenge than through any motivational talk, speech or mission statement.

On top of this, the business challenge immediately introduced a shared goal for everyone involved. When people experience differences with others, it is natural for them to fall back into “us versus them” thinking. Leaders can alleviate this issue by setting a shared goal, and thus fostering a common ground.

Create a risk-free environment

Just as in physical collaborations on site, also in a remote digital setting there could be several factors preventing employees from sharing their thoughts and suggestions. They could be reluctant to voice their opinion, out of fear for prejudice and reactions from colleagues.

The chance is real you can think of a situation in which you or a colleague didn’t speak up because your manager or supervisor was following. Or think of opaque communications between different organizational divisions, or between different regions. Most of the times, emphasizing open and transparent communication is not quite enough.

The management team therefore invited employees to join the initiative with an anonymous avatar. The result? About 600 employees joined, taking on the identity of YesWeScan, Schrödinger’s Cat, or Higgs, just to name a few. Throughout the initiative, different experts highlighted that this anonymity made it easier for them to spur new and creative ideas, and that it helped them to be bold.

Spark intrinsic motivation & give the freedom to contribute whenever possible

Nowadays, people’s agendas are chocked up with meetings, calls, and office time behind their computers. In the case of the global healthcare solution provider, there was no capacity for employees to get involved in a time-consuming project on top of all their other work.

To motivate employees to step into the initiative, it was first of all important for them not to perceive the project as yet another task. Otherwise, they wouldn’t feel motivated to contribute from behind their computer. To counter this, the company launched online games in which the experts could identify interesting markets, and raise ideas for improving their technology, all in a playful way. Employees, for instance, collected points and badges by contributing to the challenge.

Besides this, given the time constraints employees faced, it was important for them that they could contribute in the little spare time they had. Therefore, the company made use of an online platform that was available 24/7. This enabled all experts, independent of their time zone, to access all information and read all conversations whenever it worked out for them.

Empower employees to team up based on common interests

The initiative of the global healthcare solution provider was divided into two phases. In the first phase, employees raised preliminary suggestions related to adjacent markets or technological possibilities. In the second phase, employees built on the insights from the first phase to detail business opportunities for the company.

In order to achieve the envisioned business impact, the management motivated the experts to team up in the second phase of the initiative. Experts chose themselves which business opportunity(ies) they worked on, but they were encouraged to form cross-functional teams.

Given that collaborations were shaped based on common interest (like envisioned market, or underlying technology), the initiative also laid the foundations for long term collaborations between colleagues in different regions and departments.

Overall, the initiative enabled the global healthcare solution provider to leverage the collective expertise of about 600 employees. They were able to identify multiple key talents across the organization, and connected experts from different divisions in a very short period of time. As a result, the company was able to unlock adjacent growth markets with a business value well over 100M€.

Interested to know more? Don’t hesitate to reach out.

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