Culture & Talent: Daniel Kolb’s insight into Medbelle values
With Medbelle’s team set to grow significantly over the next year, Medbelle's co-founder and Head of Culture & Talent, Daniel Kolb, discusses the importance of striking a balance between maintaining team cohesion and welcoming the innovative new ideas that arise from diverse opinions and perspectives.
Written by Cory Jones
Published: Wednesday, 19 January 2022
Medbelle was founded a little over 5 years ago, how has Medbelle changed since those early years and have the values of Medbelle evolved?
Well, as you can imagine, so much has changed. When we started Medbelle, it was just Leander and me. We began with research. We talked to different healthcare professionals, hospital directors, surgeons, admin staff, insurance companies to find out problems in the healthcare industry. Back then, we didn't even treat patients.
But more specifically, in the beginning, we believed it would be enough just to provide structures to increase transparency within the healthcare system. For example, to show patients which surgeons had better surgery results than others. We quickly realised this wasn't enough because even with the best surgeons, many things went wrong. We learnt that we actually had to manage the entire patient journey ourselves because the incentives setup was wrong. At present, clinicians are doing the best they can, but the overall structure means that they get paid the same amount regardless of how much a patient's health actually improves - the problem is, no one is financially incentivised to provide the best experiences. To enable better patient experiences and aligned incentives, we realised we needed to build the tech necessary to offer smooth patient journeys ourselves, too.
Now we know so much more, we have helped thousands of patients, provided hundreds of thousands with information about treatments, and this experience has changed us. Also, we are now about 50 people in the company, so our structure is entirely different.
When it comes to values, from the start, we knew that we had the goal of disrupting the status quo in healthcare and making it more pleasant, accessible and affordable. The details of how we will achieve that evolved, though. Digitisation was going to be key. If you look at any industry, there have been trends to digitise, and usually, there has been one or two major players who have transformed their industries. We knew this needed to happen in healthcare. But only as we began learning more and more did we realise the incentive model was the flaw that we wanted to revolutionise. Now we know much more about how we are going to achieve our vision, and we have a great team around us who can help achieve these things we could never do on our own!
Medbelle has very ambitious goals to revolutionise healthcare, how big of an impact do you think we will have on healthcare in the future?
The biggest impact I can foresee is changing the incentives structure of healthcare on an international level. That would be the most significant change. Sure, digitising healthcare is a great step. It is already brilliant that you can now book appointments online; these things help widen access to medical care. But, if you can change the setup and the mindset, remove the redundancies and the errors, and incentivise everyone involved to pursue the best outcomes, then that is the most important thing to me. And by outcomes, by the way, I mean medical outcomes like the reduction of pain or improvement of mobility, but also the experience people have with their clinicians, the experience of the staff at the hospital, it's a much more holistic view of which targets matter in the healthcare process.
As head of Culture & Talent, what qualities do you look for when speaking to candidates for leadership positions within the company?
Of course, this depends on the role. Generally speaking, a candidate needs the required skills, and for senior positions, it is always important to have good industry relationships and insights. But we also have what’s known as the Cultural Match interview, too. That’s where we have an opportunity to get to know the candidates on a personal level.
We have the cultural match interview because we like to find individuals who we feel will click with the team and have similar mindsets. We always check for alignment to Medbelle’s values and how people deal with conflicts and confrontations. People will have to deal with debate and discussion in leadership roles, so it is important to see how people get along with the team and not get wound up by others challenging their views. A key signal of this is empathy; the ability to understand views from colleagues, as well as our patients, surgeons and partners. We also look for people who fundamentally care about improving the healthcare system, people who will bring great ideas to the table and are inspiring to their team. It is important that people in senior positions are both team players and good managers, people who are also open and willing to be trained if necessary because it is always interesting to know what resources people need to become more effective.
But in short, we spend so much time with the people we work with, so we try to find people we will get along with on a personal level.
How do you strike the balance and ensure cohesion with new hires bringing their own visions and work styles with the current Medbelle outlook and work culture?
The key is a clear and in-depth onboarding process. We currently schedule onboarding sessions with all department heads to explain what they do, how they interact and how the new hire will fit into that system. Typically, new hires will also have one-on-one meetings with some of the individuals they’ll be working with frequently. It is vital that they develop a relationship and for them to share the underlying data and methods on which they base their assumptions. In the past, we have seen great people come in with good ideas, but sometimes we might have already tested those ideas or those methods, so people need to be brought up to speed straight away.
But ultimately we are looking for people with their hearts in the right place and people who buy into our vision, people who care about changing things. New hires are bound to have different ideas sometimes, but they’re always greatly appreciated because that’s exactly why we hire new people. We want people to challenge the status quo.
Regarding different work styles, we’ve had to learn over the years. We try to filter out work styles or personalities that will cause friction in the cultural match interviews. Motivation and drive are brilliant qualities, but the way you treat people and the atmosphere you bring to work is crucial.
How does your department help to empower the wider team to reach new heights and achieve Medbelle’s ambitious goals?
Our main goal is to care for the team to ensure they can care for our patients, surgeons and everyone who plays a role in our entire process. To do this we first need to ensure that we have a smooth structure so that our team doesn’t need to fight against bloated processes. We have to set up the company in a way so the communication spreads clearly and efficiently - to free up people’s minds as much as we can to ensure they are content and can focus their energy on helping patients. We also support our team’s mental health by offering a subscription to Headspace and support their physical health with Urban Sports Club memberships so they can go to thousands of gyms and do whatever sports suit them.
Also, I think it’s important to understand people’s situations in their private lives and listen with open ears, ensuring we remain flexible with the way they work if necessary. For this, we have an open-door policy to chat, but we also have quarterly 360 feedback and biannual happiness surveys where we ask people what they think and what we can improve.
Outside of these, shall we say, HR processes, we also have a bold vision for the Culture & Talent department. We want to continue to pursue ways to improve people’s lives outside as well as inside the workplace by organising things like blood donations, group volunteering work and fundraising for charities, for example. These initiatives can build our social hub whilst also making people excited about improving healthcare in their communities. We hope that if we build a positive culture within our team we can share it out into the community.
What does diversity mean to you and how important is it to our culture?
Personally, I believe that there is a lot of value in a workplace that is diverse and inclusive. Solving healthcare problems for entire populations requires you to have a diversity of thought, diverse experiences and viewpoints to cover all bases to remain open to new ideas. Much of what we are working on at Medbelle has never been done before, so open-minded people and diverse opinions can be greatly beneficial to come up with creative solutions.
Then there is the other side of the topic. As an individual, you can’t always do that much to change the whole world. But you do have a tiny amount of influence, and for me, it’s inside this company. Here I do have a say; I can actually change something. No matter how small it is on a global scale. But I view it as important that we support people and make sure no one is disregarded or unheard in this space. That’s why I find it so cool that we actually have some initiatives at Medbelle already. We have a self-organised LGBTQ+ community that organise events, do fundraising, and have a vision to help educate people in healthcare to try overcome the healthcare inequalities that exist for people in the LGBTQ+ community. It’s these kinds of proactive countermeasures that can help counter the realities of the outside world. I’m really proud of that.
Diversity is also important to our team as a whole. It’s a topic that has often come up in our happiness surveys and so it is my responsibility to focus on it even more. We have recently hired Andy, our new talent acquisition manager, who is someone who cares deeply about the topic. He is working on constantly adapting our recruitment process to remove biases. We are checking our job descriptions are as inclusive as possible, we are doing anti-bias training with all hiring managers to increase awareness, we post our job ads to specific job boards which are tailored towards more diverse applicant pools. But even still, I can acknowledge that the process is still not perfect, it’s evolution is ongoing. As a society we have a long way to go on this issue, and so do we!
Are there any particular projects within Medbelle that you’re excited about?
Yes, so many! There are some very exciting projects which I won’t go into just yet. But I’m also very excited about all of the medical content on our website, building trust in our brand and helping to educate people about treatments, diagnostics and recovery processes. More generally though, working towards changing healthcare for the better by implementing value-based healthcare and changing the incentives set up for everyone we work with is the most exciting thing!
What goals are you setting yourself for 2022, professionally and personally?
Personally, more happiness, love, being at ease with the world around me and being able to support those around me as best I can. In terms of work, just ensuring we continue to grow, operationalise our new partnerships, continue to onboard great surgeons, continue to help patients and make sure we hire the best people to do so!
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