Growing a strong, diverse workforce

Business people clapping hands together

Last month, UnityPoint was privileged to help host a community forum with representatives from non-profits, K-12 and higher education, small and medium business, city government, public safety and civil servants to discuss Marshalltown’s robust efforts in creating a community open to all individuals, centered on cultural inclusion and dedicated to great quality of life. Working at UnityPoint, we aspire to uphold these qualities in the workplace.

Like most industries in Iowa, hospitals face ongoing challenges in recruiting skilled team members to fill our many available positions. As our population ages and demands for health care services continue to grow, we must find ways to attract and retain talented health care professionals. In addition to doctors and nurses, we need team members in a variety of roles that are integral to fulfilling our mission, including positions in administration, logistics, operations and governance.

This theme was highlighted throughout the panel. Much of the discussion focused on strategies for engaging our diverse population of neighbors and collaborating with business and education to make more individuals feel welcome in our community. Nearly 100 local leaders spent more than 90 minutes sharing ideas and best practices for growing the economic vitality of our state by embracing a strong, diverse community and maintaining and growing the population.

As a member of the Iowa Business Council, UnityPoint values the opportunity to interact with our peers from around the state. An essential part of IBC’s mission is to produce an annual competitive dashboard that measures how Iowa ranks in the areas of economic growth, education & workforce, governance, health & wellness, and demographics & diversity.

Between 2017 and 2018, Iowa’s population grew only by about 11,000 residents, and our overall net migration grew from only about 3,000 people in 2017 to approximately 4,000 people in 2018. That’s not nearly enough people to sustain a skilled workforce or fill the current open positions. Growth in Iowa’s ethnic diversity was comparable to national growth rates, but because Iowa continues to lag behind in diversity, we must develop strategies to kick-start growth in diversity and overall population growth to make up the difference.

UnityPoint Health is committed to attracting, developing and retaining qualified team members who strive to work as one through four key values: Foster unity, own the moment, champion excellence and seize opportunities. As our communities welcome new neighbors from around the country and around the globe, UnityPoint Health will work hard to identify and develop talented individuals who can contribute and create a vibrant workforce that mirrors the community members we serve. With the right training and development opportunities, we can grow our team and provide meaningful career opportunities.

Additionally, UnityPoint Health teaches cultural competencies to our nurses, doctors, front desk staff and other providers so they have context and better awareness to understand the cultural nuances of the people and families they serve. Another way we’re connecting with community is through our partnership with the Marshalltown School District on a program that gives all students the opportunity to gain early exposure to careers in health care. Together we also host a weeklong nurse camp each summer that brings students to our hospital campus where they can directly observe a nurse’s responsibilities.

We continue to look for ways to partner with local communities but we know it’s going to take a joint effort by multiple organizations, businesses and city administrators to move the needle. We applaud Marshalltown for the work it has already accomplished in this area. The panel and forum discussion shined a bright light on their efforts. Some of the outreach included Marshalltown Police Department’s purposeful and strategic approach to community outreach to build strong and positive relationships with minority residents. Leaders in city government have reached out to Hispanic business owners to welcome them and lend support. Likewise, the local school district has ramped up efforts to ensure a diverse team of teachers and administrators, including community liaisons and translators.

While some of the data on Iowa’s population and diversity trends show there is more work to be done, there is a way forward. Communities like Marshalltown and businesses like UnityPoint Health have recognized these challenges, and we are committed to overcoming them through creative problem-solving, welcoming workplaces and communities that celebrate cultural inclusion and collaborating on strategies to increase our overall population. Together, we can lead the way to ensure that tomorrow’s Iowa is more robust, more inclusive and more economically sound than ever.


Pam Delagardelle is the President and CEO of UnityPoint Health Waterloo which encompasses Waterloo, Sumner, Grundy Center and Marshalltown. UnityPoint Health is a member of the Iowa Business Council, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that is comprised of the top executives from Iowa’s 23 largest employers.