Empowering A Public Health Workforce: Data-Driven Strategies to Unlock Potential


In the years after Covid-19, public health is undergoing constant transformation. The field is not just changing—it's reinventing itself. And, as the public sector navigates this new era, the ability to swiftly adapt and modernize has become more than a goal—it's a necessity.

Today's ever-shifting public health landscape demands a workforce armed with cutting-edge capabilities and unwavering resilience. It requires a renewed, laser-focus on cultivating a workforce that's as dynamic and multifaceted as the challenges it faces. In this pivotal time, assessing and addressing staff training needs is mission-critical for ensuring our public health infrastructure effectively meets the complex needs of our communities.

Recognizing this urgent need, forward-thinking organizations like our client, a state health department, are taking bold steps to revolutionize their approach to workforce development.

Client Situation

North Highland partnered with a division within the state health department to pioneer an innovative, replicable framework for assessing capabilities and staff training needs. This initiative wasn’t just about ticking boxes; it demonstrated how targeted interventions can yield transformative results.

By leveraging cutting-edge Artificial Intelligence (AI), our team quickly identified key insights that set the stage for delivering tangible value throughout the engagement. These findings served as more than mere data points; they became the foundation for a strategic training plan. By targeting the division's top training needs, this plan aimed to increase talent retention, bridge skill gaps, and provide effective development opportunities.

The division provides essential value to the state through services that impact community health and well-being, such as:

  • Empowering people with timely, accurate public health data and vital statistics, 
  • Coordinating strategic planning, 
  • Conducting quality improvement and accreditation processes,
  • Facilitating research and data analysis, and
  • Supporting various health programs.

To maintain and enhance the quality of these services, the division prioritized staff development. More specifically, leaders set out to create a set of repeatable and ongoing processes that focused on identifying and delivering core training and skill building. However, recent shifts in the division’s organizational structure and scope created four distinct obstacles: 

  1. Unique and specific focus areas that differed widely from team to team created unclear skill requirements across different roles and responsibilities in the division and made it difficult to identify gaps in capabilities.
  2. Limited personnel with diverse and nuanced skill sets and educational backgrounds needed to support various department functions, impeding talent mobility within the division.
  3. Wide-ranging responsibilities and programs across teams that led to inadequate training programs, hindering employee development and skill acquisition.
  4. Constant evolution of the division made employee acclimation difficult, challenging the workforce's ability to adapt to changing roles and responsibilities.

Our Approach

The department leveraged Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grant funding for public health infrastructure enhancements to initiate a targeted pilot project within the division. Coined the Training Assessment and Development Plan (TADP) pilot project, the initiative focused on:

  • Conducting a comprehensive capabilities assessment,
  • Identifying critical staff training needs, and
  • Developing a strategic training plan.

The TADP Framework was designed to create a set of replicable and ongoing staff development processes that focus on identifying and delivering core training and skill building. This approach aimed to pinpoint and meet essential performance requirements for fulfilling the department's mission. 

To implement the TADP pilot, the North Highland team deployed targeted analytical tools, including a Transformational Intelligence (TI) research and analytics platform, called Decooda, and a Maturity Assessment Reporting System (MARS). The tools apply AI and Machine Learning (ML) to quickly extract qualitative data.

With Decooda, the team quickly analyzed existing department documents to extract initial insights and processed stakeholder feedback from interviews, surveys, and focus groups. This helped the division translate findings into actionable training priorities, ultimately building a data-driven training repository tailored to its unique needs.

All the while, the North Highland team leveraged deep expertise in workforce and organization optimization and capability development to gather inputs from a diverse group of stakeholders and consolidate feedback from various sources in a streamlined fashion.

Value Delivered

The TADP Framework enabled the department to take a new approach to workforce development, balancing targeted upskilling with crucial flexibility. This transformation empowered the division to:

  • Respond with agility and swiftly tackle emerging public health challenges with precision,
  • Leverage data-driven insights to make strategic, high-impact decisions, and
  • Enhance organizational alignment through stakeholder engagement and validation.

Our in-depth analysis of skills and capabilities served as a catalyst for change, enabling the division to zero in on make-or-break areas for improvement, implement resilient and adaptable solutions that evolve with shifting priorities, and create a culture of continuous improvement and innovation.

By translating the division’s complex data into actionable insights, we provided a clear roadmap for retaining talent, addressing capability gaps, and offering employee development opportunities that align personal growth with organizational success.

While this pilot project focused on one division, the approach is scalable and can be replicated across the department. The framework is designed to be adapted and implemented across other divisions, potentially transforming the entire department's approach to workforce development.