Lessons learned from Martin Memorial’s journey to becoming an Employer of Choice.
By Joyce Gioia, CEO, Employer of Choice Inc.
Improved employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention. These are just a few of the results Martin Memorial Health Systems realized on its road to being recognized as a National Employer of Choice.
The process to achieve this designation began several years ago as part of Martin Memorial Health System’s (MMHS) quest to constantly find innovative ways to improve the organization. Recognized as a Thomson Reuters Top 100 Hospital, Martin Memorial focused on making “workforce” a strategic priority so it could continue to deliver exceptional health care to its communities.
An inside look into this journey provides great insight into what it means to be a true Employer of Choice, how companies reach this pinnacle, and the impact this distinction has on everyone in the organization—from the staff to the C-suite. Here is the story of MMHS’s journey as shared by Amy Barry, vice president/chief human resources officer at Martin Memorial Health Systems.
In spring 2001, MMHS began conducting an organizational assessment of its culture. A team of leaders and staff joined forces to form The Guiding Coalition
, a group created to help review its organizational values and beliefs.
Armed with the work done by The Guiding Coalition, MMHS’s CEO and executive team kicked off their “STAR Program” the following year. The program was created to recognize Service, Trust, Accountability, and Respect as the company’s key values. Behavioral interviewing on STAR conduct was put in place, and STAR became part of the actual performance planning and review process. Using incentives such as “STAR of the Month” and SPOT rewards, the program rewarded the STARS that make MMHS a great place to work.
A few months after the launch of the STAR program, MMHS joined VHA’s Tomorrow’s Workforce and participated in the national group—sharing its current HR metrics and programs, and agreeing to participate in its online perception survey with the goal of one day becoming recognized an Employer of Choice. VHA Inc. is a nationwide network of 2,200 leading community-owned health-care organizations and their affiliated physicians. Everyone who was part of this new VHA Tomorrow’s Workforce program agreed to work toward the National Employer of Choice distinction.
In fall 2002, MMHS took part in the online perception survey, which focused on loyalty and engagement. Participation also gave an established baseline measure for the hospital’s metrics and programs, required for the Employer of Choice application. While MMHS’s programs and metrics scored well, its perception survey results put the hospital at a 6.5 percentile rank, compared to the national health-care database. The organization issued an immediate call to action to respond to these alarming results. The focus was front-line engagement and communication.
In the beginning of 2003, MMHS kicked off three initiatives to respond to and turn around the results. First, it had an onsite visit with VHA and Success Profiles, Inc., which was leading the metrics aspect of VHA’s Tomorrow’s Workforce program. Immediately, MMHS began conducting focus groups with its workforce. The CEO conducted Town Hall meetings to share the results, offer feedback from the focus groups, review the STAR Values and STARS program, and gain more input from the workforce at large. Lastly, a workforce operations team (WOT) was formed, comprising assistant vice presidents and administrative directors who were responsible for major day-to-day operations throughout the system.
The WOT team began meeting weekly to review the survey results and establish both a short- and long-term list of workforce objectives. Most importantly, the team set mutually agreed-upon goals and strategies, aimed at communicating issues and taking action. To this day, this team is the driving force that has kept the MMHS’ priority focus on the workforce.
In spring 2003, MMHS had a second onsite meeting with VHA and Success Profiles and conducted additional focus groups to monitor progress. Following that visit, the hospital officially rolled out its STAR values and recognition program during Hospital Week.
Next, the WOT team began drafting its Workforce Strategic Plan, and in the fall of 2003 secured board approval to include it in the Systems Strategic plan. To measure its success, MMHS also created a balance scorecard focusing on workforce, quality, market share/access, and financial stability with measures that were communicated regularly at the board, management, and staff levels. “Workforce” maintained the top position on the organizational scorecard and became a focus of discussion at every level
in the organization. MMHS then committed to continuing with the annual survey process, working hard to make improvements, and embarking on the journey to achieve national Employer of Choice.
In 2005, MMHS added “Success Sharing” tied to its balanced scorecard results toward a contribution to individual retirement defined contribution plan accounts. In the midst of making changes to its plans, it added a feature that linked individual performance to organizational results, helping people understand the overall goals and rewarding them for the organization’s success.
The WOT team continued to meet weekly to keep workforce operations issues top of mind and to make decisions on how to make improvements. The executive team fully supported the WOT team’s efforts, which allowed for effective collaboration between operational leaders and executives. Their commitment to the goal remained constant as they saw marked improvement in engagement each year. “Rounding,”—where executives regularly visited the front line—became a significant priority, as did increased focus on recognition of staff and visibility of key leaders throughout the organization. Over the years, MMHS endured many challenges, including weathering direct hits by Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne. Throughout all these challenges, the WOT team was instrumental in helping its workforce deal with these situations.
On October 1, 2008, Richmond Harman retired as president and CEO, and COO Mark Robitaille was named his successor. At this juncture, major focus was placed on relationships, results, and recognition, and MMHS’s values were renewed to be in line with the focus areas. Joining its STARS recognition program, the hospital launched the CARE Values Program, which stands for Collaboration, Accountability, Respect, and Excellence, all based on a strong foundation of integrity.
Robitaille’s presence and heightened focus on workforce (including physicians and volunteers) has had a significant impact and resulted in additional efforts to get people throughout the organization involved in making improvements. One of those effective new programs was MMHS’s inclusive performance excellence/lean program, which helps get rid of barriers and silos, and improve overall operational results.
Based on its long track record of hard work and focus on workforce, in 2009, MMHS saw its associate perception results climb, and it achieved the national Employer of Choicedesignation for the first time.
But the work did not stop there as MMHS promised its team members it would continue to work on improvements.
As such, in 2010 MMHS began finalizing the organization’s new clinical information system. A new team of more than 40 MMHS professionals are transitioning to the project from jobs throughout the organization and will work together for 18 months to get the new system successfully up and running. At the same time, they are working on their growth strategy with a plan to build a new hospital with ties to clinical research by 2014. These two efforts alone are creating a lot of excitement and opportunity for people to grow and be recognized.
With more than 80 percent of its workforce participating in the survey, MMHS’s 2010 associate perception results jumped again to nearly the 90th percentile. It was named a National Employer of Choice again and awarded the designation—this time for a two-year period for 2010 and 2011. As Barry states, “This has been a wonderful process and journey, and the hard work continues. Locally, we have been recognized four times as a ‘Best Place to Work.’”
Martin Memorial achieved a number of additional eye-opening results on its journey to earning its Employer of Choice distinction. In each year from 2002 to 2010, employees were asked whether they agreed with a variety of statements. Their “yes” responses then were compared to the Healthcare Performance Solution’s National Healthcare Database. Some of the findings include:
“I am satisfied with my job” rose from 14.8 percent in 2002 to 88.7 percent in 2010.
“I have confidence our organization’s leadership” rose from 8.4 percent in 2002 to 83.7 percent in 2010.
“I would recommend my organization to friends as a good place to work” rose from 22.9 percent in 2002 to 90.2 percent in 2010.
“My manager or immediate supervisor seems to care about me as a person” rose from 6.3 percent in 2002 to 84.2 percent in 2010.
“In the last three months, I have gone home feeling good about my workday more than feeling bad” rose from 40.6 percent in 2002 to 94.2 percent in 2010.
In addition, Martin Memorial saw associate turnover fall from a high of 15.85 percent in 2007 to 8.94 percent in 2009. RN/nursing turnover fell from 12.31 percent to 6.81 percent during the same time period. Says Barry, “Health-care organizations that achieve Employer of Choice tend to have higher patient satisfaction, greater productivity, and lower turnover, which are critical in providing exceptional health care, hope, and compassion to every patient every time. And, Martin Memorial is no exception.”
Martin Memorial continues to focus on its workforce and is spending more and more time on investing in the development of its people. Its success and reputation have helped it greatly. It receives significant donor support for its leadership development and clinical development of its people, and the gifts keep coming. Recently, it received a gift from a donor to cover the cost of joining a national lean network called the Healthcare Value Leaders Network and paying for travel of MMHS staff to visit other organizations that showcase their best practices. The purpose is to learn from these successful organizations and continue to make significant operational improvements at MMHS. Martin Memorial is transforming the way work is done by bringing people together to systematically improve its processes, technology, and facilities, and networking with other organizations across the country to improve the way it operates and provide services to its community.
In the coming years, Martin Memorial will have more challenges and must be able to have the kind of outcomes that result in its standing as the provider and Employer of Choice based on its quality, safety, and service. Says Barry, “The Employer of Choice process has allowed us, through a focused and disciplined effort, to work toward a goal and attain it, but also keep working for improvement. After all, it’s all about the journey, not the destination.”
A registered certification mark of Employer of Choice, Inc., The Employer of Choice designation is awarded to public, private, or nonprofit employers that demonstrate effective implementation of best practices in attracting, developing, and retaining outstanding people. The distinction places the health system in an elite group of 17 health-care organizations—and 30 companies total—from across the country that earned the distinction.
While many organizations claim to be “employers of choice,” only a select few have earned this distinction. To date, 212 companies nationwide are working to earn the Employer of Choice status, of which 69 have
ever met eligibility to apply.
Joyce Gioia, a workforce futurist and CEO of Employer of Choice, Inc., is the author of five business books, including two business bestsellers. For additional insights, Gioia is available for seminars, workshops, and keynote presentations and may be reached directly at 336.282.2019; firstname.lastname@example.org.