January 2005

Distinctive Culture Attracts Outstanding Employees


In the people-intensive business of health care, it's important to provide the right kind of work environment, said Michael Fordyce, chief administrative officer for Catholic Health Initiatives. "Leaders must have a true understanding of the employee experience within their facilities and how to improve it - because we know that higher employee satisfaction
is linked to better operating performance."


Catholic Health Initiatives' People strategy states that the organization's distinctive culture will create a work community of choice in every market it serves. "That may sound like a lofty statement, but it's very practical," said Herb Vallier, Catholic Health Initiatives' new senior vice president of human resources. "Simply, our goal is for the distinctive culture of Catholic Health Initiatives to attract and retain outstanding people; their commitment to each other and those they serve helps create work communities of choice."

In the people-intensive business of health care, it's important to provide the right kind of work environment, said Michael Fordyce, chief administrative officer for Catholic Health Initiatives. "The healing ministry of Jesus is carried out by our employees, and we have the responsibility to enhance their on-the-job experience every day," he said. "Leaders must have a true understanding of the employee experience within their facilities and how to improve it - because it is essential that we always practice our core values, and because we know that higher employee satisfaction is linked to better operating performance."

The Catholic Health Initiatives Employee Covenant states that the organization is committed to providing a safe, supportive work environment as well as the opportunity to learn and grow. In addition, improving the employee experience means addressing the needs of all employees. "Our human resources action plan includes a lot of different items because our workforce is diverse, with diverse needs," said Robyn Wilkinson, senior vice president of human resources for Mercy Medical Center, Des Moines, Iowa, which has been recognized as a Best Place to Work by the Des Moines Business Record. "We can't focus on one type of employee and do a complete job of building a work community of choice. Our goal is for every employee to feel included and engaged."

One tool market-based organizations and Catholic Health Initiatives' national office can use to engage employees is Catholic Health Initiatives' Employee Climate Assessment Survey. "Data from this survey, combined with employee turnover data and results from Core Values Assessments, provide a clear picture of areas that need attention," said Fordyce. "It shows leaders where to focus on improving the employee experience."

The Employee Climate Assessment Survey yields positive results at Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg, Ore., which has been named one of the 100 Best Places to Work in Oregon. "There is always room for improvement," said Denise Dwight, vice president of human resources for Mercy. "For example, we saw that we needed to better communicate with employees and physicians about how the hospital works with the community. High satisfaction scores don't mean our work is done."

Human resources leaders also have tools to determine how well their programs and policies align with the Employee Covenant, which describes guiding principles of the employee experience within the system. "Human resources leaders must work with others in their organizations to ensure their activities align with the Covenant," said Fordyce. "During this fiscal year, human resources leaders are using the new Our Values at Work tool kit to evaluate the alignment of their policies and procedures."

Leaders at TriHealth, Cincinnati, Ohio, attribute their recognition as a top workplace from both the Cincinnati Business Courier and Working Mother magazine to its distinctive, values-based culture. "We make a real effort to communicate that ours is a culture of respect for all people," said Walter McLarty, vice president of human resources. "This sets the tone for our employees to be productive, creative, respectful and courteous."

When Catholic Health Initiatives' leadership analyzes employee satisfaction data and Core Values Assessment results along with data regarding employee turnover, patient satisfaction and operating performance, an important connection is clear. "The data show that market-based organizations with higher employee satisfaction and lower turnover also have better patient satisfaction and operating performance," said Fordyce. "If we don't get the people element right, we can't give the level of care and service we want to provide for the people and communities we serve. Fortunately, leaders throughout Catholic Health Initiatives are working together to develop tools and practices to assure that we create the right environments to live Our Values at Work. I think we're making great progress in assuring that our People strategy is on the right course for this journey."