Ms. Gioia

Human Resources, Recruitment & Training

What Hotels Can Learn From Award-winning Hospitals

By Joyce Gioia, CEO, Employer of Choice, Inc

There are many types of recognition for employers to strive to achieve. Among the most difficult to earn is The Employer of Choice® Award. This challenging designation is awarded to public, private, or nonprofit employers that demonstrate effective implementation of best practices in attracting, developing, and retaining outstanding people. This distinction places employers in an elite group of only 29 organizations total from across the country that have ever earned the distinction.

Create a "safe place" for open discussion

One of the leading healthcare organizations in Illinois, Memorial Health System of Springfield (MHS) is a community-based, not-for-profit, operating three hospitals, out-patient facilities, and dozens of physician practices in the area.

To accomplish its goal of reforming their culture, MHS developed “The Great Place to Work Shop”, a weekly forum for leaders. The purpose was to provide a structured opportunity for them to examine survey results, interact and strategize, and receive training focused on best practices in leadership. They focused on and discussed different topics each week. Professionals from the "people division" were always available to meet one-on-one with leaders to further explore specific issues and challenges facing their departments.

The reasons for success of The Great Place to Work Shop are twofold: MHS created the workshops as “safe zones”. Whatever people discussed in the work shop stayed in the workshop; leaders felt safe talking about their challenges and sharing ideas, insights, and suggestions with each other.

Second, while leaders were taught how to use the survey results to make changes, they were encouraged not to own the process. Since the survey results unveiled each department’s view of employee engagement, they wanted each and every employee in that department to own their results. Moreover, MHS wanted the front-line employees to share their voice on what could/should be done to improve the situation. Working together, department leaders and their staffs embraced the need to develop and implement their own departmental plans to improve employee engagement.

The success of this team approach is evident in the results of MHS’ yearly employee engagement survey. Scores rose from the 30th percentile in 2004, to the 60th percentile in 2006 and, ultimately to the 94th percentile in 2010.

Leadership development pays off, handsomely

Based in Stuart, Florida, Martin Memorial Health Systems (MMHS) comprises two hospitals, two MediCenters, a free-standing emergency center, and numerous outpatient centers and clinics.

Back in 2002, when MMHS first decided it wanted to earn this honor, they conducted an engagement survey, then focused on their overall results to tackle the key areas that needed overall improvement. However, over the past few years, as they examined their leadership development, succession planning, and future growth, they have taken the results and identified more actionable planning for the future.

Using employees’ perceptions of their superiors from the survey, MMHS executives created an “eye chart”. This eye chart enabled them to look at the success of all of the organization's leaders. In this process, they examined engagement scores for their top performers as well as those who were struggling.

Then, MMHS leaders went through a self-assessment process that asked them to rate themselves, determining their leadership style and the coaching needed. The goal was to help them achieve the best results and improve overall performance.

Finally, the senior leadership team evaluated the overall performance of all the organization's leaders, and then used this information to develop a “talent management eye chart".

MMHS' three keys are their "engagement survey leader eye chart", their "right path self assessment", and their "talent management top down assessment" With this support, the health system is better able to coach its leadership team and enhance its comprehensive succession planning process.

One of the key measures in determining whether an organization is worthy of this special designation is its score on the question, "I would recommend my organization to friends as a good place to work". Their score rose from 22.9 percent in 2002 to an extraordinary 90.2 percent in 2010! It is no wonder that MMHS recently earned the designation for two years, rather than just one.

Take people off-site for leadership development

Fifty years ago, St Tammany Parish Hospital (STPH) started out a small-town community hospital; now, it is a regional medical center, serving a growing community. In 2002 when STPH began its journey to achieve the Employer of Choice® Award, leaders realized that they need to implement a number of key initiatives. Managers needed to share their vision of the culture they were trying to create―a culture that fosters employee involvement in decision-making and supports a ‘no secrets’ communication strategy. To accomplish this goal, at the beginning of each year the executive team now develops and hosts an off-site overnight retreat for all Department Heads. The agenda for the retreat includes motivational speakers, discussion about the organizational goals, and setting the vision for the year. Also, every quarter, STPH takes its managers and supervisors off-site for a day of education. They also look for ways to improve the processes and procedures that affect their employees.

Since earning the Employer of Choice® designation in 2008, STPH’s financial performance has remained strong―in an economy when many hospitals are struggling. Their patient and physician satisfaction scores remain in the top ten percent of hospitals. Their employee turnover rate continues to improve each year; it averaged only 11.5 percent for 2010. And their average tenure has increased to 7.1 years. They believe the Employer of Choice® Award process keeps them focused on what's important to their leaders, our staff, our patients and families, and the entire community.

Share the recognition

Located in central Pennsylvania, Susquehanna Health Systems (SHS) serves its community with three hospitals, a skilled nursing unit, and a home care division, as well as physician services and an ambulance service.

Their statements made by their President and CEO, Stephen P. Johnson reflect their attitude: "Today’s environment is more challenging than it has ever been. And in this environment our employee service partners rallied to help us achieve this award. We are all faced with a series of brilliant opportunities and our employee service partners accepted this opportunity and now they stand out among the rest."

In April 2010, SHS achieved the Employer of Choice® Award for two years. This truly exceptional honor means it is among only one percent of hospitals nationwide operating at that level.

These hospitals are obviously operating on a very high level. They put patients, then their employees first. (Their employees wouldn't have it any other way.) Their actions engender levels of loyalty that result in lives saved and significantly better bottom lines. Hotels can learn a lot from these high-performing hospitals.

A recruitment tale - 'The candidate and the snowstorm'

Though it is sunny in Florida, it is winter in Tennessee. The worst snowstorm in decades has hit central Tennessee. The airports are closed with no expectation of their opening soon. Even the trains are not running. In the face of this adversity, Amy Barry Chief Human Resources Officer at Martin Memorial Health Systems in Wherever, Florida made an executive decision. She had arranged for 54 people to be on site day after tomorrow to meet a candidate for Senior Vice President, Chief Nursing Officer for the entire system. That meant 54 people, including the board of trustees and other members of the executive team, had cleared their schedules and made time to be there. As far as Barry was concerned the decision was simple.

Outside of Memphis, the newly married candidate with her husband stepped into a limousine to make the 14 hour trip by car. Imagine how the candidate felt about Martin Memorial after this rescue. Mother Nature could not have created a better set-up. It is this kind of action, going above and beyond for their employees, that helps to earn for Martin Memorial the Employer of Choice® Award.

Joyce Gioia is a workforce futurist concentrating on relationship aspects of the future. This arena includes workforce and workplace trends, as well as consumer, education, and business-to-business trends. Ms. Gioia is also CEO of Employer of Choice, Inc, a distinction earned only by companies whose leadership, culture, and best practices attract, optimize, and hold top talent. Employers of Choice® enjoy "a higher level of performance, greater workforce stability, and the level of continuity that assures preservation of the knowledge base, customer loyalty, employee satisfaction, and stronger profits". Ms. Gioia can be contacted at 336-210-3548 or Extended Bio... retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by

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