Healthcare Business News
Teri Fontenot, CEO Woman's Hospital, Baton Rouge, La.
“An engaged employee is someone who feels like they have ownership in what's being done, that they buy into the mission, they understand the vision, they agree with the values of the organization and they know that they can make a difference.”

—Teri Fontenot,
president and CEO of Woman's Hospital,
Baton Rouge, La.

Engaged employees called key

Best Places to Work honorees share strategies for creating a great workplace

By Ashok Selvam
Posted: November 24, 2012 - 12:01 am ET

Creating a good healthcare workplace means knowing the difference between a satisfied employee and an engaged one.

A satisfied employee—someone who appreciates a paycheck and shows up to work on time—is certainly good for the workplace, but an engaged employee is something of greater value, said Teri Fontenot, president and CEO of 226-bed Woman's Hospital in Baton Rouge, La.

“An engaged employee is someone who feels like they have ownership in what's being done, that they buy into the mission, they understand the vision, they agree with the values of the organization and they know that they can make a difference,” Fontenot said in a video interview with Modern Healthcare. “If they are empowered to make that difference, then they realize that they are going to receive rewards for that; sometimes it's financial, but most of the time it's at the end of the day having a really good feeling that you've made a difference in the life of a patient or a family.”

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Fontenot, who also serves as the chair of the American Hospital Association, was one of 17 executives whose organizations were among Modern Healthcare's 100 Best Places to Work who discussed what made their organizations great places to work in interviews posted online at Woman's Hospital placed No. 54 on the list.

The executives shared their views and strategies on the best methods to retain employees, on how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would affect their abilities to remain a best place to work in healthcare and how future fiscal challenges will affect the workplace.

Best Places to Work in Healthcare is Modern Healthcare's annual program recognizing employers that establish the most-positive work environments. The criteria for making the roster include training and development offered to employees, benefits and salary packages, and how responsible employees feel in the organization's overall success.

A common thread for this year's honorees, regardless of whether the organization is a provider, payer or supplier, was establishing an accessible means of communication. Successful companies drew input from their employees through surveys, holding town hall-style meetings and requiring corner-office dwellers to make departmental rounds to better understand staff concerns.

Bryan Bateman, CEO of 88-bed Women & Children's Hospital, Lake Charles, La. (No. 91), said his administrative staff conducts some of its rounds at night so they can meet staff who work late-night shifts and who aren't available to meet during daytime hours.

“Oftentimes, you never see those people,” Bateman said. “You have to be engaged from all levels and throughout that hospital to make it work.”

Healthcare's changing landscape also makes it no guarantee that strategies that are effective now will continue to work.

How healthcare providers deal with population health management is a concern noted by Jerry Moeller, president and CEO of 87-bed Stillwater (Okla.) Medical Center (No. 98).

“I've been a CEO for over 40 years, and I've never had a board member who told me that their job was easier than mine,” Moeller said. “We have the most difficult job—I think in the world—in managing hospitals. So it's about to get more challenging, but I can tell you with a good place to work for your employees, and with them engaged, you've got a good shot at it.”

For Karen Hartman, president of Corazon, a Pittsburgh-based consultancy (No. 59), the company offers ownership stakes to employees, which makes them feel vested in the company's success.

Best Places to Work 2012
“So as we make profits, they make profits,” Hartman said. “If anything were ever to happen with our company, and it would move to a different ownership—which we're not intending to do—but if that were to happen, they would also share in that as well.”

Many Best Places honorees provide training opportunities, but seizing the chance to learn isn't just important for workers. Employers, too, must be willing to learn, and not only from other healthcare companies but also from outside the sector, said Peter Bernard, CEO of Bon Secours Richmond (Va.) Health System (No. 68). Bernard said Bon Secours looked to the hotel industry's service excellence programs, which helped its hospitals' mission of bettering compassionate patient care.

Healthcare employers also can learn from paying attention to what fails, said Stephen Reynolds, president and CEO at 14-hospital Baptist Memorial Health Care in Memphis, Tenn. (No. 23).

“We are a learning organization, one that tries to take the best experiences from other organizations—whether that's in healthcare, or other service-related industries,” Reynolds said. “We learn from people's failures. We learn from their successes. We try to make the very best out of what we've learned and make sure that our patients and their families get the very best of care.”

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