At Black River Memorial Hospital in Black River Falls, Wis., creating a positive working environment is about recognizing that one size does not fit all.That philosophy has helped Black River land in the No. 6 place overall in Modern Healthcare's rankings of the 100 Best Places to Work in Healthcare for 2013 and No. 4 in the medium-size employer category, those with 100 to 999 staffers.
Black River Memorial uses the flexible approach
According to Holly Winn, vice president of human resources and ancillary services, hospital leadership puts a lot of effort into getting feedback from staff and then tailoring employee benefits and initiatives to fit their specific needs and wants. “You want to find one shoe that fits everyone, but we recognize that it's not appropriate in every situation,” Winn says.
That's where flexibility comes in, particularly in scheduling. Employees are afforded the opportunity to adjust their hours to better meet their outside obligations, perhaps arriving and leaving early in order to adapt to their children's schedules.
“If I need to leave work to take care of my family as a working mom, that has never ever been a problem,” says Amy Yaeger, marketing and business development manager.
Or for the employee who wants to start work 30 minutes later to attend an exercise class, that's acceptable, too. In fact, it's encouraged.
Fitness and dietary support are two of the areas where Black River offers incentives to employees. The hospital provides employees with a personal trainer and a dietitian and will help pay for weight-management programs or gym memberships. There's even a gym on-site that employees can access on their breaks. What started out as just a treadmill has now turned into a fitness room with an elliptical machine, rowing machine, weights, a television and even a refrigerator with free bottled water.
Innovative internal communications tools and practices some Best Places are using:
- Emergency Medical Associates, Parsippany, N.J.—Communications Portal site allows employees to make suggestions, provide anonymous recommendations and identify compliance issues.
- Bon Secours Virginia, Richmond—CEO holds bimonthly luncheon with employees off campus, fielding questions and asking for input.
- FreemanWhite, Charlotte, N.C.—CEO Frank Brooks records weekly “Frankly Speaking” that answers direct questions from staff.
- iSirona, Panama City, Fla.—New hire “Get to Know” fact sheets.
- West Valley Medical Center, Nashville—“Ask an O,” a direct e-mail link to CEO, CNO, CFO and COO on the hospital intranet's front page.
Of course, use of the fitness center is not required, and neither is participating in a health-risk assessment. But for employees who do agree to the risk assessment, they're given extra “cafeteria dollars” that they can use to offset the cost of their insurance plan, buy additional benefits, invest in their retirement plans or withdraw as cash.
Communicating with employees is also critical, Winn says. Whenever new hires start at the hospital, management hosts a breakfast on the first day of employment so that both sides can share information about themselves and get to know one another. Ninety days later (as well as six months and a year into new employment), managers host another breakfast to solicit feedback on how the organization is living up to expectations. Senior leaders also invite employees to lunch after each five-year period on staff to get their input on what the hospital can do better.
“We get so much positive feedback,” Winn says, “and they tell us how they never met leaders at other places.”
At Black River, that approach—communication and engagement—is hardwired into the culture. Managers set goals with employees annually, compile and respond to suggestions on a quarterly basis, go on rounds with staff monthly, and then recognize workers as often as weekly for their successes. That could mean recognizing the laundry department for processing a large volume of laundry, or it could be thanking the nurse who fostered a patient's dog until the patient went home. Whatever the story, individuals and departments are frequently recognized by their peers, managers and senior leaders through Black River's traveling trophies, newsletters, gift cards and thank-you notes.
“I have never received a thank-you note at home in the mail from the head of anything until I came to Black River,” Yaeger says. “I got a card before I started to say we are so happy to have you on the team.”
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