Best Places to Work winners promote work-life balance

Leaders often talk about workplace culture, but it's hard to put a finger on what it means, or how it's developed.

It comes from the people hired and the way they're treated, but it's also something leaders have to cultivate.

“It involves inspirational leaders who really work at bringing people together and creating community and recognizing people for what they do and creating meaning in their work,” said John Challenger, CEO of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “It's really not quite on a checklist.”

People “want to work really hard” and know their work needs to fit well with their personal life, Challenger said. One way of accomplishing this is by setting a framework for culture or ideas that employees can rally around.

These are among the attributes that help land companies on the annual Best Places to Work in Healthcare list.

The Women’s Hospital in Newburgh, Ind., has made the annual roster of Best Places to Work six times. The Women’s Hospital in Newburgh, Ind., has made the annual roster of Best Places to Work six times.
It's clear that the culture at Arlington-based Texas Health Resources is pretty strong. The system was accused last year by National Nurses United of serious lapses in workplace safety after two nurses contracted Ebola at one of its Dallas hospitals. But even as some nurses spoke out against the system, a surprising number continued to express pride in working there.

Four jointly owned THR hospitals made this year's ranking of the Best Places to Work in Healthcare, and it's because of their focus on communication and work-life balance, said Krystal Mims, THR's senior vice president of continuum of care and collaborations and the leader of its joint ventures. Mims declined to address the Ebola situation directly, but said that THR's culture—and that of the joint ventures especially—revolves around consistent feedback and competition among hospital leaders for positive feedback.

“We've had some pretty tough clinical issues to go through. But when you've had that strong culture, you have that culture at home and that culture at work to rely on when the going gets tough,” Mims said.

THR's joint-venture hospitals on the ranking are:

• Texas Health Flower Mound (Texas)—No. 6 overall, No. 3 among providers

• Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Rockwall (Texas)—No. 46 overall, No. 20 among providers

• Texas Health Heart & Vascular, Arlington, Texas—No. 81 overall, No. 39 among providers

• Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Southlake (Texas)—

No. 91 overall, No. 45 among providers

All four hospitals are joint ventures with physicians.

Culture and ideas that staff can rally around help land companies on the Best Places to Work in Healthcare list. Above, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Rockwall employees pose with family members. Culture and ideas that staff can rally around help land companies on the Best Places to Work in Healthcare list. Above, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Rockwall employees pose with family members.
Leaders at CQuence Health Group—No. 1 overall on the Best Places ranking as well as No. 1 among supplier companies—have structured their culture around five key areas in which the company strives to succeed, including growth, profit, customer service, accountability and employee development. Roughly six years ago, leaders established those key results, along with six cultural beliefs: speak up, expand excellence, get clear, learn from it, grow together and act now.

“It's kind of hard to quantify culture,” said Bruce Stec, the company's vice president of human resources. “For us, it is a business strategy ... for us, our culture is about creating experiences for our employees that drive our key results. That is the focus of our management team and leadership.”

Omaha, Neb.-based CQuence's collection of companies include a diagnostic imaging equipment sales and service provider and a care-coordination technology provider.

The company's culture doesn't just happen, CEO Mike Cassling said, but rather it's something leaders have to consciously develop.

“It was created day one when my dad started the business, taking care of our employees and taking care of our customers,” Cassling said. “He said if you do those things, everything will follow.”

Cassling points to accountability as one of the company's most critical “key results” from a business standpoint. But he said accountability to the wider community has been a major motivator behind a new program that offers the company's 31 employees an additional paid day off for individual volunteer work, which has been well-received.

At St. Martin Hospital in Breaux Bridge, La., nursing supervisors ensure that shifts are scheduled around school and family commitments. At St. Martin Hospital in Breaux Bridge, La., nursing supervisors ensure that shifts are scheduled around school and family commitments.
Attention to work-life balance also drives high performance at The Women's Hospital in Newburgh, Ind., which holds the No. 1 spot for healthcare providers. It's the sixth time the 74-bed hospital has made the annual roster of the Best Places to Work.

“We have never wavered from our culture, which focuses not only on our patients, but on our employees,” said Christina Ryan, CEO at the hospital, which is part of Deaconess Health System, based in Evansville, Ind. “We win when employees are fully engaged.”

Susie Traylor, director of human resources and community/employee wellness at the hospital, touts the organization's comprehensive wellness program that “touches on multiple aspects of work-life balance—physical, spiritual and financial.”

Ryan noted that management emphasizes the importance of empowered employees, since they are critical to finding innovative ways to improve quality of care and sustain excellence. “We truly feel they are our best asset,” she said.

Time off is one perk that has received significant attention from major companies this year. Publisher Tribune Co. walked back an unlimited paid time off policy it had planned to implement, while Netflix announced it would offer up to a year of paid maternity and paternity leave in addition to its already unlimited PTO policy. And it's also an often-mentioned topic among employees surveyed as part of the Best Places to Work evaluation process.

CipherHealth, a New York-based care-coordination technology company and No. 2 overall on the list, offers unlimited PTO. But co-founder Randy Cheung said such policies won't automatically make workers happier; managers have to make sure employees are taking adequate time off to refresh.

Unlimited PTO “has the opposite intended effect,” Cheung said. “We're trying to swing it back the other way and say, not only is there no vacation policy but we're actually forcing people to take vacation and trying to do that in a way in that, there's risk mitigation and making sure that when someone is gone for two weeks that the company doesn't fall apart.”

A strong PTO policy was a major plus for organizations on the Best Places to Work roster: 93% of employees at the 100 companies on the list said that they are satisfied with their employer's vacation or PTO policy. But not every company can offer unlimited PTO. It would be virtually impossible for providers, which in many cases have legal obligations to have a certain number of staff members available at any given time.

While a tech company can provide a high degree of PTO flexibility, a hospital might be able to provide more help with childcare or eldercare, said Tom Flannery, a partner with HR consultancy Mercer's healthcare talent practice in Boston. “It really becomes critical in attracting people, because if you have a choice of having your child in a well-designed, safe, nurturing environment or some place else, you're going to have to pick the employer that has that environment.”

While the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency (No. 7 overall on the list and No. 4 among suppliers) is not a healthcare provider, its nurses, social workers and other staff can work long, odd hours when meeting with potential organ donors' families at hospitals. So the agency, which has nearly 150 employees, has an open-door policy for employees' children, who are welcome to hang around the office and bond with staff.

“I can't think of a week that goes by that we don't have some sort of child in our office,” said Chrissy Hagan, LOPA's chief administrative officer. “We really embrace the working mom thing.”

The agency's staff “deals with people on the worst days of their lives,” Hagan said, so managers have found that it's important that staffers feel as comfortable as possible. For many staff members, having children around can be refreshing and a distraction from some of the difficult situations they deal with.

“I think that we really provide more of a home for our people rather than a job. We pull you in and from the minute you're in our employment we let you know it's not a job, it's not a career, it's a lifestyle. We really live our core values.”

Support also comes in the form of flexibility of hours, like at St. Martin Hospital, Breaux Bridge, La., No. 21 on the list and No. 9 among providers. Nursing supervisors ensure that shifts are scheduled around school and family commitments. Self-scheduling, which was requested by employees, gives the hospital's 65 nurses autonomy and options around when they work. And managers have been creative in finding solutions to keep nurses from leaving, like breaking up full-time-equivalent positions into part-time jobs to help nurses go to school.

“The philosophy is to start with the employee. Employee satisfaction comes first,” said Mary Dupuis, nursing director for St. Martin's parent system, Lafayette (La.) General Health. “When they are fulfilled and they are content in the work environment, they give good care.”


Adam Rubenfire

Adam Rubenfire is Modern Healthcare's Custom Content Strategist. He is responsible for the development of webinars, white papers and other engaging content for marketers looking to target the healthcare industry. Prior to his current role, he served as Modern Healthcare's supply chain reporter. His work has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Automotive News and Crain’s Detroit Business. He has a bachelor’s degree in organizational studies from the University of Michigan. He joined Modern Healthcare in 2014.

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