Dan Burton serves as CEO of Health Catalyst, a healthcare data warehousing and analytics company. He became involved with Health Catalyst when it was a three-person startup. Burton is also the co-founder of HB Ventures, the first outside equity holder in Health Catalyst. Prior to Health Catalyst and HB Ventures, Burton led the corporate strategy group at Micron Technology. In a conversation with Modern Healthcare Custom Media, Burton discussed leadership tactics to effectively address burnout among the healthcare workforce and to keep staff engaged and motivated.
How gratitude, communication can help engage and retain healthcare workers
Dan Burton: Health Catalyst’s culture starts with our mission as a company, which is to be the catalyst for massive, measurable data informed healthcare improvement. And then, many years ago, we introduced operating principles and cultural attributes that we ask every team member to emulate in their day-to-day activities. One operating principle is respect for every team member. We recognize the immeasurable value of every individual and respect should be the foundation for every relationship we have. Transparency is another operating principle. We want to be open and honest, especially when it's challenging, because if we are true to that operating principle, it will serve us well long-term from a relationship perspective with our clients and with the patients that they serve. Being a great continuous learner is one of our cultural attributes, because we believe in the concept of continuous improvement, which is tied to another of our cultural attributes – humility – which leads to great partnerships and relationships, which are so foundational in enabling us to fulfill our mission.
We've tried to emphasize principles that are timeless and apply in every circumstance. This mission orientation has scaled with the company and been a helpful guide for us as we’ve grown.
DB: Like everyone, we had to move from an office-based work environment to a fully remote environment. Over half of our team members before COVID were remote, so we were able to leverage a lot of those policies to make it work. But something we found we needed to do was increase the level of communication that we had with our team members. Before COVID, we encouraged every manager at Health Catalyst to have one-on-one check-ins every two or three weeks with team members and we asked them to double that during COVID.
And then for a good chunk of time during COVID we went from having all-team member meetings that were every three or four weeks to every week. We'd all get together, and we talked transparently about where we were, what we were experiencing, what was going well, what were the challenges? And in every one of those all-team member meetings, we would emphasize mental health.
DB: One of the challenges is, how do you build gratitude right into the fabric of an organizations' culture? I wholeheartedly believe that expressions of gratitude are directly tied to engagement. People want to feel of value, they want to know their sacrifices are honored and appreciated, and that their work has meaning. And, when people don’t feel that way, they are likely to disengage.
My advice to all leaders is to share your appreciation openly, specifically and regularly. One tool that’s really helped us is called Motivosity. Every month our team members are encouraged to express appreciation to teammates through the Motivosity platform. It is a simple way to say what and who you are thankful for. We’ve done it for years and over the past year have averaged between 3,000 to 4,000 expressions of gratitude per month from team members, which is about three expressions of appreciation per team member per month.
DB: With the onset of COVID, the whole healthcare economy was threatened and facing an existential crisis, particularly on the provider side. Often that meant a lot of clinicians had to take a pay cut and a lot of companies had layoffs. Now, as we're coming through the worst of those emergent financial elements, we must remember that the impacts of the pandemic extend far beyond the balance sheet. Employees, especially those on the front lines, have faced immense professional and personal demands and sacrifices over the past two years. And as leaders, we can’t pretend that life is back to normal just because the finances are more stable. This is a critical time for healthcare labor and leaders to acknowledge how many sacrifices occurred and realize that it may take another year or two for the workforce to be well.
Leaders can address this by providing recognition and ample support, especially in the way of compensation and benefits, including time to recharge, mental health support and tools, even if it means in the short term, (an organization) requires some incremental investment in team members from a financial perspective.
To learn more visit: www.healthcatalyst.com