Employee-centered focus sets this system apart

The best health system in America!’

The lofty vision of Baptist Health Care Corp. of Pensacola, FL, is to be "the best health system in America." It may well be on its way. According to one authoritative source, Baptist Health may at the very least be the best health care employer in the entire country.

In Fortune magazine’s most recent listing of the "100 Best Companies to Work For," Baptist — with six hospitals and 742 beds — ranked 15th on the list.

The next-highest health care employer — there were four in all — ranked 76th.

What sets Baptist apart? For one thing, the system provides an unbelievable range of programs that recognize, reward, support, and involve employees, including recognition of significant anniversary dates and numerous opportunities to present new ideas.

"Fortune said that the No. 1 factor that separates us is that we celebrate so much," says Celeste Norris, human resource director. "We have hospitalwide celebrations when we do well, and we thank everyone. We have a sense of pride about our work."

An atmosphere of celebration

It wasn’t too long ago that Baptist didn’t have much to celebrate at all.

"In 1995, we needed a boost — a big one," recalls Norris. "We had just been through merger mania, growing from 2,500 to 5,000 employees. We had tried re-engineering, and in the process destroyed morale by shaking up middle management. Our leaders knew we couldn’t compete by outspending the competition on equipment, so we decided to compete on service."

Leadership recognized early on that it couldn’t deliver world-class service consistently unless the work force was behind it and every employee was engaged, says Norris.

"We had high turnover, patient satisfaction was in the teens as rated by Press Ganey, and employee morale also was low as measured by a tool we use from Sperduto & Associates," she notes.

As it so often does with successful change, the process began at the top with the Baptist CEO.

"We made a concerted and sustained effort to change the corporate culture," says Norris. "We republished our values and mission and committed to being No. 1 in patient and employee satisfaction."

Employees were involved from the start in the visioning process. "One of the first things we did was share the news with employees and ask for their input on how to accomplish our goals," adds Norris. A number of employee teams were formed, including the standards team, which was charged with outlining the behaviors every employee should exhibit to provide world-class service. 

"As a result of this process, the employees exhibited a sense of ownership and felt free to express themselves," Norris notes.

At the same time, the CEO sent teams across the country to benchmark other workplaces, a number of which were then approved by the CEO and implemented.

The programs at Baptist not only make sense on paper, but they produce results.

"We have a very open culture when it comes to information sharing," says Sharon Gaubert, MPH, program director for occupational health and urgent care.

"Every day, we review the patients seen and the revenue from the previous day. We also look at month-to-date figures and benchmark them against our revenue goals," she says.

When those goals are exceeded, the department receives a free, catered lunch in the office.

"This helps us keep them fired up," says Gaubert. "It’s actually easy to minimize loss of charges and increase accuracy."

Service teams are essential to success

Service teams are another key to Baptist’s success. Through these teams, frontline employees and leaders work together at enhancing care to all customers.

"For example, one team deals with employee loyalty," notes Norris.

That particular team includes employees from the pharmacy, the wound center, human resources, marketing, and nursing. One project involved one-year certificates given to each employee who reached that milestone. "We celebrate that because we know employees are still at risk for leaving until they’ve been with an employer for about two years," Norris explains.

However, the certificates cost about $2.95 each to produce, and one coordinator found several of them strewn about.

"The team realized many of these people did not have offices in which to post the certificates, so they didn’t value them as highly as they might," Norris explains. "So, they suggested making pins."

The cost of the pins was $1 apiece. The recommendation has now been implemented.

The daily huddle, benchmarked from Ritz-Carlton Hotels, has impressed Summer Jimmerson, marketing representative for occupational health.

"I’ve been here for seven years and never worked on an actual campus," she explains. "With this many employees, its important to continuity to make sure the messages go out. Through the daily huddles, we know where we are, and where we are going."

Cascade learning is another important process, says Norris.

"When leaders go off site to have instructional training, they are given the tools to waterfall that new knowledge to the staff when they return," she says. "They basically say, Thanks for covering for me. Here’s what I learned.’ With training budgets being cut so only a few people can go, this is a valuable way of extending training dollars."

The Bright Ideas’ program has impressed Gaubert. It provides a mechanism by which employees’ suggestions are taken to appropriate leaders at any level of the organization. "It’s really great," she says. "Employees can generate their ideas, take ownership of them, and make them happen."

"When employees submit their ideas and they are implemented, it gets them engaged in the business," adds Norris. "It’s great for their self-esteem."

Today, the changes initiated over the past several years have become part of the culture and of everyday procedures at Baptist. For example, the vice president of patient care and the COO meet weekly with the leaders of the service teams.

"That’s their forum to get approval," notes Norris.

The numbers don’t lie.

"We’ve been in the top percentile in inpatient surveys for four years in a row; and in employee satisfaction surveys, we have been ranked best-in-class’ in terms of morale," Norris reports.

Improved morale

From an occupational health perspective, the improved morale also has been a plus, says Gaubert. "From our end of the business, we know injury rates tend be lower when employees are happier. When unions are about to go on strike, for example, injuries are higher."

Norris confirms the positive impact on injuries. "Our workers’ comp injuries have declined, and our risk management costs have also declined," she reports.

"It’s also reflected in employee turnover, where the numbers are also down," adds Jimmerson.

In fact, Baptist Health Care has been so successful that other organizations now are benchmarking them.

"We now offer a leadership training institute," she reports. "We have had so many requests from executives around the country we have opened it up to the public through our web site [www.ebaptisthealthcare.org]. Once there, people can visit our leadership institute site and learn about the opportunities they have to come here and benchmark."

[For more information, contact:

  • Baptist Health Care, 1000 W. Moreno St., Pensacola, FL 32501. Telephone: (850) 434-4011.
  • Celeste Norris, Human Resource Director, cnnorris@bhcpns.org.
  • Sharon Gaubert, MPH, Program Director for Occupational Health and Urgent Care.
  • Summer Jimmerson, Marketing Representative for Occupational Health.]