There was nothing really wrong with the mission and value statement at Aultman Health Foundation. But in late 2004, Ed Roth, president and CEO, and his team decided it was time to simplify things.
“We had a nice mission statement, but it was really too long and a value statement that was really too long for anyone to know,” he says. “You’d have to read it to know and understand it. We took what was already an excellent mission statement and a value statement, and we put it in something that we could communicate to our employees so that every employee would know and understand exactly what the mission of our organization is, which is now very simple.”
It was as good a time as any. The company, which has more than 5,000 employees, was growing and, as new staff members were added, they would be taught the new mission and values.
“About 33 percent of our staff has been here five years or less, and then on the other side, about 41 percent of our team has been here 10 years or more,” he says. “As you think about that, it’s about how do you create the teamwork approach to take a group of people that’s delivering very good service and try to drive them to excellent service? So, we did some thinking about that and went through a variety of different things that led us to where we’ve been able to see some significant improvement in both our patient satisfaction but more importantly in our employee engagement. Engagement in employees, according to Gallup, leads to a more satisfied customer.”
A big part of employee engagement is making sure employees buy in to a company’s mission and values and that they understand them.
“Today, we really need a positioning statement that is something that your employees can get (their) hands around and they’re able to know and understand,” he says. “If we want them to deliver on the values of the organization, we thought it was important that they understood those values. In order for them to understand them, we’ve simplified them so people could remember them.”Work together
It would be wonderful if you could quickly create a message that everyone loves all by yourself, but that’s not usually possible.
“The one thing you have to do is involve a fair number of people in the organization so you can get feedback from everyone, because the mission statement is not the statement of the CEO or the executive team,” he says. “It’s really more of a statement of the organization. It’s good to include different people within the organization to get their feelings on it.”
He started with some small focus groups with front-line employees and lower-level managers. They were given the current mission and value statement and were asked what they knew about it, what they would suggest to change it and what about it was important.
That information was brought by a consultant to a one-day off-site retreat where the executive team and the managers would use it to help shape the new mission and values.
The participants were asked to select words that they felt should be the focus of the message.
“Try to just pick off keywords,” he says. “What is it that we think our organization is doing or should be doing in the future that would suggest that we either develop or change our mission statement?
“The mission statement should be a purpose statement. Why do we exist? Why are we here? What are we trying to accomplish? It’s not a slogan. There are slogans in organizations, too, but this is more a statement of purpose. What do we expect to accomplish on a daily basis in our organization?”
When the group gathered at the retreat, three ideas were prominent with everyone. Each person wanted the statement to revolve around leadership, community and improved health.
“We had a pretty good idea of where we were going, but it takes awhile to get there because when you get 15 or 20 people around a table, everybody has an opinion and you want to hear their opinions and understand,” he says.
The consultant would break the teams into small groups and would ask them what words they wanted to be in the statement.
“That way everybody is getting input and you’re getting to see different ideas,” he says. “Because if you try to get ideas from 20 or 30 people, you’re not going to have that many people talk, first of all. You can go in a variety of different directions, where as if you have a small group, I think we had five or six around each table, then everyone has the opportunity to give input.
“It was kind of a quick turnaround. You had to do it within 10 minutes and then (the consultant) would come by and pull off the keywords, and we’d end up with about probably 15 keywords on the screen by the time we went through it a few times.”
The small groups would reconvene and would have to rank those words and put them in a couple of sentences, which would then be discussed by the group as a whole.
After going through that process a few times, they were able to trim the words down into a succinct mission statement: The mission of Aultman Health Foundation is to lead our community to improved health.
For the values, they ended up with a statement that centered around using the word “respect” as an acronym.
“It’s easy to remember,” he says. “Respect: You may not remember all seven points, but it’s easy to remember the word ‘respect,’ and it’s a very powerful word.”
Overall, the lesson with creating a message with a group is forming an environment where people will feel free to share their opinions without being judged.
“The most important thing you have to do is listen,” he says. “A lot of times, we want to react to things and have the answer or disagree. The best thing to do is to sit back and be calm and listen, and sometimes you are going to hear things that you don’t like to hear. But those are opportunities to improve your engagement, opportunities to improve your service, to improve outcomes. There are opportunities for improvement that you have to be willing to listen to what an employee is saying about the current situation if you want to make the future situation better.”Reinforce the message
After the message was constructed, it was Roth and his team’s job to communicate it to the company’s employees, which they did in early 2005.
“We began speaking to our mission statement, and every communication that we have, we try to refer something to the communication,” he says. “If it’s a letter from myself to our team members, I try to end that letter with, ‘Lead our community to improved health’ or work that into the communication in some way.”
The company sent out a letter to employees discussing the new mission and value statement and noting that everyone would have an opportunity to receive more information from their managers or executives. But, you don’t always need to create new ways to communicate a new message. The team at Aultman used its current pyramid communication process, which includes a number of ways executives, managers and employees can meet with each other.
For example, the company has management brown-bag meetings where, once a month, the whole management team is brought together, and executives began communicating the mission and values to that group.
Managers were given framed posters with the mission statement and values on them so that they could display the posters in every department within the organization.
“Commit to the process,” he says. “Get the leadership team engaged in the communication, and don’t move away from the process once started.”
Aultman also used employee exchange meetings, where an executive will take eight to 10 people to a breakfast, lunch or dinner and spend an hour talking about the organization and what is new.
Roth took the opportunity at his employee exchange meetings to talk about the new statement and ask them what they thought about it. He would then ask them how their department supports the statement and how they can relate to it.
“Then it starts connecting to the job that I do at the bedside,” he says. “Or at a radiology exam room or in our college of nursing. All of a sudden, it starts picking up some steam because people start seeing the connection between the mission of the organization and the job that I do every day. These things are connected.”
Roth would also start meetings by seeing how many of the company’s values employees could remember as a fun way of reminding everyone of the importance of the company’s values. He also attends each new employee orientation to talk about the mission and value statement, and the company also tries to mention something about it in the company newsletter.
“It’s just constant reinforcement,” he says. “The one thing is it’s not the flavor of the day. Sometimes they’ll say, ‘That’s what they’re on today down there in the hallway, and we’ll wait them out and see if this one sticks.’
“That’s not what it was. It was, ‘We’re going to do this, and we’re going to stick with it.’”
Remember, people will not buy in right away, so try to communicate your new message at every opportunity.
“Understand that this process will take time, and the larger the organization, the longer the time,” he says. “Reinforce your new statements through frequent communication at every opportunity along the way.”
Aultman has seen positive results with the new mission and values, along with the way they communicated it. Roth estimates it took about three years from when the process started to when employees grasped the results.
“I believe our team liked the idea of the new mission statement and RESPECT values statements,” he says. “These are simple, easy-to-follow statements about our attitudes and behaviors in our organization. We can see the difference in the way our employees communicate and interact with each other, their patients and customers, and visitors to our facilities.”
The company also measures commitment to the values through the annual Gallup Q12 Employee Satisfaction Survey, which uses 12 questions to measure employee engagement within an organization.
“Engaged employees are on board with the mission and values of the organization,” he says. “Aultman has been participating in this survey since 2005, and we have improved our employee participation and our engagement score each year.”
How to reach: Aultman Health Foundation, (800) 686-9373 or www.aultman.org