Workplace culture philosophy: value the team, take time for people

In June 2015, I was fortunate enough to take over as president and CEO of St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Northern Kentucky. This was incredibly special for me. I had worked for St. Elizabeth for 32 years in a variety of roles. I believe strongly in St. Elizabeth Healthcare’s mission to serve all patients, and I am a native of the area, having grown up and attended college in Northern Kentucky. The culture of our organization is vitally important to me. We are a health care system that takes care of our friends, family and neighbors. Improving the health and wellness of our community is a responsibility we take very seriously.

My philosophy on workplace culture has several prongs:

Value the team:  If I know only one thing, it is that our accomplishments at St. Elizabeth are due to the efforts of our entire team, including senior administrators, nurses, physicians, office managers, associates working in the gift shop and cafeterias, and all associates and volunteers in between. We all share in the responsibility for creating a great experience for patients and their families, as well as our employees. I do everything in my power to make sure everyone in the organization knows they are valued and appreciated.

Take time for people: I have an open-door policy and do my best to be as approachable as possible.  That may be easier for me because I have worked at St. Elizabeth for many years, and I know so many people on a personal basis. But as an organization, we take purposeful steps to help us get out even more. We engage in what we call “Sacred 60,” where our senior administrators carve out one hour each week to walk around our facilities and engage with our staff.

We ask questions, listen, and make ourselves accessible. This creates personal connections with our associates that I believe are critical to our organizational success and the happiness of our workforce. We also engage in “Lunch ‘n Learn.”  With Lunch ‘n Learn, I spend an average of one lunchtime each week in our cafeterias eating with our staff.  I have no agenda — I am just sharing, listening, and engaging with our front-line associates.

#STEproud: Our workforce performs an essential function for our community, and I believe our entire team should feel good about what they do and where they work. We want St. Elizabeth to be a community leader, a sponsor of important events and a support system for key organizations. We took on a Habitat for Humanity project in which our employees built a home for a co-worker. We worked with the Cincinnati Reds to launch NKY Night at Great American Ball Park, and for two years now we have brought together leaders from the region for a special reception at the game.

We are now sponsoring an all-star high school football game, the girls’ basketball state Sweet 16, the NKY HeartChase, the Honor Run for Veterans and so much more. Our hope is that supporting our community in these ways not only benefits those around us in Northern Kentucky, but also makes our associates and physicians proud of where they work.

Planning ahead: It is our responsibility to keep moving forward. We have to anticipate the health care needs of our community, plan for the challenges and opportunities of the Affordable Care Act, encourage and support innovation, and help our communities combat the Heroin crisis. That means staying on top of industry changes, working closely with physicians, being open to external partnerships, and always — always — keeping foremost in our minds what is best for our patients, their families, our associates and our physicians.

Garren Colvin is president and CEO of St. Elizabeth Healthcare. He is a lifelong Northern Kentucky resident, having grown up in Ludlow and attended Thomas More College and Northern Kentucky University. For information, contact Guy Karrick at (859) 301-6300 or [email protected]