How a culture of caring can help to overcome work force challenges Featured

7:00pm EDT November 25, 2010

Tenet Healthcare Corporation is one of the nation’s largest investor-owned health care systems. In Florida alone, Tenet owns and operates nine hospitals with 10 sites of service in addition to a growing number of physician practices, and collectively employs more than 10,000 people. With such a large work force, Tenet has developed creative ways to handle the uncertain economic climate.

“Most large companies have focused on doing more with less,” said Kathryn Fisk, Tenet Florida’s Regional Director of Human Resources. “At Tenet, we are focused on doing everything we can to retain our talented employees by listening to their needs and developing programs to keep them feeling valued and committed to their work.”

Smart Business spoke with Fisk about HR strategies and how the culture of caring at Tenet has helped the company weather the impacts of the recession and overcome work force challenges that an uncertain economy can bring.

How has the current economic climate affected Tenet Florida’s HR priorities?

The economic conditions during the past several years have significantly affected most large employers’ priorities. In Florida, we have seen unemployment reach record numbers, and many people are moving out of Florida to seek jobs in other states around the nation. This out-migration of people has not been matched with an equal amount of people moving into the state. In fact, we are finding that many people are not willing to relocate to Florida to accept open positions due to the wavering economy and housing crisis. With this in mind, we are focusing our talent management strategies on developing our internal pool of employees to retain them and ready them for promotional opportunities within Tenet.

What programs have you implemented to reach Tenet’s work force goals?

Our programs have focused on retaining employees by keeping them motivated and committed to our organization. First, we’ve worked hard to create a culture of caring and transparency from the top down. From corporate to hospital administration, medical staff to auxiliary and support personnel, we encourage open communication. We listen to our employees and we make every effort to address their concerns and recognize their efforts through monetary and nonmonetary rewards.

We think of our company and its employees as one big family. When a family member is in trouble, each member buckles down and offers some level of support. To simulate this feeling of ‘family’ support at Tenet, we’ve created the Care Fund. This program encourages each employee to donate money to a general fund to help fellow employees that may have a family or health crisis and need extra funds to get back on their feet.

Since we are a health care delivery system, we also feel compelled to practice what we preach and create a healthy work force by rewarding those who participate in a wellness program. With this program, employees can earn points for healthy lifestyle behaviors that can equate to significant financial incentives and discounts on health plan premiums. A healthy work force is a more productive work force as well as a positive influence on the patients and communities that we serve each day.

How has HR managed economic pressures while still growing Tenet’s presence and work force in the Florida Region?

Even with economic pressures, Tenet has still invested in developing its employees through leadership and educational development programs. While many other large health care delivery systems have cut back on employing newly graduated nurses due to the cost of training them, Tenet has continued to invest in its Versant and other customized nurse residency programs in the region. With these programs, we are proud to hire newly graduated nurses and instill Tenet’s culture and expectations to prepare them for their professional careers.

While we’ve had to face cutbacks, we’ve made every effort to keep employee morale high through various recognition programs. All of these efforts have helped us retain our work force and continue to develop our future leaders.

What recommendations do you have for other large companies who are striving to successfully retain, develop and motivate their employees?

For any organization, it’s critical to create a culture that is reflected in HR strategy and planning. At Tenet, we’ve focused on creating a culture of caring and open communication that is enforced from the corporate and regional perspective as well as with the HR teams at each hospital. Throughout all employee programs and initiatives, there must be a clear and consistent message. At Tenet our message is clear: we want to understand our employees’ needs and do all that we can to keep them productive, motivated, happy and healthy in their work environment.

To keep employees motivated and productive, it’s also critical to consider how employees are managing their work-life balance. As the economy has forced many large employers to do more with less, discrepancies in work-life balance can affect job satisfaction and performance. This is something I would recommend companies consider. At Tenet Florida, we care about this balance and are developing programs to encourage and support employees in meeting all of their responsibilities, both at work and personally.

Kathryn M. Fisk, SPHR, MBA, is the Regional Director of Human Resources for Tenet Florida.