Building a Positive Work Culture

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemThis week, many of you joined me in person or online as I presented the Health System’s Mondays in March presentation. Mondays in March is an opportunity for each mission area at UTMB to share updates on the progress, achievements and challenges experienced over the first half of the current fiscal year as well as our aim for the future.

This year, I closed my presentation with a short video in which several Health System employees shared what they enjoy most about working at UTMB and how they help UTMB achieve its mission. I was heartened by the comments our employees made, and I felt assured that UTMB Health truly is moving toward a culture that embraces patient- and family-centered care and provides the highest quality patient and family experience:

“Great service is what starts with us. I look at the patient as if it was my mother lying in that bed, as if it was my daughter who just broke her arm or my daughter who just found out she had cancer. I come to work knowing I’m a catering associate, knowing I do this for Food and Nutrition, but I’m also your friend. I’m also making sure everything is okay; I’m asking how your day is. It’s not about the food sometimes, it’s just the comfort.”

Randilee Ordinez, catering associate

“[The team] loves to do their job because the environment they work in is a happy environment. I walk around and greet my employees each day and say, ‘Hey, it’s a great day today. Let’s put a smile on our face and get ready to help the patients.’  I demonstrate on a daily basis compassion towards the patients that I deal with, I respect them in every manner, and I always put integrity first. My challenge is making the unhappy customer happy.”

Patricia Ojeda, patient accounts senior manager

In last week’s Friday Flash Report, we reflected on ways in which future communication should build on strengths and past positive experiences and identify what else can be done to enhance this work. One way we can build on our success is to continue our pursuit of a positive work culture—a Culture of Trust. After all, our work culture ultimately impacts the experience of our patients and families.

There are a number of major companies in the nation that are considered highly successful for several specific reasons: 1) they offer dependable, high-quality products and/or services, 2) they consistently provide an excellent customer experience, and although these top-rated companies are embedded in very different industries, 3) their values center on how everyone on the team is expected to conduct themselves, both toward the customer and toward one another—they embrace open discussions, encourage innovation and believe in the spirit of service.

There is a national grocery store chain, Trader Joe’s, with which some of you may be familiar—they have a couple of locations in the Houston area and more than 400 store locations across the nation. It is considered unique compared to usual grocery stores. Of the store, some say, “It is more than a grocery store; it is a grocery experience.”

The store stocks only about a fraction of the items a typical grocery store might have on hand, and yet, the company is preceded by its outstanding reputation. This is because instead of offering multiple brands of a certain product, they offer select quality brands at a reasonable price. In short, customers believe they are getting great quality and value.

But the quality and value of a product alone doesn’t necessarily equate to a satisfying experience. Customers are highly satisfied by their experience at Trader Joe’s because they are warmly greeted, and the experience is personal and efficient. The chain prides itself on this and encourages their employees to reflect on how they interact with customers. Do they think about how they relate to the customer—can they imagine themselves in the customer’s shoes? Do they think about not just what is said, but how it is said?

The next few reasons the chain ranks near the top are atmosphere, efficiency and cleanliness. Surprisingly, location (although an important asset) was not ranked nearly as high in importance by customers as courtesy, quality and value.

Why do we at UTMB care what a successful business outside of the health care industry is doing to be successful? The reason is simple: in a competitive health care environment, people have choices.

Our business at UTMB Health is to deliver optimal health care and the very best service. We care about the patient’s experience; we care about the family’s experience. So what should we reflect on each day to improve on the work we are already doing to ensure our patients and families are receiving the best possible experience?

We already have a framework (our mission, vision and values) in place at UTMB that will guide us to success, and we all agree that caring for our patients and families is why we are here! We also have a philosophy: “Be able to look people directly in the eye and say: ‘The care you will receive at UTMB Health will be the same care I would want my most cherished of loved ones to receive.’” This is the motto for our Culture of Trust.

So here’s your homework! I want each of you to reflect on how you can help create a positive work culture at UTMB. I encourage you to reflect on ways in which we can continue to improve the patient and family experience. Offering something as simple as a smile to a colleague, patient or visitor can go a long way toward creating a positive environment; asking someone who looks lost if they need directions or offering a tired family member a cup of coffee might make a world of difference to them at that moment.

When we work together to identify and embrace the qualities that appeal most to our patients and families, and when we hold ourselves accountable to those practices daily, we build a culture that delivers a consistently outstanding experience for our patients and their families and for one another.