Here’s the #2 best practice health care can borrow from retail to help them connect with consumers.

(2) Nurture an engaged corporate culture.

MIT’s Sloan School of Management brought together leaders from the top four retailers- Costco, HEB, Trader Joe’s and QuikTrip- that were recognized as Glassdoor’s 2017 “Best Places to Work.” These leaders spoke about a “corporate culture of setting high expectations and creating conditions that encourage employees to innovate. This drives improvement and customer satisfaction — and makes employees happy and eager to work hard.”

In the world of health care where payer contracts are decreasing, and reimbursement, payer mixes and the number of insured patients are in a state of political flux, driving improvement and having hard working employees are prescriptions for financial and clinical success. So, how did these retailers build corporate cultures enabling them to attract and retain the best employees and, subsequently loyal customers?

• “The key is giving real power to store managers……and having great leaders and partners constantly learning and working to evolve our business.”- HEB

For health care systems, “store managers” can be likened to practice managers, hospital CEOs or unit managers- like the ER director. Challenge these leaders to run their hospital, practice or unit as if it were their own small business and hold them accountable for nurturing a culture that attracts and retains the best employees.

• For Costco, the culture is marked by two pillars: “set the highest standard for employees; and encourage employees to take ownership of their work.”

Costco sees itself as a “people business.” Are you in the hospital business or people business? In the “people business,” you are hiring not just for skills- but for culture. You’re looking for people who are passionate, teachable and want to take accountability.

• QuikTrip has two corporate values: “be the best and never be satisfied.” In order to challenge employees to innovate, data is key. So, QuikTrip provides employees access to key data, including 360 reviews, store performance data and a mystery shopper program.

• “Empowering employees to do what’s right for the customers and for the company” is the simple philosophy at Trader Joe’s.

In health care, empowerment can be seen as a risk; after all, we are dealing with the health of people- life and death. However, empowering employees comes through giving them a voice. Often healthcare systems have “service excellence experts,” in driving an exceptional patient experience. What about input from the employees at the point-of-care? To build an engaged culture, employees should and must be heard.

To nurture an engaged corporate culture, understand where the hidden expertise is in your organization and unleash it. Look beyond an employee’s title or skills, and you will find a toolbox of ideas waiting to be tapped for the betterment of your organization and your patients.

Toni J. Eberhardt is the founder and president of Prescriptive Communications, LLC. Ms. Eberhardt has nearly 25 years’ experience in marketing strategy and communications, public relations, crisis communications and public affairs in more than five industries with Fortune 500 companies. Ms. Eberhardt has worked in health care for ten years as a marketing and public relations executive with McKesson, Banner Health and FastMed Urgent Care.

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