Magazine article Workforce Management

At Methodist Hospital, a Values Initiative Makes True Believers out of Workers

Magazine article Workforce Management

At Methodist Hospital, a Values Initiative Makes True Believers out of Workers

Article excerpt

The Houston facility promoted inclusion of its diverse staff as it sought to reconnect with its spiritual roots

FRED PLUCKHORN JOINED the Methodist Hospital in Houston as vice president of human resources in March 2000, and sensed trouble right away. He learned that parent company the Methodist Hospital System was embarking on a "values realignment." Pluckhorn had seen corporate overhauls up close across a spectrum of industries, from high tech to insurance, and considered most such efforts a waste of time.

"My experience was that the values component never truly became part of the corporate culture. I came to Methodist because of its reputation, not because they were starting this process," says Pluckhorn, who is now senior vice president of human resources for the entire Methodist Hospital System, which includes the Methodist Hospital and four smaller hospitals in the Houston area.

Pluckhorn was so concerned that he decided to facilitate the first round of focus groups himself. Six meetings and 135 people later, he was converted.

Pluckhorn says the employees' response was overwhelmingly positive. Their only skepticism: Could management be trusted to follow suit? Would they also be held accountable? The answer has been a resounding yes, but it's only part of Methodist's renaissance as one of the country's most successful health care networks.

"You can't always identify a clear line of sight between cultural change and operational performance," says Tom Daugherty, the Methodist clergyman who directed the values initiative and is now retired. But the numbers do tell a story.

With the values initiative in full flight, turnover dropped from 24 percent in 2002 to 15 percent in 2004, a 38 percent decline. Vacancy rates went from 6.7 percent to 3.1 percent during the same period. Patient and employee/physician satisfaction levels are the highest in the company's history.

Employees say that about 90 percent of the time, the values that they want to see in their workplace are largely the ones they do see, says Cindy Vanover, Methodist's new project director for spiritual care and values integration.

While Daugherty and others at Methodist don't claim a direct connection, they do believe that the focus on values plays a role in recent accolades the hospital has enjoyed. Methodist was named one of the top 100 hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Also, industry benchmarking company Solucient cited it as one of the top 15 major teaching hospitals "based on superior performance in reducing mortality, complications, length of stay and expenses."


The genesis of Methodist's cultural crossing came in 1998 when the board decided that the network had become too secular, had lost touch with its faith-based roots and had become like any profit-making outfit. The board appointed a spiritual care committee, which researched a number of other hospitals and returned with two recommendations: Integrate spiritual values across the entire system, and hire someone to oversee that process. The person they tapped as vice president of spiritual care and values integration was Daugherty, who had spent most of his ministry in the health care industry.

Despite getting the job, "there was still some confusion on the board as to just what was being attempted here," he recalls. "My job was to flesh this process out practically and operationally."

Daugherty began by discussing with senior management their thoughts on spirituality in the workplace.

"Houston is an international community, and (the Methodist Hospital) has a very diverse workforce-racially, ethnically and religiously," he says. "We were seeking a common ground of understanding. We wanted the process to be inclusive."

The executive team established an employee committee from all five hospitals in the Methodist Hospital System (comprising more than 8,600 employees) and hired a facilitator. …

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