Q&A: Focus on employee well-being to keep the culture strong

Q&A: Focus on employee well-being to keep the culture strong

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, like other hospitals and health systems across the country, has faced many challenges. The secret to CHOP’s success during this unprecedented time? Its employees, whom CHOP President and CEO Madeline Bell credits with keeping the hospital’s culture strong. She tells us how she and her team got it done.

What have you implemented that has made a difference at your organization?

In March 2020, we launched the “Talent Marketplace” to reassign employees from areas that weren’t as busy as usual to assist in departments that were in need of extra help. Over the past two years, about 5,000 employees have used the marketplace and we have posted and filled thousands of short-term assignments. The marketplace will be an important part of our efforts to attract and retain talent moving forward because it allows employees to explore new interests and advance their careers without leaving CHOP.

During the omicron surge, we also offered opportunities for employees and executives to volunteer in areas of CHOP that needed extra support. I volunteered to deliver supplies to different parts of the hospital and had the chance to hear directly from staff about what leaders can do to support them. We plan to provide more employee volunteer opportunities in the future because supporting each other is an important part of our value system.

How do you ensure an environment in which employees are engaged and feel free to speak up?

Encouraging others to speak up about the challenges they face is an important part of our culture. When I meet with CHOP leaders, I often talk about the importance of listening, and of acting on the feedback we receive from employees. The feedback we receive in employee engagement surveys is always incredibly helpful, and I’ve found that I get the best feedback during executive rounds, lunches with employees and town halls. In virtual town hall meetings, employees sometimes share their comments and questions more freely than in other environments, and we use this feedback to customize our policies and our communications to better meet their needs.

What’s the hardest part of being an exemplary employer?

Demand for CHOP’s care has grown exponentially in recent years, and we are creating new facilities and expanding our team to meet that demand. While we are very proud to be an employer of choice, having a 23,000-member workforce, two hospitals and a care network with more than 50 locations means it can be challenging to keep our team aligned and connected. To ensure we have a strong, consistent culture at all of our locations, I reinforce our CHOP values—integrity, compassion, accountability respect and excellence—in all of my communications, including in weekly email messages that I send to all employees. I also developed a set of very detailed “Leadership Expectations” to guide our culture, and I encourage our employees to reflect on CHOP’s mission and values when they make all decisions.

What will you do to make sure you continue to be a place where people want to work?

First and foremost, I will keep asking for—and acting on—feedback from our employees. In our most recent engagement survey, we learned that our employees feel very connected to the hospital’s mission and that they have a great deal of confidence in the organization’s future. We also learned about areas that we need to focus on, such as stress and burnout, so we are enhancing our well-being offerings to ensure employees have the support they need to thrive personally and professionally.

Attracting and retaining the very best talent has always been a top priority for us, and it’s something we will continue to focus on moving forward. We work hard to ensure that our teams include people with diverse backgrounds, skill sets and perspectives, and we recognize that every employee contributes something unique to our culture. It’s this diversity that makes CHOP such a special place to work.

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