Yet there is another—perhaps more important—connection between learning and retention: An organization can teach its managers how to retain their staff. This is the specialty of Brian Jones, director of people development for Baptist Health Care (BHC).
BHC is the holding company for Baptist Hospital in Pensacola, Fla., plus a broad range of other health-care business units. In the 1990s, it shared two important problems with most health-care organizations: low customer satisfaction and high turnover. Seeking to make major improvements in customer satisfaction, Baptist’s leadership benchmarked Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and other renowned hospitality companies. They learned that employee satisfaction and retention are a prerequisite for improving customer satisfaction.
To improve employee satisfaction, Baptist launched its first-ever leadership development program for both new and existing managers. “A key segment of our leadership training is called ‘You Are the CRO’—the chief retention officer,” said Jones. “We make clear through our training that our managers are personally responsible for turnover rates and employee satisfaction, and we reinforce the message through performance measurement. Then we give them the insights and tools they need to maximize retention and satisfaction.”
One of the keys to the program has been dramatizing and then correcting what Jones calls “spatial blindness—the belief that ‘everyone is just like me.’” To eliminate spatial blindness, managers must first understand themselves and then understand how others differ. Baptist kicks off the entire leadership program with a half-day module on personality differences, launched with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment.
“The first thing we do is to show our students their own personality type, as indicated by the assessment, and give them a 12-page description of type,” said Jones. “More often than not, they are amazed by how insightful and accurate the description of their own type is. Then they are hooked. That’s all we need to open their minds to the fact that their individual staff members may have very different preferences in terms of work styles, communication, training and recognition.
“So, for example, each manager knows how their employees prefer to be rewarded and recognized. Instead of just assuming that everyone would welcome public recognition, managers now know who likes it and who dreads it. Rewards can be tailored, such as giving Chicago Cubs memorabilia to a Cubs fan. But recognition and rewards are just the beginning. We encourage and enable our managers to treat their people as individuals in many ways. We want our people to know that this is not like any other organization that they’ve ever worked for. Just as we manage our patient care to (Malcolm) Baldrige standards, we want to manage our employee care to the same level. We know what they want and give it to them.”
It is the explanation and dramatization of personality differences that makes this effort possible. “When we use the Myers-Briggs assessment in our management training, they get it,” said Jones. “And when we reinforce the message in our quarterly meetings, they keep it and continue to apply it.”
The results have been dramatic. Turnover at Baptist Hospital has declined every year since 1997, from 27.2 percent to 13.9 percent. Baptist was ranked 10th and 15th on Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list the past two years. And Baptist Hospital Inc., BHC’s largest subsidiary, is one of seven recipients of the 2003 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards. So many health-care organizations from around the country have asked to visit and benchmark Baptist that it established the separate Baptist Health Care Leadership Institute, which conducts a two-day seminar each month.
Jones said, “Training is the starting point for retention…training our managers why and how to keep their people satisfied.”