The 'employer of choice' trickle-down effect

In today's competitive talent market, there is a lot of buzz around becoming the "employer of choice." Different systems take different approaches to the goal, but Marlton, N.J.-based Virtua Health tries to keep its strategy simple. 

The phrase "everybody always" guides Virtua's culture, President and CEO Dennis Pullin told Becker's. Although brief, the motto aims to capture the system's commitment to consistently considering all individuals in the larger narrative.

"Everybody will get the same level of care, the same focus, the same attention, always. That's who we are," Mr. Pullin said. "I believe there's power in words, and I think these two words represent a declaration: They declare what we stand for as a health system." 

Benefits such as pay, 401(k) packages and childcare are important to employee retention, but a strong culture is the real grounding factor for an organization, Mr. Pullin said. The system has created multiple outlets for connection and recognition, including an e-card platform to share positive notes with employees and their supervisors, bowling and softball leagues and colleague communities. In Virtua's seven colleague communities, employees with shared backgrounds or interests — from veterans, to young professionals, to the LGBTQ+ community — can connect with one another. 

These focus groups also have a positive effect on the patient population, as they provide important insights into the needs of certain communities. 

"[Colleague communities] gives us a better line of sight and perspective on many of the patients that we are caring for," Mr. Pullin said. "One of the worst things that we can do is not be aware of our blind spots." 

Emotional and social safety are important for employees, but so is physical safety. As violence against healthcare workers continues to rise, Virtua has made several investments to protect them. The system is rolling out weapons screening systems at all major hospitals and facilities and equipping employees with panic buttons in case of emergencies. It has also created stations for police officers who might be working in the hospitals, giving them a dedicated place to write reports and grab a snack. On a broader scale, Virtua has joined the Hospitals United safety coalition to fight gun violence. 

Virtua's "everybody always" mentality appears to be working. Employee engagement scores are up and turnover is down; plus, the system saw a 85% participation rate in 2023, well above the industry average, a Virtua spokesperson told Becker's.

But the system's commitment to employees is also reflected in patient satisfaction scores, Mr. Pullin said. 

"We do see our focus on our colleagues being reflected in our patient scores in terms of how people view us on Google, in terms of how likely are people to recommend us," he said. "About 85% of our Google scores are a 10. 

"Did we treat them as a unique individual? And if so, how likely are they to recommend us? That to me is a reflection of how we're treating the people that are taking care of the patients."

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