What Sutter's CEO did to cut employee turnover 30% in one year

Warner Thomas, president and CEO of Sutter Health, sees building a great culture as the health system CEO's most important job.

"While a solid strategy is essential to business success, it's not enough," Mr. Thomas wrote in a LinkedIn post. "If leaders don't also invest their attention and resources into cultivating a thriving culture built on clarity, alignment and trust, even the most brilliant organizational strategy will falter."

Mr. Thomas became CEO of Sutter Health in 2023 after spending years at the helm of Ochsner Health in New Orleans. He spoke about the importance of culture at the American College of Healthcare Executives in late March, noting that culture must continue to change with the organization.

"Culture is an organization's most valuable asset, but it doesn't just evolve, and it shouldn't be left for employees to build themselves," he wrote. "As leaders, we must nurture and shape our organizational culture as thoughtfully as we develop our strategy."

To build a great culture, Mr. Thomas said health systems need:

1. An engaged board of directors setting the tone.
2. CEO and executive leaders driving the culture
3. Departmental and division leaders owning the culture within their accountabilities
4. Clear goals and metrics to clarify team priorities
5. Regular huddles, team meetings and operating reviews as well as quarterly strategy sessions and an annual team retreat.

Over the last year, Mr. Thomas and his leadership team have spent considerable time establishing a shared purpose systemwide, creating the clear strategic framework for long and short term goals, and aligning the team around a single incentive plan, he wrote. He has also worked to deepen connections with physicians and medical groups, and integrate organizational structure.

Finally, Mr. Thomas shared in the last hear his team "changed organizational mindset to growth and focus on opportunities." Those efforts led to 31% improvement in employee, clinician and physician engagement scores, and 30% reduction in turnover.

Read the full article here.

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