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Webinar Recap – How Baystate Health Is Building a People-First Culture to Serve Patients and Community

5-minute read

stethoscope with heart “You can’t deliver an exceptional patient experience without first taking care of your employees,” observed Derek Irvine, SVP, client strategy & consulting, in his opening remarks during the recent SHRM webcast, sponsored by Workhuman®. “And that rings truer than ever in a year that’s been defined by the physical and psychological challenges in healthcare. Employee experience has risen to the top as a key differentiator for organizations to weather the storm.” 

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The latest in Workhuman’s “Time to Thrive” webinar series, the program featured top executives from Baystate Health, including Patricia Samra, vice president of human resources operations and total rewards, and Jennifer Faulkner, vice president of team member experience. 

Together, the panel engaged in a lively exploration of how this leading healthcare organization is focusing on physical and psychological safety, putting a renewed emphasis on its Celebrates! recognition program during the pandemic, and embracing innovative approaches to growing employee diversity and prosperity.  

Here are some of the compelling themes they discussed during the program: 

Recognition helps create a culture of appreciation and drives organizational values. Baystate Health partnered with Workhuman to create a more positive and empowering work environment that boosted key HR metrics such as engagement, retention, and performance. Teamwork, one of Baystate’s core values, consists of 73% of their social recognition moments. “When you look at it, healthcare really is kind of a team sport,” noted Jen. 

Recognition helps engage a remote and dispersed workforce. Even before the pandemic, there were many remote and dispersed workers – in hospitals, corporate offices, and so on – and it’s important they are all able to participate in the recognition experience.  

Recognition from patients is a powerful and uplifting force. By completing a paper form and having an employee enter it into the recognition platform, patients can recognize the healthcare professionals who care for them. “It’s been a way to integrate that patient and family experience into recognitions,” added Jen. “And as we know, that is what matters most to our caregivers.”  

Recognition facilitates cross-organizational connections. Cross-organization recognition – critical in a profession where workers are distributed and work in diverse roles – rose from 35% to 47% during the pandemic. “[Recognition] is such a well-integrated vehicle for sharing,” noted Patty. “Staff really like to reach out to those people who are not part of their core department.” 

Recognition moments are tied to organizational values. “Every time a team member is recognized, they are reinforcing the values you want to bring to life at Baystate Health,” observed Derek. And when we look at a word cloud prepared by the Workhuman research team, we see that “patient” is right in the middle. “I’m thrilled to see ‘patients’ exactly where they belong – in the center of everything,” added Patty. 

Recognition reduces turnover and delivers significant business impact. Nurses receiving three or more recognition moments in 2018 had a turnover rate 7x less than those receiving no recognition. And for physicians receiving three or more recognitions, a 6% turnover rate dropped to zero in just one year!  

Recognition drives better patient outcomes. Workhuman research has identified a strong correlation between recognition and better patient outcomes; strong recognition cultures result in higher in-patient satisfaction scores by 2-3 percentage points. “I think it’s a very clear connection,” noted Patty. “Those teams that are highly motivated, highly engaged – you see higher patient satisfaction and patient experience scores.” 

Recognition has become even more important during the pandemic. In times like these, human connection and trust between colleagues becomes vital. Workers – and the community at large – have come together to support both the patients and staff.  

As a Workhuman Certified organization, Baystate is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). “If I were to summarize what we’re doing in the DEI space, our goal is representation and having a workforce that better reflects the population we’re serving,” said Jen.  


And now, on to the questions. 

Because the presentation filled nearly the entire hour, the panelists were able to answer only a couple of the questions submitted by the audience. We include them here as a wrap-up: 

Q: What does buy-in look like at the top of Baystate Health in the context of everything we've talked about? Does recognition include all levels, from the top down? 

Patty: We demonstrate buy-in at our senior leadership level in a variety of ways. One way that we mentioned throughout this talk centers around “leadership rounding.” Our senior leaders make rounds and observe care areas, talk to patients, and then share the feedback with teams so that they can either improve their performance or be recognized for their great contribution. 

And in addition to that, this year, with the Aspen Family Prosperity Grant we were able to give our senior leaders defined objectives with measurable outcomes that were in line with our goals for this grant: increase hiring from neighborhoods with higher levels of poverty in the greater Springfield, Mass., area. We also sought to increase promotional opportunities for our front-line workers, as well as increase the diversity of our leadership team. These goals have financial ties to them. They're multi-year goals with measurable outcomes. That's a great example of how our senior leadership has not only bought in, but has really tied their success to the success of this particular initiative. 

Q: How do you truly ingrain recognition into the culture, so that it's not another “to do”? Especially, as I can imagine, for a very busy healthcare center?  

Jennifer: It's not really that difficult, except that you have to make sure it's meaningful, accessible, and at the fingertips of people who do it. It becomes something that’s innate to human beings. They actually derive benefits from recognizing others. And once you have a taste of recognition, it lifts your spirit, and you want to do more of it. When you recognize someone, you are acknowledging their existence and their human contribution. And this stays with a person for a long time – both the recognizer and the person being recognized.