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Posts Tagged ‘Engagement’

Slide1In 1998, just about the time that Wikipedia was born, and My Space was big, Alpheus Bingham and Aaron Schacht from pharmaceutical company Ely Lilly were sitting around a conference table, coffee cups in hand, trying to figure out how the internet might be useful to business. They had an idea that they could create a platform to bring together companies that had big problems to solve – they call them “Seekers”, with anyone smart or ambitious across the globe, whom them called “Solvers”. They offer a cash prize to an individual or team of people who creates the best solution to problems like, finding how to “measure the thickness of polymeric film”, or dilemmas like, how to “increase the social and community acceptance of renewable energy”.  The company that gave birth to this creative way to use the internet to crowd source solutions is named Innocentive.  Even though crowd sourcing isn’t new, each time a discovery happens as a results of this kind of process, I bet it feels like the magic is happening for the first time. At least that’s how it felt for us.

In May 2014, Community dabbled in its own Seeker-Meets-Solver experiment by bringing together 160 employees in a focus group we call an “Engagement Accelerator”. We were seeking to understand why our employees were unhappy with one of our benefits, and discover what else would make employees feel more supported. I am so grateful for the open way everyone shared their ideas and wanted to share some tips that we learned from this experience.

If you hear more than once that something is broken, that’s a sign it’s broken

Off and on our employees told us how disenchanted they were over our Paid Time Off (PTO) program. So, we did what any good businessperson would do – we looked at the market. Were we competitive? Highly. Check. Was the policy well written? Reasonably well. Check. Silly as it may sound, we discovered we were simply confusing everyone by the codes in our timekeeping system and on employee’s paychecks. Also, the discussion revealed that we had done too little to educate people about how the policy worked. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

“Before you ask which way to go, remember where you’ve been.”

This lyric, from a song titled “Stay Awake – Dreams Only Last for a Night”, appropriately describes another revelation. The grapevine said that employees wanted to donate their PTO to other sick employees. In fact, a manager had asked me to look at this request eighteen months ago, so we put it on the growing list of things we wanted to improve. During the focus group discussions we heard that a policy had been in place several years ago, but for reasons no one could remember, had been eliminated. The team felt great. This was low hanging fruit that could be acted upon very quickly.

Just asking isn’t enough

One operating principal contributed more to the success of this event than anything else. We not only asked for feedback but we shared data that shows we know our workforce is smart. We shared our system finances – both a look back and a look forward. We shared the investment we make in our benefits in terms of cost. We went out on a limb and led everyone through    “The Ladder of Inference”, and followed this with a discussion of any misconceptions about the way things operate and why.

It’s a long journey but brick by brick we’re building toward our goal of becoming an Employer of First Choice in the Valley. Brick by brick.

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Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 4.17.09 PMThirteen years ago in March of 2000, Rob McEwen, who had just become chairman and CEO of a mining operation in Ontario, Canada, decided he had a problem too big to solve by conventional methods. His company GoldCorp, was in distress. The price for gold was at an all-time low, and his operating costs were extremely high. Red Lake mine was producing only one-third as many ounces as his neighboring competitor and the miners were restless and ready to strike.     It was proving to be as difficult to search Red Lake ’s 55,000 acres as it is to find Flight 370, the Malaysian airliner lost somewhere in the 28-million-square-miles of the Indian Ocean.

What McEwen did to solve his problem was unprecedented. He decided to publish all of Red Lake’s proprietary data on the web and committed to giving a cash price of up to $105,000 to anyone who could tell them where they’d find the next 6 million ounces of gold. He nicknamed this project “The GoldCorp Challenge” and the response was big. Over 1400 scientists, engineers and geologists from 50 countries decided to participate.

The winner ended up being collaboration between two firms in Australia who had agreed to split the prize. Neither firm had physically visited the mining site, but instead had analyzed the data to produce a 3D graphical depiction of the dig sites.

It’s About Making a Difference

When the winning team members were interviewed, they said that they didn’t compete because of the prize money. In fact, the prize money barely covered the hours invested in their research. Yes, they had wanted the recognition that would come from solving the puzzle, but most of all, they wanted to open the eyes of their industry to a new way of doing exploration. In short, they invested the time because they wanted to make a difference. In the words of the winning team leader, “This has been like a beacon (of hope) in a sea of darkness,” for the mining industry.

This story, published in Fast Company Magazine, is yet another example of what James Surowiecki calls the “Wisdom of Crowds”. About 18 months ago, Community used crowd-sourcing, by bringing together 250 employees to discuss and debate what kind of culture and benefits we need in order to attract and retain the brightest minds, the most committed and loyal hearts and souls and the most highly engaged employees on the planet. Like McEwen, we struck gold and these ideas generated a powerful action plan that turned into measurable outcomes

Mining Expedition Scheduled 5-14-14

Employees at the 2012 Engagement Accelerator

Employees at the 2012 Engagement Accelerator

We know that we need to continue to innovate though so we will are going to tap employee input once       again, on May 14, 2014 when we will be hosting an “Engagement Accelerator.” We’re inviting 160 randomly-chosen employees to attend this event and discuss how the PTO/sick time policy works and how to improve it, as well as, brainstorm other changes to create an innovative, transparent, mission-oriented, results-driven culture. We’ll be reporting back about the nuggets of wisdom we gain from this session and of course, the action steps. So stay tuned.

(This blog post was originally published on the Community Medical Center website – The Forum)

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I recently met with new employee Melissa Phelps to hear why she joined Community Medical Centers, and what she loves the most about her work as an office assistant and scheduler in the radiology department. By the time we had finished lunch I ended up hearing not only how much she loves her job, but also learning about her personal love story with her husband Josh.  See the blog post “Love Letters“.

Valentines Day is a time to celebrate love for our husbands, wives, partners, children, parents, pets and yes, …our jobs.  This feeling of attachment and connection is so important, it deserved a poem of sorts, so I wrote a knock off of 1 Corinthians in celebration of Valentines Day.

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Done well, work is Love.  Work is kind. It allows us to accomplish things in service to others, it allows our hearts to swell with pride and our voices to sing praise of goals met.  Work done well does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, it praises in public and criticizes in private, it is slow to anger and it keeps no record of wrong doings (except of course those that violate policy).  Work delights in excellence and rejoices in customer satisfaction. Work done well always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.  Work done well –  is Love.

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July was a blissful month.  I had the opportunity to take a vacation and one of the highlights was my visit to Chamisal Vineyards in San Luis Obispo.   This little piece of heaven lies between San Francisco and Los Angeles, in rolling vineyards that imitate the Italian countryside.

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We drove up and opened our doors to a breeze that was “warm-cool.”  I’m trying to coin a new meteorological word – definition:  climate that is warmed by the sun to 69 degrees but cooled by the ocean breeze just five miles west.  It’s the kind of warm-cool that beckons you to an Adirondack chair to take a nap. The kind of weather than calms your mind, and raises your spirit.  The kind of weather that is absolutely not found in the Midwest where you either sweat or freeze.  You get the picture.

We ordered a wine flight and were delighted when we tasted a Pinot Noir called 8-N.   “That’s an unusual name,” I commented to our hostess.  “Is this a placeholder name?” I asked.   Sort of like naming a baby, “Baby Girl Smith,” just after the delivery and before you leave the hospital?   But our hostess explained that this wine was named after the exquisite little piece of soil that gave birth to it – 8 miles North of Chamisal Estate Vineyards.  How did it taste?   Conjure up the scene from the movie Sideways where Paul Giamotti’s character describes why he likes Pinot so much, and you can tell he’s really talking about himself.

On the label, as if written by Shakespeare, is the description of 8-N:

“This wine boasts of black cherry, raspberry compote and strawberry flavors, backed by supple tannins and salted dark chocolate on the sultry finish.”

As I sat under the orange awnings sipping 8-N, chatting with a friend and gazing out on the gentle curves of the vine-laced hills, I wondered what my label would read, if I were wine…  Maybe this:

  • Wine: Cloud 9
  • Where bottled:  Medical Center Drive Vineyard
  • Type of grape:  Pinot Noir
  • Vintage year:  2013
  • Wine description:  This wine boasts of sweet and nutty relationships with friends and co-workers, robust and full-bodied work accomplishments, velvety smooth project implementation, backed by an earthy vision and mission.

Think about your own work and home life.  What would your wine label read?

(This post originally appeared on the Community Medical Center Blog – It Takes Community.  Follow Peg on Twitter @peg_breen

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