Putting People First at CHG Healthcare Services
With seven offices operating in six states, CHG Healthcare Services has fulfilled the staffing needs of healthcare facilities across the United States for more than 30 years. Several years ago, concerned about employee retention, even though its turnover rate of 40 percent was far better than the industry standard, CHG leadership was not satisfied. They decided to attack the issue head on.
“Our business is based on the relationships between our staff, the facilities they serve, and the care providers they place,” explains Rachel Klemens, director of learning and development. “These relationships are so strong that when a person leaves CHG, they potentially take the customer with them. So, even though our turnover rate was low, we knew reducing that number further could have a massive positive impact on our business.”
The first step was to conduct an employee engagement survey. The survey results indicated that about 71 percent of the staff was fully engaged at work. Executives at CHG determined if they improved engagement scores, employee turnover numbers would also improve. They developed a plan to increase the ability of leaders to create an engaging work environment. After an extensive search for solutions, they selected Situational Leadership® II (SLII®) from The Ken Blanchard Companies.
CHG positioned SLII as the foundational training program for its leadership development course in an 11-month cohort-based curriculum called People-Centered Leadership. In addition to SLII, classes are offered in team building and various healthcare related issues. Also included are courses, taught by company executives, that are based on each of CHG’s core values. In fact, Scott Beck, president and CEO of CHG, teaches a class on vulnerability and trust.
Six cohorts a year—three in Salt Lake City and three in Fort Lauderdale—convene twice a month for face-to-face training. After learning new skills, class participants apply them immediately in the work environment. “Cohort members build a supportive community and serve as coaches and mentors for each other,” says Klemens. “We see people working together more closely across departments and functions because they have built trusting relationships through the cohort experience.”
Participants also have access to several online support tools for SLII that are available through a platform called Blanchard Exchange. There are worksheets to help with goal setting; conversation starters for planning one-on-one meetings with staff members; and checklists for assessing the effectiveness of communications. Also available are articles and videos leaders may share with their teams to further their understanding of SLII, as well as an app that allows leaders to diagnose direct reports’ development levels on specific tasks or goals. The comprehensive materials on Blanchard Exchange make it easy to sustain the learning and embed SLII language into the company culture.
Currently, every leader at CHG has completed training in SLII. The goal is for new leaders to go through the training within the first six months of employment so that they will benefit from using the same leadership language as others in the organization.
Each leader completes a 360° assessment at the end of their first six months at CHG and every year thereafter. As anticipated, CHG has identified a direct link between high assessment scores and improved employee engagement scores. “We believed that if we increased engagement, turnover would decrease and the company would perform better overall—and the figures consistently prove that out,” says Klemens. “It sounds so simple, but to see the actual numbers improve was eye-opening. It is impossible to deny the correlation of the data.”
The proof is in the results. Engagement scores have improved from 71 percent to 90 percent. Turnover has dropped from 40 percent to 17 percent. And bottom-line annual revenue has increased 19 percent. It’s no wonder that CHG has been on the Fortune “100 Best Companies to Work For” list for the past seven years.
Advice from a Pro
As CHG enjoys the success of the initiative, Klemens is quick to offer tips for companies just starting a leadership development program. “It’s critical to keep in mind that change doesn’t happen overnight. Make sure you are dedicated to the long-term commitment it takes to see real results.” CHG faced setbacks and challenges along the way but used those obstacles as learning moments to improve and continue the program. “Just know that the results will start out small but will increase as the program builds momentum. So hang in there.”
Another critical element is having buy-in and support from all levels of leadership. “You can’t provide these skills for only a select group. Every leader needs to go through the curriculum so that the entire organization can use a consistent language of leadership,” Klemens explains.
Providing SLII training for more than ten years has caused leaders at CHG to deepen their belief in servant leadership. In fact, company values were created to support the servant leadership concept and are now used to make better and more consistent decisions across the organization. They are: Putting People First, Integrity and Ethics, Quality and Professionalism, Continuous Improvement, and Growth. Putting People First is considered the organization’s defining core value and serves as its guiding light. CHG culture demonstrates that when this simple philosophy is followed, business and personal success is inevitable.
To be a successful leader at CHG, you must lead with a servant heart and support and direct your team members using the skills of SLII—a simple yet powerful concept. CHG has always been dedicated to leadership development and takes great pride in offering People-Centered Leadership training to all leaders.
“You have to be courageous as an organization to make sure leaders live the culture and support the values,” says Klemens. “But when you do, the payoff is huge.”
When CHG began its leadership training program there were 100 leaders in the organization. There are now 450, all trained in SLII. The plan for the future? Continue the training program that prepares leaders to create stimulating work environments for their people—and keep reaping the benefits of a strong, award-winning organization.