Yolo Hospice & CWC: Building the right environment

Members of Yolo Hospice’s senior leadership team celebrate the organization’s ranking as a “Best Place to Work.” Picture from left to right: Louise Joyce, director of community development; Stephanie Baxter, director of patient care; and Cheryl Mandich, chief financial officer. Courtesy photo


Yolo Hospice & CWC: Building the right environment

Modern Healthcare, the nation’s leading source of healthcare business and policy news, research and information, has ranked Yolo Hospice in Davis as one of the country’s best places to work. Yolo Hospice is the only healthcare provider in northern California to make the list.  

Earlier this month, Modern Healthcare released the names of 150 companies and organizations across all 50 states that have been named to its Best Places to Work in Healthcare list for 2020.  The recognition program honors institutions and agencies throughout the healthcare industry that empower employees to provide patients and customers with the best possible care and service.

Other organizations that made the 2020 list of Best Places to Work include: Cleveland Clinic, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, St. Jude Medical Center, Nathan Adelson Hospice in Las Vegas, Advocate Aurora Health, North Carolina Healthcare Association and United Physicians.

Winners were selected based on their ability to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, along with more traditional measures such as employee benefit design, transparent communication from leadership, organizational flexibility and responsiveness, and an ability to fully realize the agency’s intended mission, philosophy of care, and work culture.

“We offer a holistic approach to care, not only for patients and families, but for staff as well,” according to Gwendolyn Kaltoft, Yolo Hospice’s chief of quality, compliance and organizational development who has worked at the agency for 18 years. “We provide both traditional and nontraditional benefits for our team,” says Kaltoft.

Those benefits range from the provision of transparent market-based compensation, healthcare premiums covered at 90 percent, and flexible work hours to free gym memberships, free lunch Fridays, generous time-off packages, and an organizational culture that fosters self-care and a work-life balance.

“These benefits are deeply rooted in our values.  They are an important part of our strategy to attract and retain great people,” explains Kaltoft.  “We continue to buck the trend in healthcare. Our voluntary turnover rate of employees has remained below four percent for the past four years.”

Yolo Hospice’s rate of employee turnover stands in stark contrast to the turnover trend in healthcare overall. Hospital turnover rates have steadily increased from 15.2 percent in 2016 to 19.1 percent in 2019. The national rates are even higher for hospice and 凯发体育官方sporthome health agencies which typically range between 18 and 24 percent. Moreover, since 2014, the average hospital has turned over 87.8 percent of its entire workforce. Typical turnover in healthcare jobs is second only to the hospitality industry.

“There is a link between turnover rates and quality of care,” says Kaltoft.  “Happy employees who feel empowered and connected to the mission will undoubtedly provide better care. Consistently meeting high standards, and achieving continuity of care, becomes easier when an organization is not in a constant cycle of losing, hiring, and training staff over and over again,” according to Kaltoft.

Louise Joyce, Yolo Hospice’s director of community development agrees.  She says, “I have worked here for nine years, but the past several months have shown that a healthy work culture can transcend even the most difficult situations.  We are proud of the commitment, flexibility, and resiliency that our employees continue to show during these challenging times.  Almost overnight, our team had to adapt to a more remote work environment, a greater use of technology, and the introduction of dozens of new protocols and practices.” 

In matters of choosing team members and keeping good people engaged, Yolo Hospice operates under the premise that organizational culture trumps everything else. Within organizations that are intentional about shaping culture, someone’s skills and experience are important, but they are not everything.

Craig Dresang, CEO of Yolo Hospice, says this is the third time in recent years Yolo Hospice has been named a “Best Place to Work,” but the first time the organization has placed in a national ranking. The board of directors recruited Dresang from his longtime post in Chicago to lead Yolo Hospice in 2014. Courtesy photo

Culture is the invisible glue that not only holds an organization together, but allows it to thrive. It reflects norms like purpose, values, mission and approach … the stuff that is hard to codify, hard to evaluate, and certainly hard to measure and manage. Yet, it is the stuff that determines how things get done.

Team culture also determines how patients are cared for, how families are treated, how staff and volunteers are valued, how the larger community is supported and how decisions are made.

Organizations can sometimes have a difficult time describing their culture. In fact, I once heard someone describe culture as “woo-woo stuff that doesn’t make any difference in the end.” This, of course, prompts the question: Does culture matter?

A few years ago, Yolo Hospice hosted an educational exchange with international speaker, and psychologist, Gustavo Grodnitzky.  He came to discuss his book, “Culture Trumps Everything” and to explore how it might apply to the work of hospice.

While here, Grodnitzky confirmed the reality that Yolo Hospice is not a classic capitalist organization, but a social-capitalism organization. This means the agency is squarely focused on stakeholders and not shareholders. Stakeholders include patients, families, employees, volunteers, referral partners, vendors and the greater community.

In social-capitalism organizations, people work harder for a cause than they do for cash. Employees are loyal because an organization cultivates a particular culture that values social norms. In the long game, these types of organizations are both more resilient and more financially stable.

Grodnitzky also pointed out that while change is inevitable, learning is optional.  Organizational culture is very much like a garden — left unattended, a garden will grow all kinds of weeds and plants that can choke out the good stuff you want to grow. But if you spend time tending to your garden (i.e., culture) it becomes a lot easier to grow the flowers and other produce you actually want.

Culture needs to be cultivated. If employees within an organization show and foster competence, trust, respect for individuals, flexibility, innovation, teamwork and uncompromising integrity, it is because the culture demands it.

In Yolo Hospice’s founding documents the board of directors made a few things clear for future generations of leaders, staff and volunteers — that the organization they were giving birth to would be known for its willingness to challenge the status quo if it meant providing better and more person-centered care for patients and families.

They understood, as we still do today, that culture trumps everything.

— Craig Dresang is the CEO of Yolo Hospice & Citizens Who Care.



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