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Michigan Organization Changes Its Culture by Identifying Core Values

April 6, 2012

Two years ago, Presbyterian Villages of Michigan (PVM) set out to change its culture. By the end of this year — with help from PHI, Disney, Nordstrom, and a group of extremely dedicated and hard-working employees — PVM will be well on its way to accomplishing that goal.

In 2010, Joanne Robinson, PVM’s Senior Vice President of Operations, was tasked with implementing “customer service training” throughout the organization. Robinson, however, had seen similar strategic initiatives at PVM fail due to lack of sustainability. She recognized that it would not be enough to merely teach good customer service skills — it was more important to “create a culture of service excellence in the organization,” she said.

Robinson also knew that creating such a culture would require a strong team effort. In August 2010, she convened an interdisciplinary team of about a dozen PVM employees from across the state, and asked them to identify the basic “core values” that define PVM as an organization. Through much hard work and debate, the team decided on four values:

  • Accountability
  • Listening
  • Relationships
  • Respect

Some of these core values were decided on easily. For example, “relationships” is a natural fit for PVM because the organization has a “very relational culture,” Robinson says. Other values demanded more refinement. Initially, “communication” was deemed a core value, but the team eventually decided that “listening” is more important. “PVM is such a fast-paced culture, so we decided ‘listening’ is more appropriate because it would encourage people to slow down and really listen to what others have to say,” Robinson said.

The interdisciplinary group also studied three key resources to help shape their thinking: Quint Studer’s book Hardwiring Excellence, which describes the tools necessary to maintain culture change in health care organizations; Walt Disney’s concept of “making magical moments”; and Nordstrom’s famous “strong service culture.” PVM wanted to strive for a similar service-oriented culture that could deliver magical moments for its residents.

PHI Develops Training

With the four core values decided, Robinson contacted PHI to create a training centered on them. PHI Midwest Organizational Culture Change Consultant Cean Eppelheimer responded, developing a day-long “Service Excellence” training that teaches skills related to each value. For example, the value “respect” is conveyed to trainees with a role play highlighting the differences between a respectful exchange and a disrespectful one.

The training is designed to be accessible to everyone in PVM, from caregivers to administrators. “That way,” Eppelheimer explains, “the core values presented in the training become the driver for behavior and a litmus test for organizational practices — everyone has to know these values.”

To support the behavior changes necessary to fully live the PVM core values, Eppelheimer included PHI Coaching ApproachSM skills in the training. “The PHI Coaching Approach fits perfectly with the goals that PVM has set,” she said. “In the trainings, I integrated several key components of the Coaching Approach, including the value of clear communication skills and how to give feedback constructively. The result is a one-day training that highlights the PHI Coaching skills, yet remains uniquely tailored to PVM and its emerging value-based culture.”

The roll-out of the Service Excellence initiative began earlier this year with a train-the-trainer session preparing 14 Service Excellence educators. These trainers will work with RaShonna Crosby, a newly hired training specialist, to share the one-day training across the entire organization. By the end of the year, all 650 PVM employees will have received the training.

To promote sustainability, the concept of Service Excellence will be “hardwired” into PVM’s culture. Performance evaluation criteria have been adapted to reflect the Service Excellence values. Additionally, potential employees are asked Service Excellence-related questions during the interview process, and new hires will go through the day-long training as part of their orientation. “You can contaminate a work team when someone comes in and doesn’t embrace the culture,” Robinson notes.

Overall, PVM administrators say they are excited about the direction their organization is going. “The core values of accountability, relationships, respect, and listening are so crucial to maintaining the high quality eldercare that we want to deliver,” Robinson said. “With PHI’s help, we are certain that we can maintain that high standard of care for years to come.”

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