About Northbay Healthcare

NorthBay Healthcare opened its first hospital in 1960 and remains Solano County's only locally based, locally managed nonprofit healthcare organization. NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield and NorthBay VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville are known for providing quality services. The organization's hospitals offer 24-hour emergency care, intensive care, and sophisticated surgical and diagnostic services. Both have maintained accreditation from The Joint Commission.
Imagine not having to give up the pay and benefits larger institutions offer—to work locally where your voice is heard and your great work is appreciated daily. Where patients choose to go because of the community feel—delivered with the latest medical technologies.

At NorthBay Healthcare this is the promise to 2,200 employees and the communities in Solano County it serves. It's a place where culture is at the forefront of the employee value proposition. And recognition is seen as an essential element of everything they do.

“Our culture is what sets us apart,” explains Chief Executive Officer Gary Passama. “It helps us keep a tighter connection with our staff and involve one another in decision making. As the only non-union healthcare organization in our area, we work hard to make sure our employees feel their voices are heard.”

“For us, it's all about building a high-trust culture where employees enjoy and trust the people they work with,” points out Ken McCollum, Vice President of Human Resources. “We appreciate what they do, and show how we consider them a big part of our success.”

With just over one percent nursing turnover, this focus on culture is paying off. A recent Magnet certification for nursing—along with opening the first Center for Neuroscience (one of many medical firsts NorthBay takes pride in)—reinforces the power of having a human resource initiative as a top five strategic priority.

From good to great

This effort all started in 2008 when leadership developed a strategic initiative to better navigate the healthcare challenges everyone was facing. One official element of the plan: the goal of formally being recognized as a great place to work.

left, Staff members—Heather Troutt, Michael Curtis, Grace Seo, Jenna Stevens-Bergerson; Right, Deborah Sugiyama, President of NorthBay Healthcare Group

With this in mind, McCollum reached out to the Great Place to Work organization to get insights into the journey ahead. The organization's first “Great Place to Work” trust survey score of 74 reaffirmed the perception of being a very good place to work. But how does one go from good to great at the national level?

This is where McCollum took note of specific findings from this first survey. While the organization did a lot of recognition, the employees weren't feeling particularly well recognized.

At the time, NorthBay had a variety of traditional recognition programs: quarterly “All Star” awards, manager awards, and annual service awards. However, the majority of the recognition was informal and at the department level—dependent on the leader of that group.

What was needed: system-wide recognition that every employee, in every department could easily access and use.

Staff members Andrea Rodriguez, Teri Dodd, and Marvin McGregor

“Whenever I'm asked why I love to work at NorthBay, I say it's the people and the support.”
—Heather Troutt, CLINICAL Nurse Manager, Women & Children Services

aligned to what matters

Partnering with O.C. Tanner, the framework for a strategic recognition solution was put in place. The first step of the process—delve deeper into what employees were really thinking.

Through a survey, managers were asked, “How do you currently recognize your staff?” Employees were then asked, “How would you like to be recognized?” Comparing the two lists was a revelation.

“All the nice stuff that we thought did a great job of recognizing our employees was the opposite of what the employees wanted,” says McCollum. “And not that they didn't appreciate the recognition, we just weren't recognizing the right things.”

Executive interviews and employee focus groups provided additional data and from these insights, “Living NorthBay,” NorthBay's online recognition platform was developed.

Launched in 2010, with a refresh in 2013, Living NorthBay ties recognition to specific values and behaviors. Every employee has the ability to give and receive meaningful appreciation. Fun, interactive eButtons and eCards offer shout-outs of thanks. And performance recognition—redeemed for brand-name awards—is available to appreciate above-and-beyond achievement. This program provides powerful tools to appreciate great work and provide leaders the opportunity to connect in a meaningful way.

Lorie Jarvis
“People want to be valued. They want to know that they have a voice and their contributions matter.”
—Lorie Jarvis, Human Resources

“People love how recognition now provides specific feedback,” says Sandy Piedra, Director of Emergency Services. “It's not just ‘you did a great job yesterday' but exactly what you did that made a difference.”

According to Heather Troutt, Clinical Nurse Manager, Women & Children Services, Living NorthBay demonstrates how her team is supporting themselves. “Seeing all the appreciation being sent makes me smile,” comments Troutt. “I know the team is taking care of each other.”

Recently, the organization's service award program also received a facelift. Yearbook—a highly personalized keepsake that leaders and teams contribute to—creates ongoing career celebration opportunities.

“To be recognized in their unit and with their peers is important,” explains Diane Urbano, Human Resources Services Manager. “People wanted to celebrate their career with their NorthBay family. Yearbook offers that highly personalized experience.”

launched for success

To get employees engaged and excited from the get-go, a fun launch was planned complete with floor decals featuring employees, email communications, kickoff events and celebrations, and lots of training sessions with employees, senior leaders, and the management team.

Trainers from the O.C. Tanner Institute educated leaders on the importance of recognition and how to do it right. And, NorthBay sent three champions to Salt Lake City to get formally certified on appreciation training. Today, appreciation stations are set up throughout the hospitals and facilities and online training sessions are available for new managers.

the manager connection

A self-described bottom-line organization, NorthBay leadership knows the importance of managers in creating a great work culture.

“We expect that our managers recognize the people who work for them and encourage their staff to recognize each other. We want to make sure this is top of mind,” says Passama. “Just like we build incentives for quality of care, we see recognizing our employees as equally important.”

At NorthBay, manager incentives are tied to recognition. To help them with these efforts, managers receive push emails that contain real-time data of what's happening in their teams. Each month, they get a snapshot view of exactly who's being recognized and who's not. In fact, an initial test of this form of insight sharing revealed the number of department recognition moments that employees experienced doubled after managers received these emails.

Jim Smith, Senior Director of Finance, reinforces, “The culture here is one that's very employee friendly and reflects our leader. Gary has an expectation that we will treat people well. And that respect flows upward, downward, and throughout the organization.”

“When you're valued as a team member—that you have been told you made an impact on someone's life—it makes you a more confident caregiver. To recognize our people for all of what they do—whether it be small or amazingly great—that's just what we do,” agrees Deborah Sugiyama, President of NorthBay Healthcare Group.

making an impact

Since launch, use of the program at all levels continues to grow. Employees at NorthBay like to appreciate great work. A lot. And, it's giving managers a tool to boost morale and improve performance.

To date, 14,898 eThanks and nominations have been given, with 86 percent and 70 percent reach respectively. Add in career achievement and NorthBay employees have experienced 16,229 moments of appreciation.

Not surprisingly, results from the Great Place to Work trust survey (administered every few years) have also steadily increased, from a score of 74 in 2008 to 2013's score of 87.

“At the end of the day, it comes down to the nurses on the floor, the environmental service workers, and everyone else who make it all happen,” concludes Passama.

“The more inline they are with what we're doing, the more they understand and appreciate their role in making that happen. O.C. Tanner's ‘appreciate,’ that's such an important word. That's what we're trying to do every day—help our employees feel appreciated.”

NorthBay's Yearbook—available online and in print—allowing peers and leaders to celebrate a team member's life at work.

5 key best practices for strategic recognition.

Shared by Vice President of Human Resources Ken McCollum

left, ken mccollum, Vice President, human resources

Get the Data

Find out what your employees actually want. Use that data and insight to get executive buy-in.

extend ownership beyond hr

When other senior managers feel invested in the program's success, the results come easier and faster.

turn to the experts

My original thought was that we were going to develop these programs all internally, I'm glad we didn't try. Not being recognition professionals, it was critically important that we had good advice on the way to put this program together so it was done right.

take the time

Make sure that you're not just building a program, but that you're building a program that really ties back to your values and your mission so it becomes ingrained into your culture.

keep it fresh and communicate often

“Don't set it and forget it.” We introduced the first program in 2010 then completely refreshed the tool three years later. Look for new ways to renew and expand your program and its impact.