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Healthcare Hiring Lessons From UPMC East President, Mark Sevco

January 6, 2016

This week’s blog is an interview with the President of UPMC East, Mark Sevco.

healthcare-selection.jpgThe team at Select has extensive experience building high-volume hiring systems. When a client builds a new manufacturing or distribution center, and needs to hire a few thousand people in short period of time, we design the entire selection system. Compared to other industries, though, hospital start-ups are rare. Few healthcare executives get to lead such a fascinating project.

Given the new healthcare landscape, building a new hospital really means building a “new” hospital – a new concept in care delivery, efficiency, and the patient experience. It’s a daunting task, but also an exciting opportunity to build a culture and processes from the ground up; all designed to meet new quality and patient experience expectations. In some respects, it may be easier than changing an existing culture, but it certainly presents its own unique challenges.

Our healthcare team has had the opportunity to work on three recent hospital start-up projects, including the new UPMC East, which opened in July of 2012. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is one of the largest health systems in the country, but like most systems, it’s growth has come primarily through hospital acquisition. UPMC East, though, presented the opportunity to build a state-of-the-art facility in a growing market.

UPMC East is led by Mark Sevco, President. Mark brought Select into the project when his team consisted of just a half dozen people. We performed leadership level assessments of the senior leaders to define individual and group strengths and weaknesses. Then we worked with his team to define the vision for the UPMC East culture and the most important behavioral competencies, which would drive every selection decision from management to the front lines. The selection system took advantage of all of our tools, from Select Interviewing, “Fit” assessments and Select Assessment for Healthcare Leaders.

The doors opened over three years ago and UPMC East has been a big hit, meeting the needs of the community and consistently exceeding its performance metrics. We asked Mark to look back on his experiences and share what he learned.

Questions for Mark:

What was your vision for the culture at the new UPMC East campus?

Our vision was to create the Hospital of the Future. Clearly we were focused on cutting edge technology, but we established very early on that we wanted to provide the ‘ultimate patient care experience’ through compassionate care at the bedside. Our vision at UPMC East is not different from any of our other UPMC hospitals, but we had the unique opportunity to learn from all of the other UPMC hospitals and apply best successful practices from the outset.

What were some of the deliberate steps you took from day one, to build that culture from the top of the organization to the front-line?

We discussed our values every day and determined that we would use them in every decision while building the hospital and hiring our staff. We decided very early on that culture was the most important factor to our future success. I always told our team that culture will trump talent and tactics. It was always a team approach.

Was there anything unique about the important leadership competencies and skills? How have they evolved?

Like most start-ups, as we became very busy clinically, our leaders transitioned from business development to operations. Our leaders at UPMC East are some of the best in their field. We always talk about servant leadership. Leading by example and always helping to solve problems so our staff can provide the best care possible and also be professionally fulfilled and satisfied with their work environment. When there is a problem we ‘go observe’…. then serve by making changes to make things better every day.

What were the behaviors/behavioral skills you felt would be most important for staff at UPMC East?

Using Select International to help us develop a program to hire staff was the most important decision we made in creating an awesome culture. I always tell people, it’s not about the building or the technology…it’s about the patients we take care of and the relationships we develop along the way. So much of that culture is determined by the leadership team and who you hire. We were looking to hire staff that had behavioral traits that matched our values.

Select International really helped us do that. Some of the behavioral traits we screened for were compassion, dignity and respect, adaptability and innovation, and quality and patient safety. This was so important to us that we decided to prioritize predictive behavioral traits over years of experience in our hiring decisions and, in the end, we got both.

How important are progressive talent strategies, for both selection and development, in meeting your goals?

Very important because top talent is a predictor of success. We experienced a lot of excitement in opening a new hospital and we had a lot of talent to choose from. We knew it was important to recruit the best but we also needed a leadership plan to keep them challenged and to continue to help them grow both professionally and personally.

All of our managers were screened by the tools created by Select International. We used the results of these assessments to create a professional plan for every manager. They loved seeing their results and embraced training and development to achieve their maximum potential. We were investing in every manager and there was great appreciation for that. They wanted to be inspired and also strove to inspire others. It is an amazing experience to lead at UPMC East and UPMC.

Have you seen any connection between employee engagement and satisfaction, and patient satisfaction?

UPMC East has some of the lowest staff turnover rates in our health system of 20 hospitals. It became clear to us that employee satisfaction was directly correlated to patient satisfaction. We work on both all of the time. UPMC East just received the highest inpatient satisfaction award for the 3rd year in a row. Not bad for a health system of 20 hospitals and every hospital at UPMC is working on the patient experience with great energy and excitement.

We ask our staff and employees what is important to them. We have open town hall forums, leadership rounds, employee engagement surveys and many vehicles for them to express their ideas. They want us to invest in their future by listening and caring which develops trust. You cannot create a better environment when trust is created. The result is the ultimate patient care experience...the hospital of the future.

The HR and talent acquisition departments at the UPMC system are now moving to implement Select International's behavioral assessments for all future hires, and they currently have 60,000 employees. If it works, stick with it!

To learn more about the role of talent strategies in developing a patient-centered culture, see our whitepaper:

How Culture Drives or Hinders Hospital Outcomes

Bryan Warren Bryan Warren is the President of J3 Personica, a consulting, assessment, training, and coaching firm, and a guest blogger for PSI. Bryan is an expert in progressive talent strategies, with a particular focus on leader and physician selection and development.