Health Care

GVHP’s ‘can-do’ attitude engages employees

Employees meet twice weekly to improve the organization.

April 18, 2014
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A local West Michigan leader in health maintenance is shaking it up when it comes to employee involvement for organizational development.

Grand Valley Health Plan, the local West Michigan health maintenance organization, has implemented a creative strategy for the past two years using cross-functional matrix teams to engage employees.

The innovative meeting format is known as a can-do meeting and encourages employees to create and apply strategies to support the organization’s efficiency and improvement, according to GVHP. Employees across all of the organization’s locations are placed into multidisciplinary groups consisting of individuals from different departments and either a team-selected leader or a manager who does not have a formal relationship with the team members.

Pam Silva, chief executive officer and president of Grand Valley Health Plan, said throughout the organization’s history it was the employees who maintained the strength and resilience of GVHP.

“Their willingness to be in constant change, their orientation to uncertainty, their willingness to be on the cutting edge and to always strive to find a better way — every employee mattered, and we needed to create the opportunity for our employees to have a designated time to be part of a multi-disciplinary group focused on a specific goal.”

Each can-do meeting lasts an hour every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon and begins with a 10-minute activity based on a theme and motivational quote in order to encourage people to think “outside of themselves, out of the box and out of the daily activities.” According to Silva, half of the organization is involved in a meeting from all levels and roles within Grand Valley Health Plan.

One activity was based on a Deepak Chopra quote: “There are no extra pieces in the universe. Everyone is here because he or she has a place to fill, and every piece must fit itself into the big jigsaw puzzle.” During the meeting, employees tossed words on slips of paper into a basket and then created a story on a poster.

“The employees really enjoy doing it,” said Silva. She went on to say one of the unforeseen positives was that employees across the six locations were able to get to know each other better, which has increased the energy level.

Rob Strate, director of human resources service at The Employers’ Association in Grand Rapids, said typically a company would create a focus group as a result of identifying areas to work on within an organization from employee engagement surveys.

“We think it is very important and something that is almost a buzzword,” said Strate in reference to employee engagement. “Again, the idea being that your employees may be satisfied, but are they really engaged?” He added that, as far as what other companies are doing, GVHP’s strategy sounds rather unique.

Utilizing clinical and administrative departments, the GVHP teams have focused on different business aspects of the organization, as well as patient-centered services, to improve overall efficiency. Some of the business initiatives include: better expense management, creating new business, adding revenue streams and looking at incorporating different market segments. On the clinical side, teams strategized how to make clinical care pathways more patient-centered, and how to engage patients in taking ownership in their health.

“It’s nice to get out of your environment and try to make a positive change,” said Silva.

The meetings not only foster creative thinking but also promote community involvement. In 2012, the organization offered its services in terms of tools and support for those in the community striving to lose weight. Employees are encouraged to bring a canned food item to each meeting, which is donated to a local food pantry. As a whole, GVHP contributed more than 2,000 canned goods in 2013.

Grand Valley Health Plan’s innovative approach to brainstorming and employee involvement stemmed from changes in health care and economic issues the local and national community were experiencing two years ago. According to Silva, the emphasis on charitable donation was a way for GVHP to be a good corporate citizen, in combination with the organization’s passion for the health and wellbeing of the community.

“The collection of the canned goods helps our local food banks and reminds us that one can at a time is all about ‘can do,’” said Silva. “It is a philosophy that simply means fix, work on, contribute to the things you can do, no matter how small or large.”

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