Activating a Culture Obsessed with Patient Experience and Employee Experience

To create a patient experience for Select Medical’s 42,000 employees, we worked with a culture change team called The Select Medical Way Taskforce. One of the primary approaches used was to engineer empathy deep into the workforce. Select Medical’s “Day One” to becoming an Experiential Organization involved a cross-section of 100 employees – from medical and clinical leaders to front desk colleagues to facilities management to information systems – meeting to journey map how patients experienced the system’s hundreds of hospitals and outpatient centers. Within a year, dozens of working groups reporting into the taskforce had been activated and were hard at work building an experience platform. The original mission statement, which targeted only business executives and investors, was radically changed to reflect what became a bottom-up, “from-bedside-to-boardroom” movement. With compassionate care and a commitment to distinctive experiences at its core, the mission statement became an active and frequently referenced Experience Statement of Intent.

Within a few years, an annual touchstone event drew the company’s board of directors, senior management, division leaders and middle managers, and more than 400 employees together. For the fast-growing company, the annual Select Medical Way Conference became the most anticipated event of the year. From innovation showcases to inspiring speakers to report-outs on the challenges and successes of its experience platform, the annual event was matched with year-round corporate communications, program iteration, and workflow and service line improvements. The resulting behavior changes were further reinforced by facilities upgrades, a new “frictionless” onboarding experience to set expectations for new colleagues, performance review strategies, and compensation.

Under the Select Medical Way, corporate culture became more collaborative, transparent, and empathetic. Joint venture partners were drawn to the company for more than just strong economics: they were attracted to a culture of caring and accountability. The changes inspired a campaign to recruit likeminded colleagues to the company called Work Inspired.

With organization-wide alignment came a new set of expected cultural behaviors:

Celebrate Success – I recognize and reward others for the value they create.
Own the Future – I own and build my career with other top performers.
Be Patient-Centered – I improve patient lives in everything I do.
Create Change – I innovate and drive improvement.
Think First – I understand and use data to achieve superior results.
Build Trust – I speak up, make good decisions, and trust others to do the same.

In 2015, an award-winning short film was produced to capture the empathy at the center of the company’s transformation. Called Reflections, it opens with the line: Do you feel what you do matters?

It is still shown today.