If She Builds It, They Will Come

How Megan McKinnon is thinking beyond salary to create the ideal workplace at Piedmont Healthcare

Megan McKinnon is on a mission to make Piedmont Healthcare a top workplace destination by 2026. And while she has focused on compensation for much of her career, she understands it’s not always about money. “It can be, and we pay competitively,” the executive director of compensation and rewards says. “But it’s driven me to figure out other ways to build a connection with employees so they don’t leave for an extra few dollars.”

McKinnon is already well on her way to hitting several key milestones toward her goal, including a turnover rate of less than 10 percent and placing the company in the 75th percentile in employee engagement.

She and her team recently launched an awards optimization tool born out of results from a company-wide survey that gave Piedmont Health employees a say in the process. McKinnon explains that survey questions weren’t just designed to show whether employees preferred, for instance, lower health insurance premiums over a gym membership, or richer retirement plans rather than larger bonuses. It also touched on work-life balance issues, such as the importance of flexible hours.

“The bottom line is to find out what we can do to be a top workplace for employees at every distinct part of their career journey,” McKinnon says. Although she joined Piedmont Healthcare in January 2012, McKinnon thinks there is always more to learn as the company grows and changes. “We want to know what makes employees feel valued so we can deliver that to them.”

The survey is part of a parallel initiative McKinnon has led to upgrade technology and analytics processes in the human resources department. This included the creation of an HR dashboard in 2015 that gave the department streamlined access to a variety of data, from flu shot compliance to average response times at call centers. McKinnon also rolled out a cloud-based system that links a number of different processes that had previously been fragmented.

“Now we have a one-stop shop for technology where we can track succession planning, do talent reviews and surveys, and implement merit increases,” she explains. “Before, it was all in different systems with different logins. Transparency is vastly improved because employees have access to information they didn’t have before.”

“The bottom line is to find out what we can do to be a top workplace for employees at every distinct part of their career journey. We want to know what makes them feel valued so we can deliver that to them.”

Meanwhile, McKinnon and her team have implemented the Promise 360 employee recognition program in 2015. According to an employee survey, it’s been a success. “The results showed that employees being recognized for the work they do was our top strength,” she says. Promise 360 allows patients, peers, and managers to nominate employees who exemplify one or more of Piedmont Health’s core values. Each of its six hospitals award one employee monthly, but the company also goes to the next level, honoring one exceptional employee annually at a special dinner. “That whole program will be a prominent part of our employee value proposition,” McKinnon says.

Outstanding leadership will also be a key component, and McKinnon understands that she must serve as a good example for other managers. Not only is she quick to recognize her staffers, but she also ensures they know nearly everything she does. “My whole leadership goal is to create an environment where, if I were to walk out the door today, there wouldn’t be any impact because the team is so strong that they can pick up and go with it,” she says.

McKinnon also gets her employees face time with senior leaders at the company whenever possible. She invites them to meetings they otherwise would never be part of, and if she can match an employee’s passion with a project in another department, she will recommend him or her for it.

McKinnon understands the value of a strong internal network, having built a strong one for herself over the years. “You figure out who can help you achieve different components of different projects, and if they need something from me, I try to deliver,” she says. “I think having integrity and delivering on what you say you will deliver on is key to building that strong internal network.”

So is backing everything with data. “I tend to be able to position information to them in a way that makes sense,” she says. “It’s just listening and learning what their concerns are and how you can best address those. I learn something every day about how I can contribute better.”

McKinnon considers herself a hands-on manager. She does all the work her team does so she understands their challenges. At the end of the day, they all feel fully supported by her. “If they make a mistake, they know I have their backs,” she says. “I always assume good intent. If you treat employees well in terms of the flexibility you give them, they’ll really work hard for you and won’t want to disappoint you.”

Piedmont Healthcare has given McKinnon the same kind of flexibility in her career. The least she could do, she says, is make the company one of the best workplaces in the country: “I really have a passion for the employee experience because I love Piedmont and I want every employee to feel connected like I do.”