Kimberly King Webb’s Strategy for Unity at CHRISTUS Health

How the legal leader unified HR to benefit CHRISTUS Health

When Kimberly King Webb was two years old, her mother went back to school to become a nurse. She worked night shifts, often bringing Webb along, where she would fall asleep watching her mother heal people. “I grew up in a hospital,” Webb says, jokingly. The legal leader recalls how her mother truly listened and cared for her patients—values that would take root not only in her own character but in the mission she champions at CHRISTUS Health.

“It’s really nice to work at a place where you’re able to live out organizational values that align with your personal values,” says Webb, deputy general counsel at CHRISTUS Health. “Rather than business as usual, our purpose really is about helping others. That’s something that really resonated with me. It feels like a higher calling.”

Championing excellence and compassion are core values inherent in the organization’s DNA. The Catholic, nonprofit health system spans more than six hundred centers comprising long-term care facilities, hospitals, walk-in clinics, and health ministries. With forty-five thousand employees, including fifteen thousand physicians, CHRISTUS Health has built a strong community dedicated to creating a personalized healing environment for each individual patient.

Kimberly King Webb, CHRISTUS Health
Kimberly King Webb, CHRISTUS Health Photo by Walter Johnson

“From an employment perspective, we strive to ensure our associates are in an environment where they feel respected and treated with dignity,” Webb says.

To do so, the health system turned to Webb as the go-to expert on people and law. She launched her legal career in commercial litigation in 2007 at the firm Husch Blackwell after earning a juris doctor at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law and a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

“College was a transformative experience for me,” she says. “I was able to connect with so many people from so many different backgrounds. That same attitude of excellence and inclusion is critical to my role as in-house counsel. We must build and nurture relationships to work together with our business clients. Servant leadership is key.”

In 2010, the attorney moved to Austin, Texas, where she joined the firm Norton Rose Fulbright. There, she refined her expertise in labor and employment litigation, from civil rights laws like Title VII to the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. With a track record of favorable results and practical solutions, Webb found a new opportunity to deepen her commitment to creating positive work conditions by going in-house at one of her clients: CHRISTUS Health.

She officially joined the organization on April Fool’s Day in 2013. Now based in Irving, Texas, the healthcare system used to comprise multiple regions with disparate HR policies and systems. Webb hit the ground running to help integrate HR processes into one, united identity. With employees spread throughout Texas, Louisiana, and New Mexico, she cultivated relationships among the various HR teams to understand each area’s unique needs and to collaborate on solutions.

When approaching such consolidation, Webb cites an African proverb: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Getting buy-in from diverse stakeholders across the organization was essential to the progress and implementation of a cohesive employment law strategy, she says.

First, she worked with an interdisciplinary committee to synergize employment policies under one organizational culture. The committee’s goals included ensuring legal compliance, eliminating duplication, and memorializing best practices. With so many policies to review, policy prioritization was a key tactic. High-priority policies, such as harassment, nondiscrimination, and fair pay, were tackled first, followed by others such as the dress code. The HR team also leveraged technology by developing a more user-friendly online platform to house documents, increasing transparency and engagement.

“Now we have a clear road map for managers and HR professionals, which really allows for more informed decisions and more consistency throughout the organization,” Webb says. “I think that provides a higher level of equity and fairness for employees in each department and location.” The standing policy committee continues to meet for a monthly review. “Standardization does not mean one size fits all. We are constantly looking at the total circumstances to determine where policy consistency makes sense and when it does not.”

Webb also implemented a robust training program for managers, HR, and other associates. This includes quarterly HR trainings to ensure that the conversation between HR and legal is ongoing. Training topics include new developments in the law, compliance strategies, lessons learned, and evolving needs. “Ultimately, the right training means less time on risk management and more time on value-adding activities and doing good work,” she adds.

Both her knack for spotting paths toward greater efficiency and her commitment to the people at CHRISTUS Health has paid off. Since her arrival, the organization has experienced a significant decrease in litigation expense. Looking ahead, she’s turning her attention to empowering management to address routine labor and employment issues. Her team is now leveraging standardized policies to develop toolkits and templates to streamline processes.

Webb has helped human resources take a more proactive mind-set by working with HR leaders on the front end before employment law issues pop up—and that forward-thinking mind-set is enhancing CHRISTUS Health’s mission of care more than ever before.