Teaching the Cedars-Sinai Legacy New Tricks

Derek Reisinger shares how he transformed Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s HR function into a service-based, tech-enabled support for the medical center’s 15,000 employees

Old legacy companies are kind of like big, creaky ships. You can shift their direction to catch a new wind, but it takes a lot of work and smart strategy. That makes Derek Reisinger, executive director of HR operations at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, an expert sailor with a long track record of service-based HR success.

Derek Reisinger, Executive Director of HR Operations & Service Center, Cedars-Sinai Medical CenterPhoto courtesy of Cedars-Sinai

Reisinger sharpened his skill set during the ten years he spent at Warner Bros. Entertainment, where he was director of HR and employee relations. He oversaw the studio’s centralized HR service delivery team within the HR service center department that supports all employees. Among his many accomplishments, he oversaw the employee service team to support the implementation of Workday, a cloud-based application for HR and payroll, including various employee and manager self-service features. “Before, we were working with legacy green screen technology; with Workday, we jumped straight to the present,” he says.

While at Warner Bros., Reisinger found a strong mentor in Andy Ortiz, then senior vice president of organization effectiveness. The two kept in touch, and when Ortiz landed at Cedars-Sinai and saw that the medical center needed to revamp its HR service and operational efficiency efforts, he approached Reisinger with an offer. “Within three days of starting at Cedars-Sinai, Andy called me and told me, ‘I need you over here, we have a lot of work to do,” Reisinger says.

That was in 2016. Almost immediately, Reisinger got busy implementing the same HR service center delivery model that had worked so well at Warner Bros., with a goal to improve operational efficiency, support HR strategy, and facilitate organization-wide change. “Cedars-Sinai is one of the top hospitals in the country in terms of patient care, but from an employee-facing HR technology standpoint, we were still at the hammer and chisel stage,” he says, noting that many other major hospital systems appear behind when it comes to HR operations.

Ortiz’s plan for transforming the HR department centered around the creation of an HR service center, which opened in July 2018. “We started with a blank sheet of paper and got the service center up and running in fifteen months,” Reisinger says. Opening the service center required centralizing over fifty HR employees spread between seven departments. Now, the HR service center works in one modern, collaborative workspace and Cedars-Sinai’s fifteen thousand employees have one place to turn for all their HR service and administration support needs. Reisinger also partnered with other HR and IT teams to implement the organization’s first employee-facing HR information portal.

To provide some context around how huge these changes are, if employees had HR-related questions before, their only option was to comb through a clunky intranet populated with PDFs to find the answer. Now, they can call or email the service center or use the updated, cloud-based tech portal outfitted with a Google-style search function.

“We also want to get closer to employees’ real world and take into account feedback on how we can better serve them by decreasing timing for new hires, reducing hand-offs, and implementing new tech that makes their lives easier.”

If the volume of use is any indication, the service center is a rousing success. “The portal is heavily trafficked and received one hundred thousand article views just within its first year, while the HR service center receives about two hundred inquiries a day,” Reisinger says. “People have a huge appetite for what we implemented, and now that they are learning more about HR policies, we think they have more questions.”

To prove its value and to inform continual improvement, Reisinger also put in place a case management system to track cases and their resolutions. “Now my team knows who is calling about what when,” he says. “This gives us a pulse on employees and what’s interesting and important to them—something we never would have known under the old model.” His team also does regular surveys, consistently receiving 4.2 or 4.3 out of 5. “This shows it’s working and gives us a real number to validate what we’re doing.”

Being centralized also means HR can easily scale as Cedars-Sinai grows. “If we have that foundational model in place, it puts people at ease to know we’re capable of serving employees as we expand,” he says.

Looking ahead, Reisinger’s team wants to continue to improve HR user experience and find ways to help Cedars-Sinai meet its strategic goals. “We plan to do a 2.0 rebrand and reboot of the HR service center to make sure it’s clear what we do. We also want to get closer to employees’ real world and take into account feedback on how we can better serve them by decreasing timing for new hires, reducing hand-offs, and implementing new tech that makes their lives easier.”

Although Reisinger’s career has brought him to very different industries, there’s one common thread: they’re all large legacy companies that needed more streamlined operational and service support. “I’ve worked for four organizations that each have been around for nearly a hundred years,” he says. “They’re all big, and that means improvement is always possible when it comes to supporting employees and fueling the mission and strategy in a service-based way. I dig that. I’m a service and operational efficiency geek, so I’ve loved the opportunity to go into Cedars-Sinai and help move the needle.

“As far removed as our HR Service Center staff are from direct patient care at the medical center, we still feel part of that fabric,” he continues. “Knowing we’re supporting Cedars-Sinai staff is so meaningful for us.”

Editor’s Note: At time of press, Derek Reisinger was no longer with Cedars-Sinai.

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