How Scripps became a Best Company
When Chris Van Gorder initially became CEO at Scripps Health in 2002, he found leadership problems, staffing problems, and, predictably, financial problems. So how did one man turn a failing company culture into the award-winning company it is today? With a lot of help, that’s how.
Van Gorder’s rise to health care executive has been unconventional. His journey began when he was a police officer and ended up in the hospital following a critical injury he received while responding to a family dispute call. After a lengthy recovery, Van Gorder continued his education in healthcare management and rose to levels of increased responsibility. Modern Healthcare magazine has even named Van Gorder one of the nation’s 100 Most Powerful People in Healthcare, five years in a row.
During his journey to becoming a leader, one moment sticks out to him as influencing him the most. Early on in his career, he was a security guard on watch late one evening. As he was walking down the hall, he noticed the Chief Administrative Officer walking towards him, perhaps leaving a late meeting. As he geared up to finally meet the man he had heard so much about, the CAO passed him by without so much as a nod in acknowledgement. Van Gorder was disheartened by this slight, and also knew that it was wrong. He was the one who would get a call if there was an emergency at night, and even if he held a ‘low-level’ position on the organization chart, he carried a great responsibility for the security of that building.
Van Gorder has always remembered this incident and has carried the lesson with him to Scripps. Every single employee has an important role in the business, and deserves to be acknowledged for their contributions.
At Scripps, Van Gorder knew he would not be able to change the company on his own. That is why the first step he took to improving the company culture at Scripps was to solicit the involvement of managers and frontline staff. He asked management to both deliver more to employees, and to demand more from them. Van Gorder also asked management to demand more of him. And you know what? It worked. Scripps Health has appeared on the FORTUNE Best Companies to Work For® list for five years running, and profits have more than tripled.
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Amy Lyman is co-founder of the Great Place to Work® and researcher/writer. Her current focus is on the key contributions of Trustworthy Leaders to the creation and support of successful groups and organizations.