HR Insider: How Legacy Community Health Adapts to Meet the Needs of Each Employee

Paul Bennie, Legacy Health

Legacy Community Health has a simple mission: to drive healthy change in the communities it serves. Operating in the most competitive medical market in the world, the healthcare provider serves 200,543 community members at over 50 locations in and around Houston. But it's not just patients that Legacy supports. It also has a diverse staff of 1,700 employees who look to the healthcare system for the same quality of care they provide to their patients every day.


However, standard employee benefits aren’t enough for Legacy Community Health. The company knows that its benefits have to meet the employees where they are in order to compete for and retain top talent. “We’re large enough that we attract talent, and our mission connects them to ours and their individual purpose,” says Paul Bennie, Legacy’s Vice President of Human Resources. “My sales pitch to employees is, ‘we don't have beds, but we have everything else.’ We offer vision, dental, behavioral health, primary care Pediatrics, OBGYN, mental health, etc.”


We recently sat down with Paul to understand how the healthcare organization is advancing its commitment to grow with its employees and provide benefits to meet the unique needs of every life stage.

Legacy Community Health is focused on meeting each employee where they are in life. When and how did you realize you needed a more holistic approach to benefit strategy?

We look at the data first and foremost; we look at our turnover data, our exit survey data, and our retention data by demographic. We're blessed to be an extremely diverse organization, approximately 80% female and 84% diverse demographically, and we have every generation in our workforce. Knowing that, it almost forces you to look at the data and expand your benefit offerings to meet each employee’s unique needs.

Do you have an example of how you pivoted your HR strategy to address a particular need?

We’re constantly trying to push back on and change this idea embedded in healthcare that you have to be full-time, at the hospital, working 12-hour shifts. That’s just not the reality of the world we live in anymore. Employees want flexibility, especially in Houston where traffic is a major issue, so hybrid schedules for employees in back-office roles have to be considered. We have to be willing to adapt as needs evolve.

A great success story actually comes from a medical assistant working for us who wanted to go back to school to become a nurse. Rather than just letting them leave the organization, we stopped to listen and find out why they were leaving Legacy. And they replied that they loved their job, but we didn’t offer part-time work. They wanted to work, but could not commit to 40 hours a week, in addition to going to school. So, our operations partners, our HR partners, and our finance team saw an opportunity to implement change. After getting approvals, we were able to retain a four-year tenured medical assistant, convert them to part time, and also offer tuition reimbursement to get them to go back to school. Now hopefully, they’ll come back to us as a nurse when they’re finished schooling. That's the kind of experience we need to deliver to every employee. If we can do that consistently, we win because there are no other organizations so laser-focused on meeting employees where they are, no matter what that looks like in their employee life cycle.

You are in a large market, competing against many well-known hospital systems. What are some of the recruiting and retention challenges that you face going up against these name brand competitors?

We're nonprofit, so our first hurdle is always compensation. We also aren't as large as some of our competitors, so we don't have as necessarily the same career path opportunities as far as how to grow within an organization. However, there’s two ways we win talent: our mission and our culture. Before anybody even applies to work with us, they see that we have the most compelling mission in the Houston market. Employees come to us for our mission and stay for our culture. While we have turnover just like everybody else, we're below the market in turnover for the second year in a row.

It can be especially hard for medical professionals to achieve work-life harmony. What does Legacy do to support caregivers and help them strike this balance?

That’s actually one of the areas in which Bright Horizons has been a major help for us. We leverage their back-up care solution to give our employees flexible care options when their normal care provider cancels or something last minute comes up. Each employee gets 10 days of back-up care per year to account for these unexpected care gaps. What’s great about it is it serves all of our employees, not just our working parents. 50% of our back-up care days are used on school-age children, helping to fill in for times when school is out. However, we also offer care for aging and ill parents/spouses. Maybe an employee has older children who are no longer in need of care, but they're now caring for an elderly parent. Back-up care gives them that peace of mind that their relative will be looked after, so they can be fully present at work. It’s been an overwhelming success for us with 96% of our surveyed users saying the back-up care program makes them more committed to Legacy and reduces their stress.


Do you have any initiatives that you’re working on or actively employing to help develop your workforce for leadership positions?


One of our key values is every employee deserves a great manager. We've rolled out several layers of leadership development, including situational leadership and crucial conversations training for team members who are director level and higher. Now, we’re rolling out these trainings to all employees. We've created a whole management development track to help our employees build the skills and acumen they need to deliver results and build the team. But first and foremost, we have to do our work as leaders in the organization and ensure we're giving them the development skills to be successful.

HR is becoming more focused on data, analytics, and even AI than it was in the past. How have these things informed your people strategy?


Of course we're focused on turnover, retention, average tenure, demographics -- all those different things that you look at to develop your culture. But we're also doing other things that weren't done here before, including utilizing the wellbeing index developed by the Mayo Clinic. It’s a 7-question survey that only takes about 3 minutes to complete. It helps us not only chart the stress and fatigue levels of our teams, but also see what our organizational stressors are in aggregate and use that info to inform our overall strategy. The index also points employees towards the free resources available to them to help enhance their personal wellness. Now if any specific area of our organization is feeling unduly stressed compared to the rest, we can see that and dive deep into the underlying reasons why. For example, we saw that our therapists were not feeling appreciated by the organization. In response, we started focus groups, brought in the leadership team, and looked even more closely at exit survey data to understand how we can improve their experience. We’re going to re-assess them soon, but we've already seen an uptick in positive remarks in recent exit survey data.

On the hiring side, we’re starting to look into AI solutions to encourage candidates to apply to certain positions at Legacy that meet their job requirements and would be a good fit for them and us. These new technologies allow a candidate to apply for a featured job in less than three minutes using virtually any device, so it’s a really exciting prospect we’re exploring.

New generations bring new expectations. Are you seeing anything unique about Gen Z and how their expectations differ from previous generations?


We talked previously about having benefits that meet your employees where they are in life. Gen Z, being the younger generation in the workforce right now, obviously have priorities beyond a retirement plan. If our benefits don’t address these other priorities, then we're going to lose employees to our larger competition for a $1 or $2 per hour raise. We're not the biggest healthcare system in Houston, so we have to get a little bit more creative by offering career paths and creating a culture that appeals to a younger generation. For instance, we’re the first employer in Houston offering our employees a PTO exchange program. We want our employees to take time off and rest, so they must use at least 40 hours of their allotted vacation time. However, any extra PTO they have can be exchanged for up to four different benefit offerings. They can contribute to their 403B retirement plan, donate PTO to another employee in need, donate directly to Legacy as we’re a nonprofit, or pay down their student loans and debt. It’s a great program and serves our overall goal of remaining agile and giving our employees new benefits and opportunities.

Thank you to Paul for speaking with us about how Legacy Community Health is constantly evolving its benefit strategy to meet the needs of all employees.


If you’re looking to create a comprehensive benefit program for your employees, our eBook, “Become an Employer of Choice with Holistic Benefits,” is a great place to start.


Paul Bennie, Legacy Health

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