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How Tampa General Hospital is Successfully Investing in its Workforce

Analysis  |  By Melanie Blackman  
   February 10, 2022

John Couris, CEO of Tampa General Hospital, details how the organization's People Development Institute aims to better the organization by investing in its team members.

After John Couris joined Tampa General Hospital (TGH) as CEO in 2017, one of his orders of business was to work with the organization to create a new vision and strategic plan. Part of that plan was to "heavily invest" in its team members.

"The thesis is simple," Couris told HealthLeaders. "If you want people to behave differently, to act differently, think differently, and ultimately to perform differently ... you have to invest in your people."

This led to the creation of the People Development Institute (PDI), a resource for TGH team members to garner skills and achieve career aspirations, while also helping to achieve TGH's vision to "be the safest and most innovative academic health system in America."

Investing in everyone

Two and a half years into the new strategic plan, the organization was growing, quality was improving, and finances were improving, Couris said. But he was worried about sustainability.

"[I was] worried about making this part of who we are, and not something that is seen as a special project," he said. "The only way to do that, in my opinion, is to educate and invest in your people. You have to."

He approached Moez Limayem, the dean of the University of South Florida Muma College of Business, which TGH has a deep, ongoing relationship with, Couris said. From that partnership, the PDI was created.

"My philosophy is simple: your people come first, your patients come second," he said. "If you invest in your people, the ultimate beneficiary of excellence is the patient. A lot of times we reverse it … I think we have it wrong as an industry."

The PDI is for every worker at TGH, Couris said, regardless of leadership status or job description, and it has been successfully training employees over the past year.

"We don't call it a leadership institute or an emerging leadership institute, because there's a lot of people in organizations that don't want to be leaders. They're just as important. So, we were deliberate in calling it the People Development Institute, because it's for everyone."

TGH is investing $5 million over the next five years into the program, by giving the money to the University of South Florida. This enables the training and development work to be free to TGH team members, Couris said.

"What we're trying to do is develop the person holistically, and we're trying to develop the person more organically than pulling some off-the-shelf program," he said. "We have professors giving lectures and talks, and running case studies. We have administrators [teaching]. We have some PhD students working with our staff."

Currently, the classes are being held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic but they will eventually transition to include hybrid and in-person classes as well.

The PDI has a governance structure that creates and executes the trainings. An executive committee of the PDI, which includes Couris, Limayem, and other executives, meets once a month, Couris said.

"Underneath that, there's another layer of planning and workgroups that report up to the executive committee. One of the workgroups is a curriculum committee that designs and vets all the classes, and the way they design and vet all the classes is there isn't a single class that isn't tied to one of our strategic pillars," he added.

The six strategic pillars are:

  • Quality: TGHs zero harm initiative
  • Operational excellence
  • Physician alignment
  • Geographic expansion
  • Consumerism
  • People and talent

"[The classes] have to have pre-measures and post-measures so we can measure a certain select number of key performance indicators, to see if the training is actually having an impact on the organization," Couris said.

"This is the fundamental focus of our developmental work related to our people. One of the reasons it is fundamental is because we can measure the impact of the programs on the organization and on the people. This model of leadership is important and impactful on the organization itself," he said. "People want to be invested in. People want to feel and know that the organization they work for cares about them."

Building the new ecosystem for healthcare

"[One] of the challenges that we're focused on going into the future is building the new ecosystem for healthcare," Couris said.

While the healthcare industry has great examples of "innovative, important work," Couris said, the healthcare industry across the country has high costs and average quality, which diminishes consumer value.

"Part of the training is to help shift paradigms from the world we're in, which is more transactionally oriented, into a new world which is a lot more relationship oriented. We're trying to drive quality up and lower cost in a sustainable reproducible way. We're trying to pass that value to the consumer," he said.

The program has enabled all workers to learn about the value of quality inside TGH, Couris said, which, in turn, has improved performance.

"Even through COVID, we still maintained our performance with our Press Ganey scores in likelihood to recommend in overall patient satisfaction. We're in the top quartile still," he said. "That's impressive given the pressure the institution's been under. We're one of the leading safety net hospitals in the state, and so we were getting COVID patients not just from our community, but from all over the state of Florida. And the team was able to maintain our performance around service."

TGH's continuous journey

Although the hospital's investment in the PDI is slated for five years, that doesn't mean the program will end in that time. The organization will continuously measure and update the impact of the program.

"As an industry, we have to spend more time focused on the people because at the end of the day, that's what matters most," Couris said. "If you invest in your people, I mean really invest in your people, they will do their best work. That will translate to world class performance in your organization, and that will translate to the patient."

"That's the journey; that's the secret sauce for TGH," he added. "We still have a long road to go; this is a never-ending journey. But what we've built is a virtuous cycle that builds on itself with the team member in the middle."

Related: Collaboration During COVID: Tampa General Hospital Teams With Competitors on Patient Care

“People want to be invested in. People want to feel and know that the organization they work for cares about them.”

Melanie Blackman is a contributing editor for strategy, marketing, and human resources at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

Photo credit: Tampa Bay, Florida. April 28, 2019 . Partial view of Tampa General Hospital and Hillsborough river. / VIAVAL TOURS / Shutterstock

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