Making a Difference with Mutual Respect
In the summer of 2010, Medical Mutual of Ohio partnered with Legacy Business Cultures to help launch Mutual Respect, an initiative that would build on the company’s already-strong employee satisfaction ratings and turn it into an active force to improve many areas, including customer service, employee commitment and trust. According to Tom Greene, VP of Human Resources, “The goal of any program of this type should be to create an environment that, over time, will continue to foster retention, improve employee continuity and make for a better customer experience. All of those characteristics help differentiate Medical Mutual in the marketplace.”
Support for the idea came straight from the top. The board of directors of Medical Mutual also recognized that their people are their company’s greatest competitive advantage. Patty Hartmann, Manager of Corporate Learning and Development, said that both the board and senior leadership wanted to leverage the company’s diversity, not as a passive way to recognize people’s differences, but to actively use them to make Medical Mutual stronger. “We knew we had a culture that understood diversity and supported differences,” said Hartmann, “but we wanted to turn that into a competitive asset that helps us succeed in the market. It’s the next step in continuing to build an inclusive culture.”
About Medical Mutual of Ohio
Medical Mutual of Ohio (MMOH) is the oldest and largest health insurance company based in Ohio and serves more than 1.6 million customers. Employing 2,500 people, Medical Mutual is one of the biggest employers in downtown Cleveland.
Medical Mutual officially launched Mutual Respect by first surveying all 2,700 of its employees in Ohio, Indiana, South Carolina and Georgia to establish internal benchmark data on perceptions of respectfulness in the culture. According to Sandy Opacich, Director of HR, “We have been doing employee ‘satisfaction’ surveys for several years, but with Legacy Business Cultures on board, we were able to interweave questions developed specifically to ascertain the level of respect within.” The initial survey response rate was 70 percent, which is substantial. The results showed that, while Medical Mutual was already perceived as a very respectful work environment, there was room for improvement in some key areas.
Acting on data and insights gained from the survey process, Medical Mutual quickly followed up with a customized workshop created by Legacy Business Cultures to position respect as a platform for better understanding the broader concept of diversity and how to leverage it for culture change. Paul Meshanko, Legacy Business Cultures’s Managing Partner, is quick to point out that an authentic culture of respect goes beyond the traditional [diversity] focus on awareness of differences. While this may be a starting point, authentic respect requires the active commitment of all managers and employees to treat each other in ways that build esteem and communicate value.
Initially, the half-day workshop was delivered to all leaders and managers, including the chief executive officer. Following the management workshops, each manager was then required to work with his or her team members to facilitate the creation of aCode of Cooperation. These “living guidelines” typically include 8-12 behaviorally specific statements detailing how employees who work together agree to engage with and treat each other. What sets Mutual Respect apart from past diversity efforts, according to Medical Mutual’s Tom Greene, is that the “results of the survey and the manager-level training include a clear link to organization-wide efforts to foster a culture of respect.”
With management already having completed the program, Medical Mutual is now offering over 30 sessions of the Mutual Respect workshop to all employees on a voluntary basis. Legacy Business Cultures has certified internal staff to facilitate the workshop and Hartmann says it has been very well attended. “So far, all sessions have been full, most with waiting lists.” she says. “We plan to re-survey our employees in third quarter 2011 and, judging by early comments, we expect continued improvement in areas that have a measurable impact on our company.”
“We have been doing employee ’satisfaction’ surveys for several years, but with Legacy Business Cultures on board, we were able to interweave questions developed specifically to ascertain the level of respect within. So far the survey results and the manager-level training include a clear link to organization-wide efforts to foster a culture of respect.”