Spooner Health System

  • Location: Spooner, WI
  • Award: Rural Healthcare Organization of the Month
  • Awarded: June 2012

About four years ago, our Senior Leaders and Board of Directors recognized the need to make improvements in the service we were providing and set ourselves apart from our competition. We made the decision to embark on a Commitment to Excellence journey and we partnered with Studer Group in April 2009 for guidance and support. Since then, we've implemented many of Studer Group's evidence-based tools to make Spooner Health System a better place for employees to work, physicians to practice medicine and patients to receive care.

When we first began our journey, many of our employees felt like it was another "program of the month". However, as we have continued our partnership with Studer Group and remained committed to both implementation and hardwiring of key practices, employees now realize that our Commitment to Excellence is here to stay - it's simply a culture change. Seeing results in the following pillars has helped our employees see value in our investment and feel good about the direction our organization is going.


Shortly after partnering with Studer Group, we initiated our first employee partnership survey measuring both employee satisfaction and engagement. The results of the Fall 2009 survey confirmed our need to create a more satisfied and engaged workforce. Per Studer Group's recommendation, we began employee rounding, Sr. Leader rounding, managing up thank you notes to the CEO and employee forums. All of these have proven beneficial and have played an important role in helping us become more connected to and transparent with our employees.

Listed below are some other key elements that we've implemented at Spooner Health System over the last three years that have had great impact on the PEOPLE pillar.

Leadership Development Institutes (LDI's)

For several years prior to partnering with Studer Group in 2009, we would have a meeting once or twice a year with the entire leadership team all together. In June 2012, we'll be having our tenth LDI where we take all the managers off-site quarterly for the purpose of training (related to both Commitment to Excellence and operational topics), reflecting, connecting to purpose and team-building. LDI's have proven to be a very important aspect of aligning our organization and making Spooner Health System a better place for employees to work and patients to receive care.

Rewards & Recognition Service Excellence Team

Developing a team to focus on ways to reward and recognize employees for their good work has been very instrumental to our success. The team formed in Fall 2009 and is led by a manager and comprised of employees from various departments. In addition to helping with celebrations such as National Hospital Week and the Employee Picnic, they've implemented some great programs to allow opportunity for peer to peer, manager to employee and department recognition. Employees have really appreciated being recognized individually for their good work and the department recognition program has created a greater personal awareness and ownership of the patient satisfaction results.

Standards of Excellence Team

In Fall 2009, we created an employee Standards team. They worked very hard to create five main standards (Communication, Commitment to my Co-workers, Customer Service, Care and Competence) along with detailed bullet points under each standard to outline clear expectations of all employees. After the standards were rolled out and signed by employees, the team began focusing on one standard a month and had various activities, such as word searches and crossword puzzles, for staff to do in the employee newsletter and/or on the intranet.

This year, we've transitioned to having a "Standard of the Quarter" and the Standards team is coming to the quarterly LDI's to present what the standard of the quarter is and provide clear direction and tools to the leaders so they are able to roll them out at their staff meetings. Each month is focused on a different bullet point related to the overall standard of the quarter. This provides a more consistent message to all staff and better equips the leaders so they can keep the Standards of Excellence in front of employees in a creative and meaningful way.

Performance Conversations

We were very fortunate to have Quint Studer visit our organization in October 2010 and based on the organizational assessment, he shared with the leadership group that Spooner Health System was nearly to the "wall". Quint recommended we do highmiddlelow® performance conversations so our Studer coach came to the February 2011 LDI to train our managers who then met with every employee to have the appropriate performance conversation based on Studer Group's prescribed method. We just finished going through this process a second time. The performance conversations have pushed us to re-recruit our high performers, acknowledge and affirm our middle (solid) performers, and really deal with our low performers.

Communication Training

At our November 2011 LDI, we had an outside speaker come and present on the topic of communication. It was so well-received by our managers, we decided to bring the speaker back in April 2012 to have four-hour employee sessions on the same topic. Specifically, she outlined four different types of communication and gave us effective tools to help us have critical conversations with co-workers. One of our standards bullet points reads, "I will hold my co-workers accountable to the standards of excellence." Many of the employees, including managers, were having a difficult time with this somewhat new concept in our organization. We purposefully tied standards into the communication sessions to help our employees understand the appropriate (and inappropriate) ways to have a conversation with a co-worker who is not following our Standards of Excellence. We recognized the need to not only ask our employees to have these critical conversations with one another, but to also equip them with the proper tools and training to be able to have them effectively. The communication training provided a consistent message to all employees and also helped employees be more receptive when a co-worker may have a critical conversation with them.

These employee communication sessions were so well-received, appreciated and valued by our employees; we are looking to begin having Employee Leadership Institutes sometime in the next six months.


Back in 2009, we made a commitment to truly invest in our employees and we've clearly done so in many ways as listed above. We've made great strides in the PEOPLE pillar in the last three years and the results of our employee partnership survey are a direct reflection of our efforts.

Print Page