Data is disrupting the HR field and can help strategize a common mission across various jobs within a company. Jeffrey Stevens, chief human resources officer at Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health, tells CXOTalk about how two Philadelphia universities and five formerly independent health systems merged into a $5.5 billion enterprise with 35,000 employees.

“I like to use the expression, ‘I’m capitalizing on the chaos.’ We can do by design, and I think HR people have thought about, what would you do in performance, in learning, in connecting jobs? We can do that, by design, what was unavailable to do by consensus,” Stevens says. “Most people in my seat think, first and foremost, about the operability of systems, the functionality of systems. I think about the experience of each individual employee.”

Stevens has been EVP and CHRO at Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals in Philadelphia since 2015.

Transcript

Michael Krigsman: We are live at Sapphire Now 2018. I'm Michael Krigsman. I'm an industry analyst and the host of CxOTalk. We're speaking with Jeff Stevens, Chief Human Resources Officer at Thomas Jefferson University and Health System. Hey, Jeff, how are you? Thanks for taking some time.

Jeffrey Stevens: Thank you, Michael. I'm happy to be here.

Michael Krigsman: Tell us about your organization.

Jeffrey Stevens: Yep. Jefferson University is the merger of two universities — actually, a graduate university of a medical school, a nursing school, a school of pharmacy, a school of health professions that just recently merged with an undergraduate university that was previously Philadelphia University, an old, prestigious university whose focus had been on textiles and manufacturing, design, [and] architecture. It's a wonderful marriage of two universities: medicine and design.

As well, we have a health system that recently merged. It's actually the combination of five formerly independent health systems. What had been, 3 years ago, 3 hospitals, Jefferson is now 16 hospitals.

Michael Krigsman: Wow. A big change.

Jeffrey Stevens: Big change.

Michael Krigsman: Tell us about your focus as the chief human resources officer.

Jeffrey Stevens: I came to Jefferson just about three years ago. For me, it's understanding what each of the divisions had been doing, and it's creating a whole new ecosystem. I've been saying it's a wonderful opportunity for an HR leader to imagine deconstructing legacy programs — systems, and policies — and reinventing it as if you were building something new today. That's very exciting.

Michael Krigsman: It's an extraordinary growth rate as well.

Jeffrey Stevens: Yeah. Under the brainchild of our CEO, a physician, Steve Klasko, who has become very renowned for having done this. It's gone from a $1.2 billion enterprise, about 13,000 employees about four years ago, we're now about $5.5 billion [and] 35,000 employees.

Michael Krigsman: Jeff, the world of HR and talent is changing, and it's driving disruption. From your point of view, what are some of the key changes in the environment that you have to respond to?

Jeffrey Stevens: Well, jobs are changing, and people's interest and how they define their careers are changing. As I said, being in Philadelphia, 35,000 employees, we have to look internally. It's not that all of our new positions and our new talent comes from the outside. How you develop people; how you create pipelines of ready people; how you advance people's careers; how you build and deconstruct and reconstruct teams. This is what I'm trying to accomplish.

Michael Krigsman: Deconstruct teams: that's quite an extraordinary thing to say, actually.

Jeffrey Stevens: Yeah, how do you spread all that talent? How do you align people together, share best practices, share protocols, health protocols, for example, but really maximize the collective wisdom, the connective wisdom of all these formerly separate people in organizations?

Michael Krigsman: It sounds like a big part of this is breaking down silos.

Jeffrey Stevens: It is. But, at the same time, I like to use the expression, "I'm capitalizing on the chaos." We can do by design. And I think HR people have thought about; what would you do in performance, in learning, in connecting jobs? We can do that, by design, what was unavailable to do by consensus. There are too many stakeholders, too many people that have an opinion about that, and that's not wrong; it's just that we're trying to scale it and make it relevant to everyone.

Michael Krigsman: You're focused on a strategy rather than letting the organization kind of drift amoeba-like.

Jeffrey Stevens: Yeah. Yeah, so I have a good example. When the organization had come together and, again, it's been just a short three years but, last year, last February, we were trying to negotiate new mission statements and values for, again, these formerly independent

Michael Krigsman: We are live at Sapphire Now 2018. I'm Michael Krigsman. I'm an industry analyst and the host of CxOTalk. We're speaking with Jeff Stevens, Chief Human Resources Officer at Thomas Jefferson University and Health System. Hey, Jeff, how are you? Thanks for taking some time.

Jeffrey Stevens: Thank you, Michael. I'm happy to be here.

Michael Krigsman: Tell us about your organization.

Jeffrey Stevens: Yep. Jefferson University is the merger of two universities — actually, a graduate university of a medical school, a nursing school, a school of pharmacy, a school of health professions that just recently merged with an undergraduate university that was previously Philadelphia University, an old, prestigious university whose focus had been on textiles and manufacturing, design, [and] architecture. It's a wonderful marriage of two universities: medicine and design.

As well, we have a health system that recently merged. It's actually the combination of five formerly independent health systems. What had been, 3 years ago, 3 hospitals, Jefferson is now 16 hospitals.

Michael Krigsman: Wow. A big change.

Jeffrey Stevens: Big change.

Michael Krigsman: Tell us about your focus as the chief human resources officer.

Jeffrey Stevens: I came to Jefferson just about three years ago. For me, it's understanding what each of the divisions had been doing, and it's creating a whole new ecosystem. I've been saying it's a wonderful opportunity for an HR leader to imagine deconstructing legacy programs — systems, and policies — and reinventing it as if you were building something new today. That's very exciting.

Michael Krigsman: It's an extraordinary growth rate as well.

Jeffrey Stevens: Yeah. Under the brainchild of our CEO, a physician, Steve Klasko, who has become very renowned for having done this. It's gone from a $1.2 billion enterprise, about 13,000 employees about four years ago, we're now about $5.5 billion [and] 35,000 employees.

Michael Krigsman: Jeff, the world of HR and talent is changing, and it's driving disruption. From your point of view, what are some of the key changes in the environment that you have to respond to?

Jeffrey Stevens: Well, jobs are changing, and people's interest and how they define their careers are changing. As I said, being in Philadelphia, 35,000 employees, we have to look internally. It's not that all of our new positions and our new talent comes from the outside. How you develop people; how you create pipelines of ready people; how you advance people's careers; how you build and deconstruct and reconstruct teams. This is what I'm trying to accomplish.

Michael Krigsman: Deconstruct teams: that's quite an extraordinary thing to say, actually.

Jeffrey Stevens: Yeah, how do you spread all that talent? How do you align people together, share best practices, share protocols, health protocols, for example, but really maximize the collective wisdom, the connective wisdom of all these formerly separate people in organizations?

Michael Krigsman: It sounds like a big part of this is breaking down silos.

Jeffrey Stevens: It is. But, at the same time, I like to use the expression, "I'm capitalizing on the chaos." We can do by design. And I think HR people have thought about; what would you do in performance, in learning, in connecting jobs? We can do that, by design, what was unavailable to do by consensus. There are too many stakeholders, too many people that have an opinion about that, and that's not wrong; it's just that we're trying to scale it and make it relevant to everyone.

Michael Krigsman: You're focused on a strategy rather than letting the organization kind of drift amoeba-like.

Jeffrey Stevens: Yeah. Yeah, so I have a good example. When the organization had come together and, again, it's been just a short three years but, last year, last February, we were trying to negotiate new mission statements and values for, again, these formerly independent organizations. I had the idea to bring people together in what we called Culture Jam. This was a three-day, live, online event.

Nine thousand people from across the system logged on to facilitate a conversation and, in real time, we were turning around word clouds. We were showing key thoughts and trending topics in this experience. At the end of it, we created, for the entire ecosystem, a new mission and new values.

Michael Krigsman: Wow, so you're using technology to harness the collective wisdom of the people inside the organization.

Jeffrey Stevens: Exactly, and create engagement. Empower people to speak their mind. Create a lot of transparency. Let people own it. Yeah.

Michael Krigsman: Engagement. We're here at Sapphire Now, and one of the messages from the keynote this morning was about engagement and experience. It sounds like customer experience, for you, is another very important pillar.

Jeffrey Stevens: Very important. Most people in my seat think, first and foremost, about the operability of systems, the functionality of systems. I think about the experience of each individual employee.

Michael Krigsman: Software vendors tend to think in terms of systems. You're thinking in terms of experiences. How do you reconcile the two?

Jeffrey Stevens: I look at systems, and I say, "How do you make the core system simpler? And then really understand, "What does an employee at any level of the organization need? How do you make it very dynamic for people and very in front of them?"

Michael Krigsman: With user interfaces that they know that they understand, that they're comfortable with.

Jeffrey Stevens: Exactly, and focus people. Social media is so focused on people's personal experience. I feel this power in focusing people on common mission and common vision and values. I think there's a lot of runway left in terms of using social media in business.

Michael Krigsman: Where is this all going? What's your vision for the next few years?

Jeffrey Stevens: Just getting the foundations in place has been its own big task. Now, we're starting to think about: How would you use this type of environment? How would you start allowing for mobility, for people to build careers in the system, for people to pick up shifts across the system? How would you define jobs by competencies so that you know where people are competent to serve and let people be much more mobile? Right?

This is what millennials are asking for. They don't want you to define what's right for them. They want to see what's available and define their own majors and their own careers in an ecosystem like ours. I feel there is a lot of promise.

Michael Krigsman: There's, then, a direct link between what you're doing in HR and the ultimate success of the organization and also the financial success.

Jeffrey Stevens: Absolutely. I mentioned that we created our new values, what people spoke to, and what I've been pronounced about. It's our first value: put people first. Put people first; be bold and think differently; do the right thing. Those are our new three values, and I think that speaks to how I motivate myself.

Michael Krigsman: Okay, Jeff Stevens. Thank you so much.

Jeffrey Stevens: Michael, thank you very much. I enjoyed being part of this.