Home > 2020 May/June > A Conversation with Peggy Harris of Atrium Health

A Conversation with Peggy Harris of Atrium Health

For organizations looking to improve their diversity and inclusion (D&I) programs and policies, change can be both challenging and rewarding. A 2018 research study by McKinsey and Company—a global management consulting firm—shows greater diversity in the workforce results in greater profitability and value creation. Even at the executive level, there existed a statistically significant correlation between diverse leadership and better financial performance. “Companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity at the executive level are 33 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile. When it comes to gender diversity, companies in the top quartile are 21 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile, according to McKinsey’s research” (CIO.com).

 

When it comes to managing diversity best practices in the workplace, it is not neither just a top down proposition, nor do recruitment quotas automate inclusion (societyfordiversity.org). Rather, it is an ongoing change with current employees and potential hires raising the stakes and generating the need for empathetic leadership and employee-specific changes. Some of Charlotte’s largest and most successful organizations have long recognized the value of nurturing a diverse and inclusive corporate atmosphere, and continually aim to execute improvements in the area to ensure future progress. We spoke with a D&I professional at Atrium Health to gain insight into how one of Charlotte’s largest employers maintains the effectiveness of its D&I approaches.

 

Name: Peggy Harris

Title: Assistant vice president, Office of Diversity and Inclusion‪

Company: Atrium Health

 

  1. What are some overall unique/effective best practices that Atrium Health implements regarding its diversity and inclusion initiatives? 

As one of the nation’s leading health care organizations, we acknowledge our responsibility to provide compassionate, culturally competent care and to lead in clinical excellence. As evidenced by our mission to improve health, elevate hope and advance healing – for all, diversity, inclusion and equity of care are top priorities.

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion supports fulfillment of the ‘“for all’” part of our mission,treating it as a call to action. This is also the basis for our Diversity Agenda (aka strategy) – the

framework used to develop and implement all diversity initiatives across Atrium Health. The primary tenets of this strategy are: FOR ALL: Patients, Teammates and Community

Patients Come First: Effectively provide care that responds to the unique needs of every patient.

Teammates Are the Key: Promote diversity, engage teammates and help them grow together.

Every Community Matters: Develop lasting partnerships that support diverse and at-risk communities.

Our culture of inclusion encourages understanding, respect and appreciation of the unique attributes specific to each patient, teammate and community. Our workforce has the power to make a big impact –within our walls and in surrounding communities. To that end, we have cultivated a unique, robust infrastructure of diversity champions – individuals who support the work and serve as force multipliers. They help advance our diversity strategy and offer additional touch points across the organization.

These diversity champions include our 10+ Diversity Councils, nine System Resource Groups (SRGs), teammate networking groups and volunteers. Several of which have continually placed in the Association of ERGs & Councils’ nationwide top 25 list. Through education, empathy and the facilitation of tough conversations, diversity champions inspire action for the betterment of our patients, teammates and communities.

 

  1. What are some of the challenges and rewards of modifying Atrium’s diversity and inclusion programs and policies, so as to keep them reflective of the needs of its changing personnel?

Just as with other successful business practices, it is vitally important to keep our diversity and inclusion-related strategies and processes contemporary in order to meet the ever-changing needs of our patients, teammates and community. Given that we live in a fast-paced, global society, issues and concerns are often reported on in the media instantly. This can make it exceedingly difficult to stay ahead of issues.

However, at Atrium Health we recognize that talent is enhanced by the diversity teammates bring to the workplace. As such, we leverage our teammate-led System Resource Groups (SRGs) to keep our finger on the pulse of relevant issues and priorities. Our SRGs are forward-thinking and innovative. They help us to get out ahead of issues, while simultaneously increasing teammate engagement and morale.

We continually look for new ways to inform and educate teammates, as well as opportunities to update existing programs and processes. Through it all, our organizational culture of inclusion encourages understanding, respect and appreciation of the unique attributes of each patient, teammate and community.

 

  1. What effect does Atrium’s diversity and inclusion focus have on its branding and reputation, both in the local community and perhaps with future hires?

Atrium Health’s commitment to the betterment of our communities is evident in the work we do. Our diversity posture significantly boosts our reputation in the communities we serve and supports our vision of being the first and best choice for care. Furthermore, future hires are interested in knowing the company they choose is socially responsible and take an active interest in supporting communities and impacting social determinants of health.

Our positive brand in the community has supported our recognition with the Freedom Award for our intentional work on employing veterans, being honored with the 2020 CMS Health Equity Award for our attention to using data to identify and improve gaps in care and recognitions from organizations such as Forbes’ Best Employers for Diversity and Diversity MBA, among others.