In the following interview, David W. Norgard, vice president of human resources for Quest Diagnostics, discusses how the diagnostic services provider empowers and engages employees in an ever-transitioning world.
What does the term Empowering Employment mean to you? On a “macro” level, empowering employment means supporting initiatives that enable job creation in the jobs that represent the future. On a “micro” level, it means building bridges to appropriate target audiences to communicate the opportunities and how to effectively pursue them.
Many leaders have come out and said that companies need to be proactive to do their parts to bridge the skills gap. Does Quest Diagnostics have – or plan to have – any initiatives in place to reskill current or potential employees to ensure future growth? We participate with educational institutions in development and training of critical skills; we organize and run in-house programs focused on critical skill shortages; and we actively engage with government officials to stimulate focus on and funding for educational initiatives, where there are known skill shortages and looming gaps of available employees.
Highly-skilled healthcare industry positions are notoriously hard to fill. What do you do to recruit that segment of the workforce, and what is your key differentiator? In the industry, we are the largest employer of pathologists, and we have about 800 practicing M.D.s and Ph.D.s in our organization. We really try to impress upon this group that, not only are we offering a good career that pays well, but that we are thought leaders, and we’re enabling them to a) learn on the job and b) work for an employer who’s looking at new ways to do things. We also try very hard to build a public culture of being a great place to work.
What strategies do you believe are most important for businesses to implement today to help create jobs and move the economy forward? The single biggest one is to lengthen the view and move beyond quarter-to-quarter in how we’re looking at the business and the performance of the business. I think we get into the trap of just managing quarter-to-quarter, but when we do that, there is no long view. It is about building a platform for sustainable business growth. In the case of Quest Diagnostics specifically, it is also a matter of how well we can develop our organization to generate the profit that not only satisfies our shareholders’ expectations, but also enables us to do more to improve patient care. It’s extremely important for us to focus on providing superior diagnostic innovations and customer service.
We hear more and more companies talk about hiring for culture and training for skills. Is that something that you practice? Yes. We developed an online tool we call a Real-life Job Preview, where we encourage job applicants to go online to see what a job is like in our “world.” Then we take them through pre-screening questions. Only after they go through the screening process are we interested in speaking to them about employment. It’s important for them to understand what our job is about.
In addition to technical skills, what soft skills do you believe are most important to your success? Nobody in this business – in our world – is an island. We really have to work with other people. Confidence is also extremely important. A lot of our frontline people work by themselves in a patient service center someplace. They really have to have confidence in what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.
How have you been able to maintain your culture as you’ve grown? We try to keep it really simple in putting together the picture of Quest Diagnostics in three words: patients, growth, people. Our most critical job is patient care. We have to do that in a way that grows our company in a profitable way, and we can only do that if we have people who are engaged in what they’re doing every day and do it well. We need to continuously improve ourselves and facilitate each others’ success.
What advice do you have for other industry leaders as they seek to grow their organizations? You have to focus on bringing your people with you. The world has gotten much more competitive overall. We have to find new ways of doing things and, in managing through this transition, if I don’t bring my employees with me, I lose their engagement. And if we lose their engagement, we compromise the things that are really important for us to do. We focus on making change palatable to people, making sure they understand it, and bringing them through the transition with us so we emerge on the other side as a stronger team – and stronger company.