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Case Study

How Bryan Health redefined their organizational values

Fast facts about Bryan Health

  • Non-profit health system located in Lincoln, NE operating an acute care hospital, several outpatient clinics, a physician network, telehealth services, a heart institute, and a College of Health Sciences
  • Over 4,973 employees across the system
  • In 2014, compiled a diverse team of staff members tasked with rewriting the organization's Core Values to reflect the organization's culture in a more pithy and memorable way

Bryan Health's Core Values

  • One team, one purpose
  • Spread a smile, go the extra mile
  • Live it, own it
  • Care like crazy
  • Motivate, appreciate
  • Know the way, show the way
  • Enjoy the journey

Deliberate organizational values are the starting point for building a differentiated organizational culture. We recently spoke with leaders from Bryan Health to learn how they revamped their organizational values by soliciting the opinions of staff members across the organization. We spoke with:

  • Jan Garvin, Former Chief Human Resources Officer, Bryan Health
  • Mary Hoppe, Organizational Development Consultant, Bryan Health

Read on to get answers to the most frequently asked questions about how HR leaders rewrote their organizational values with staff input.

Why did you decide to redefine your values?

Previously we had a set of 54 beliefs and behaviors that were, although well-constructed, too cumbersome to be memorable and impactful for staff. We wanted to construct values that uniquely represented our organization, were pithy and memorable, and truly came from within.

Can you explain the process you used to redefine your values?

The first step was to assemble a task force charged with rewriting our values. We wanted a diverse mix of staff members to represent the organization – varied in tenure and facility with a mix of clinical and non-clinical, and frontline staff and leaders. Directors were consulted for groups of staff within the organization that they would like to participate and then took nominations of high-performers from each. We ended up with a group of 25-30 staff, 60% clinical and 40% non-clinical, who met one to two times per week over the course of ten weeks.

Once the task force was formed, the second step was to solicit input from this group. We gave each team member 10 post-it notes and instructed them to write down 10 characteristics of excellence in healthcare. The goal was to answer the question: “if you were in an accident in another city, what would the characteristics be of the people you’d want caring for you?” From there, we removed duplicates and grouped the post-it notes into themes. The group then discussed the language for each identified theme, and passed along an initial proposal of 12 organizational values to a staff-only team for feedback. After revisions, we published a final list of 7 core values.

After redefining your values, what steps did you take to ensure those values were truly embedded in your organizational culture?

After we published the core values, we mapped each value to specific behaviors that drive our performance management process. The values are also shared in new employee orientation, reinforced in executive communications, and incorporated into our corrective action processes. In addition, the values are also embedded in smaller ways. For example, the screen saver for hospital computers feature our core values and each employee was given a free mug featuring our core values. Through big and small channels, the goal is to ensure the values created by the organization, for the organization, stay top-of-mind.

What advice do you have for others who are trying to rewrite their organization’s values?

You can’t overlook the importance of carefully articulating new values with concise language. The team initially proposed 12 core values and received feedback that they were just too corporate and uninspiring. As we revised our initial list, we settled on a subset of far fewer values than we originally anticipated – that were successful in expressing our differentiated culture.

In addition, it was really important to us that the group making decisions about our new values was comprised of diverse roles – from senior leaders to frontline staff. To support this diversity, we needed to be intentional about promoting a safe space for the group to ensure all members felt welcome to share their perspective. Fostering a culture that was conducive to sharing ideas made for a journey that was rewarding to those who participated and an end product that we were proud of.

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