Kaiser Vision Essentials Transformation Case Study

Seeing Through a New Lens Provides Opportunity for Growth

Vision Essentials, Southern California, is one of the largest regions within Kaiser Permanente, providing eye care and eyewear for its members. It provides first-rate medical care and a range of frames for custom glasses, sunglasses, and a comprehensive range of contact lenses.

It was facing a series of issues including Healthcare Reform, baby boomers retiring, competition from other healthcare organizations and retailers such as LensCrafters and Costco, and busy and stressed out employees.

The changes in HealthCare Reform presented a number of challenges as well as opportunities. The number of members nearly doubled, which presented the need to not only increase the number of employees, but added to the importance of employee retention by creating a culture in which the talent could thrive and grow.

Kaiser hired David Couper Consulting (DCC) to assess the current level of employee engagement and to develop a strategic talent management program. What made this engagement unique was that it included a cross-section of clinicians, management, staff, as well as employees from seven different labor unions. 

Transformation Happens By Tapping into Ourselves and into Our Relationships with Others
After meeting with Kaiser leadership and key contributors to the engagement, DCC took a multi-level approach to this engagement, including implementing 360-feedback surveys, a six-month one-on-one coaching program and leadership training.

Receiving feedback from managers and peers gave each employee an insight into how they presented to those around them. This proved to be invaluable as the feedback was delivered in a way that empowered the employee and allowed them to take responsibility. This enabled them to be appreciated for the areas where they added value and gave them the power to make changes to their behavior or habits, if needed.

The personal coaching program proved to be invaluable in several ways. Springboarding off of the feedback they received in the 360 surveys gave the participants a foundation for what they wanted to focus on in their coaching sessions. This enabled them to do a self-assessment, set their own goals and create an action plan. The participants were able to bring any area of their life to their sessions with their coaches; they didn’t have to focus solely on their work. Several participants healed things in their personal lives that directly impacted their performance and work relationships, as having a breakthrough in one area of their lives had a ripple effect on other areas.

The final piece was a Leadership Development Curriculum that focused on key leadership areas, focusing on the whole person vs. simply their work life. One of the key outcomes of this program was to create leaders who were able to learn and apply what they learned on the job and to share their learning with their teams. Several employees who participated in the first program stepped up to help lead future trainings for their colleagues, creating an environment of leaders developing leaders.

Transformation Thrives Through Open Communication

The pilot phase of the coaching for leaders program was such a success that DCC worked with Kaiser to develop a custom three-month coaching program to support close to 200 people. This initiative built more trust and respect within the organization and left employees feeling valued, resulting in less on-the-job stress and less conflict in the workplace. It also had a positive impact on patient care, because as the employees experienced feeling valued themselves, it translated into the care they provided for their patients.

It also resulted in an improvement in labor/management relations and a more collaborative approach to problem solving and working relationships. Breaking down the walls and the barriers of “labor” and “management” created a stronger partnership and better communication.

Finally, employees who were previously seen as difficult to work with emerged as leaders. Receiving honest feedback from their colleagues in a non-threatening way resulted in a shift in behavior, and their leadership qualities were able to emerge.