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The Head, Heart & Gut: Kaiser Permanente CEO on What Makes An Applicant Stand Out

Posted by Amy Elisa Jackson

Last Updated June 20, 2018

When it comes to hiring, it’s no surprise that Kaiser Permanente chairman and CEO Bernard J. Tyson relies on an anatomy analogy to convey what’s most important. 

“When I meet with our senior-level candidates, I ask them to share their story, their career journey and what they are passionate about accomplishing,” Tyson tells Glassdoor exclusively. “I assess executives in three dimensions: the head, the heart and the gut. I want to get a sense of the head – and how they think, work and take in information and synthesize it –  before moving forward. I want to understand their heart – and how they relate to and inspire others – their empathy and passion. And I want to understand how they tap their gut – what drives their ethical compass, what motivates them and how they make decisions.”

Helming the healthcare provider since 2013, Tyson oversees an annual operating revenue of nearly $73 billion, leads 212,000 employees and 22,000 physicians, and serves 12 million members in eight states plus the District of Columbia. Still, he makes it a priority to dig into what motivates job applicants.

With an eye on both innovation and company culture, Tyson — a 33-year veteran with Kaiser — has been named one of Glassdoor’s Top CEOs according to employee reviews. We caught up with him to discuss the future of healthcare and hiring.

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Bernard J. Tyson Hi Res PhotoGlassdoor: Congratulations! What does it mean to you to know that your employees have rated you so highly for the second year in a row?

Bernard J. Tyson: I am deeply honored. Our employees and Permanente Medical Group physicians represent the best of Kaiser Permanente, carrying out our mission of providing access to high-quality, affordable health care to our members (including our employees) and improving the health of our members and the communities we serve. We have more than 212,000 employees and 22,000 physicians who come to work every day to make lives better. That’s powerful!

Glassdoor: When you are looking to add to this amazing group of employees, what attributes do you look for in today’s top talent?

Bernard J. Tyson: We actively seek diverse talent with a range of expertise and leadership styles that complement our culture and contribute to improving the care and coverage we provide our 12.2 million members each day. We are an organization of continuous improvement, so we look for top talent that can partner with multiple stakeholders to advance best practices, innovation and development.

We are a speak-up culture, so we look for women and men who are committed to bringing their full selves to work so we can leverage their full capabilities. I keep an American flag on my desk and another where I sit in the boardroom to signify my support for the freedom of speech that comes with living in this country. I want to know what’s on people’s minds, what they’re thinking –– because I want to make the best decision, which can be derived from diverse perspectives. This only makes Kaiser Permanente better.

Glassdoor: What questions do you love to ask or what aspects do you like to dig into?

Bernard J. Tyson: When I meet with our senior-level candidates, I ask them to share their story, their career journey and what they are passionate about accomplishing. I read a book years ago that captured the framework for how I assess executives in three dimensions: the head, the heart and the guts. I want to get a sense of the head – and how they think, work and take in information and synthesize it –  before moving forward. I want to understand their heart – and how they relate to and inspire others – their empathy and passion. And I want to understand how they tap their gut – what drives their ethical compass, what motivates them and how they make decisions.

I look for executive candidates who can advance a change agenda by taking in data and perspectives and then acting decisively to deliver outcomes. I look for people who can create impact by engaging others with the “why” – not just process or tactical approaches – and then how they can motivate employees to follow.

Glassdoor: As healthcare rapidly evolves, how do you align the company’s recruiting strategy with business needs?

Bernard J. Tyson: Our business needs are continually evolving as we transform healthcare from within. At the same time, we care for 12.2 million members across 8 states and Washington, D.C. As a result, we need people who understand and welcome the challenges we have of advancing the mission of Kaiser Permanente while helping lead our industry, which is undergoing rapid change, to where we need to be as a pacesetter for the future.

In support of our strategy, we have created targeted partnerships with schools and universities, national organizations and our own employees to tap into specific talent pools, such as those from consumer-focused industries. We also run an incredibly large IT business that must be competitive to attract IT talent from around the country and world. We also monitor and analyze our workforce for our ability to meet our business needs and we tweak our recruiting strategy accordingly.

Glassdoor: When it comes to Glassdoor, how do you use the platform for recruiting and to keep your finger on the pulse of both company culture and candidate experience?

Bernard J. Tyson: We use Glassdoor to post jobs and get high visibility for our hard-to-fill positions while ensuring that candidates get a true feel for what it’s like to work at Kaiser Permanente.  The candid reviews from our employees and candidates are invaluable to helping us understand whether we’re meeting their needs and enabling us to adjust if necessary.  Glassdoor is a great tool for keeping a pulse on our brand to attract and retain the people who make Kaiser Permanente successful.

Glassdoor: Retention is hugely important these days. How do you lead your teams to retain top talent, especially in the fast-paced, high-demand industry of healthcare?

Bernard J. Tyson: We find that most people who come to work at Kaiser Permanente are motivated by our mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. Our mission and our 4 beliefs are powerful motivators. I’ll share them with you:

  • We believe that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness require total health – and that includes equal access to high-quality health care for all.
  • We believe that total health is more than freedom from physical affliction – it’s about mind, body, and spirit.
  • We believe that health care must be affordable for all – because thriving individuals, families, and communities require that.
  • We believe in a healthy and engaged life – with good beginnings and dignified endings.

Working to uphold these beliefs is rewarding. This is a place where people truly feel part of something bigger than themselves. 

Beyond that, I lead my team through candid discussions of our people, their performance and development, and we’re always looking for opportunities to turn organizational needs into challenging assignments that will inspire and develop our best people

Glassdoor: Now for a few fun ones: What is one book that you think everyone should read? Why?

Bernard J. Tyson: I keep current by reading what very smart people are thinking about the future. Most recently, The Fourth Industrial Revolution, by Klaus Schwab, has been on my bedside table and I’ve been suggesting it to many of my colleagues.

Glassdoor: What is your go-to productivity hack?

Bernard J. Tyson: Music. I listen to music all the time and have it playing even in the background when I’m working. My favorites are rap and gospel, so I listen to artists like J. Cole and Shirley Caesar.

What is your #1 job search tip? What is your advice for searching for a job? How should job seekers be thinking about their hunt, given today’s competitive job market?

Bernard J. Tyson: My #1 job tip is to look for a job that you want to do. We spend a lot of time at work, and it’s important that we enjoy what we’re doing. We only go around once, and we’ve got to keep that in perspective. Nothing is promised to any of us the end of the day. The key to that is to be in step with the culture of the organization where you work.

 

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