Beyond lip service: why Encompass Health is making inclusion and diversity a priority


“People are the heartbeat of any organization.”— Yolanda Turner. Photo via Encompass Health

One of Birmingham’s biggest assets is our diversity. When you hear about diversity at work, what comes to mind? A workshop? A training? The thing is, inclusion and diversity are–and should be–so much more than a single day or event. Encompass Health shared with us how they’re making inclusion and diversity a priority in their company, and the impact it’s having in their hospitals. Check it out. 

Why Diversity Matters at Work

Yolanda Turner, manager of inclusion and diversity at Encompass Health, summed it up well.

“Inclusion and diversity matter, because people are the heartbeat of any organization. No longer is I&D the smart thing to do; it is the right thing to do. While the case for diversity has changed over the years, it’s always been about business success through an inclusive workplace culture. We must ensure that our workforce represents and reflects the communities we serve in order to deliver services to our patients in the most culturally competent, efficient and effective manner possible.”

Turner said Encompass Health wants to attract, develop and retain a uniquely talented workforce that is fully engaged throughout their employment lifecycle. 

“We are intentional with employee engagement,” she said. “We conduct an annual employee engagement survey as one of several ways for our employees to voice their opinions. We use the survey not only to seek understanding of diverse perspectives, but also to continuously look for ways to improve the work experience at Encompass Health.”

The Whole Employee

“We want employees to bring their whole selves to work,” said Turner. “For Encompass Heath, that means showing up every day with a positive attitude ready to contribute, succeed and reach goals. We call it ‘focusing on the positive,’ which is one of our five core values.”

Diversity: It’s Not Only Race

Diversity includes differences like professional knowledge, skillsets, education, religion, social class, beliefs, sexual orientation, physical ability, values, personality and culture. Photo via Encompass Health

At Encompass Health, diversity is not just about differences in how employees look or what part of the world they are from; it also includes differences like professional knowledge, skillsets, education, religion, social class, beliefs, sexual orientation, physical ability, values, personality and culture. Diversity at Encompass Health also includes veterans, LGBTQ+, traditionalists, baby boomers, gen Xers, millennials and gen Z. 

Diversity Initiatives

Encompass Health has several hospitals piloting the Human Capital Campaign Health Equity Index (HEI) survey. HEI is the national LGBTQ+ benchmarking tool that evaluates healthcare facilities’ policies and practices related to the equity and inclusion of their LGBTQ patients, visitors and employees. Encompass Health also has recruiting initiatives focused on veterans and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). 

Recently, the company’s home office hosted an event focused on generational differences. It educated employees on different communication styles and preferences, using examples like the evolution of the typewriter to the desktop to the laptop to the cell phone—my, how times have changed. 

“We also highlighted things that make us similar because at the end of the day, we usually find that we’re more alike than we are different,”said Turner.

Diversity in the Hospital 

“As the communities we serve become more diverse, it is critical that our workforce reflect that diversity.” —Yolanda Turner. Photo via Encompass Health

Why is hiring diverse candidates for Encompass Health’s hospitals so important? 

According to Turner, “As the communities we serve become more diverse, it is critical that our workforce reflect that diversity. This positions our hospitals for further success in the communities we serve by allowing us to embrace new opportunities and be seen as a healthcare leader in promoting inclusion and diversity.”

Ensuring Inclusion & Diversity in Your Workforce

Below are a few practices Turner suggests for weaving inclusion and diversity into the fabric of your organization:

  1. Set goals and objectives for a companywide I&D program.
  2. Ensure that I&D goals are aligned with the overall company goals.
  3. Get leadership buy-in. Identify the program sponsor/advocate at the senior leadership level.
  4. Be intentional about promoting I&D throughout the organization.
  5. Establish regular training opportunities for employees.
  6. Be brave about challenging the status quo.
  7. Measure program/process to understand effectiveness and impact. “What gets measured gets done,” said Turner.

The Future

Turner said diversity is one of the top items on the agenda of companies across the country.  This focused attention is partly in response to our rapidly changing and diverse nation.   

“[Diversity] is no longer about having programs that ‘check the box’–it’s about being intentional and working diversity into the company at an operational level.”

Leading with Inclusion

Encompass Health also made the choice to lead with inclusion when referring to inclusion and diversity. 

“Our decision to lead with inclusion came from desire to engage the different talents, beliefs, backgrounds, abilities and way of living of our various employees to create a culture of belonging where people feel valued. Recognizing and supporting all employees by creating conditions that foster equality, empowerment, awareness and competence at the personal, group and organizational levels make [inclusion] work us.” 

Yolanda Turner

What does your company do to promote diversity and inclusion? Let us know @BhamNow.

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