A Continuous Journey

UHS sees career development as an ongoing partnership between employees and managers.

For Raymond Davis, vice president, supply chain, Universal Health Services (UHS), every supply chain endeavor starts with one critical factor – the right people.

“We need high-performing individuals who provide creative solutions and new approaches to enable our supply chain to be industry leading,” he said. “Starting with the right human capital is crucial to produce the right solution and product for all of our customers.”

UHS has developed a robust way of identifying and developing talent. Davis spoke with The Journal of Healthcare Contracting (JHC) about this process, and the benefits it can bring for healthcare supply chain teams and their overall organizations. 


JHC: Why is human capital important to the success of your supply chain initiatives? What about your organization as a whole?

Davis: UHS’s supply chain is entering into year three of our five-year strategy plan. The most important pillar of our strategy is organization. This pillar defines and outlines our plan and approach to talent.

We need high-performing individuals who provide creative solutions and new approaches to enable our supply chain to be industry leading. Starting with the right human capital is crucial to produce the right solution and product for our customers.

We have built and deployed training and development programs including: Six Sigma, career enrichment tracks and an intern program with the intent of empowering our employees to create solutions for their roles. The Six Sigma training is now a daily part of our work. Every team member receives yellow belt training and with the training, each member must identify and complete an improvement project. In 2019, we had 17 yellow belts certified completing approximately 24 projects with more than $2 million in direct expense reduction.

With improvements in process and service during the past two years, we have taken on additional customers and increased our spend oversight and impact to the organization by more than 20%. Without our valuable team, we would not be able to take on this effort.

The intern program has helped us connect with local colleges and bring in up-and-coming supply chain talent. Our career ladders start at the intern level to create a full trajectory for promotions. We have been able to obtain talent through the intern program transitioning into full-time employment. Through these programs we work to ensure our employees feel empowered to make decisions when they can and not hesitate to ask questions when necessary. We have worked to foster a culture where individuals can fail quickly and safely. Employees grow from all mistakes. This approach to learning and development has helped us create a high-performing and healthy environment for all employees.


JHC: During your career, did you have an “aha” moment as it relates to the importance of talent development for a team and organization?

Davis: Early in my career, I was fortunate to have mentors and leaders who took the time with me to discuss my personal and professional development. One of the more memorable experiences early on in my career that helped to shape my perspective on talent was a system-level process improvement portfolio. One of the projects had stalled and the leaders of the group were at odds with each other. One of the team members who was the only non-leadership position on the team took it upon himself to realign the team, focus the group, and create accountability for the project. Seeing this example of informal leadership, drive and initiative really helped to shift my thought process on leadership, behaviors and how to engage the right kind of talent on a team. I learned to focus on leadership as a behavior for all employees, not just employees who are formally titled as leaders.  


JHC: What goes into selecting the best members for a high-performing supply chain team? What are you looking for?

Davis: Our entire focus during a recruitment cycle is to identify talented people who will bring a new and diverse perspective to our team. We have sourced employees from various industries, each bringing different backgrounds and expertise. We like to see continuity of job experience and a track record of success. In addition to experience, we place a strong emphasis on trying to bring in new talent from college. Two years ago, we started to build relationships with local universities to develop our internship program and increase our talent pool. During the fall semester, we visit various universities to give informational presentations about UHS and working in the healthcare industry as a supply chain professional. Since the inception of our program, we have had two cohorts of interns, leading to job offers and employment with our team. We have already completed recruitment for our third cohort of interns for summer 2020.

When looking for candidates, we strive to diversify our team with individuals of all levels of experience and backgrounds. When selecting new team members, we are looking for individuals who are driven, emotionally intelligent, team oriented and innovative. We often collaborate with internal and external customers, making these characteristics crucial for individuals to be successful in supply chain. Emotional intelligence is necessary as it shows they can monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to distinguish between different reactions and label them appropriately, and to use information to guide thinking and behavior. If an individual can develop their emotional intelligence, it will help them be successful.


JHC: How do you develop the talent in your organization?

Davis: Our corporate human resources team develops talent in our organization by offering “m3 for emerging leaders,” a course designed for employees with strong leadership skills without direct reports who often interact with all levels of management. This program focuses on accountability, managing conflict, communication, change management and overall professional development. Employees are also encouraged to complete Individual Development Plans to assist them in taking charge of their professional development.        

UHS has also created a new program dedicated toward enhancing employee experience, known as Team C.A.R.E. (Connecting, Attracting, Retaining, Engaging). The various committees (Health & Wellness, Career Enrichment and Social & Community) that fall under Team C.A.R.E. are comprised of top employee volunteers. Since the inception of Team C.A.R.E., hundreds of corporate employees have participated in the various events further fostering the relationships that individuals have developed.

We develop our talent within the supply chain in several ways. We have created various levels of development groups based on years in the workforce, including: a new employee group dedicated to employees who have been in the workforce for less than three years, a leadership development group for those in managerial positions and an ongoing career enrichment group that will be launched this year. These development groups focus on building and growing employees not just professionally, but also personally. At UHS, we see development as an ongoing partnership between employees and managers. Development is a continuous journey with milestone goals and should be a constant evolution. 

We have also placed great emphasis on process improvement, which focuses on guiding principles, methods and sound project management. The principles include the following:

  • Put customers first.Customers are at the center of what we do. We define value through the eyes of the customers and respond to their needs and wants as balanced with the voice of the business.
  • Be inclusive.The people in the process must change their work and they must work together.
  • Make problems visible and solve them.We make problems visible through metrics and visual signals and provide the support systems to solve problems quickly, collaboratively and for root cause.
  • Strengthen process stability and flexibility.We seek to be predictable and responsive by defining simple, standard processes. We see all work as a process.
  • Optimize the value stream.Building on our stability, we connect our material, information streams and expertise to create flow.
  • Develop people.People are our best assets, so they must be engaged and developed. We focus on the development of people as problem solvers in all levels of the organization.

UHS Supply Chain uses a holistic and agile approach to process improvement. We use Lean, Project Management, Six Sigma and Change Management to deliver effective and efficient processes. These efforts are in the framework of projects or embedded in our daily work. 


JHC: How has your investment in your supply chain team paid off?

Davis: Our investment in the supply chain team has paid off greatly. We have established detailed career ladders starting at the intern level so everyone knows exactly where he or she can advance. It includes two tracks: one for management and one for individual contributors. The ladders also include the base criteria of what an individual needs to accomplish prior to being promoted to the next position. This has proved very beneficial, as it allows us to be transparent with employees, so they understand promotions are not just based on longevity but on the quality and quantity of effort. 

From our lean Six Sigma program, we have completed several projects that have resulted in waste elimination, program development and overall savings. Projects ranged from reducing non-contract spend, creating a request for proposal submission site, detailing out contract terms and conditions guidelines, and creating procedures for the supply chain internship program. The success of the yellow belt program has led us to establish a green belt program. By the end of 2020, every employee will have at least one yellow belt project completed and a smaller select group will be working toward their green belt certification.   

We have also provided contract training, which includes how to review a contract and tips for negotiations for the entire supply chain department to ensure everyone is aware of the process and feels confident making decisions.    


JHC: What are new skills supply chain leaders will need to develop in the next five to 10 years?

Davis: Increased focus on emotional intelligence, developing mentoring programs, succession planning and ensuring that employees have access to challenging opportunities to learn and grow. Establishing mentoring programs are essential because they contribute to the development of a better-trained and engaged workforce. They help develop relationships, identify skills that need improvement and can lead to increased job satisfaction as it shows the organization is willing to invest in its employees. Mentoring also helps individuals navigate their careers. 

Succession planning is also important to develop a focused process for keeping talent in the organization. If employees can clearly see their trajectory, it helps them to properly manage their development and career path. Providing access to opportunities outside normal job descriptions is crucial as well. All levels of employees should be given opportunities to expand their knowledge regardless of job title. This allows employees to think outside of the box and really challenge themselves to see what they can do.

Universal Health Services at a glance

One of the nation’s largest and most respected providers of hospital and healthcare services, Universal Health Services (UHS), Inc. has built an impressive record of achievement and performance. UHS has served its communities for more than 40 years and cares for about 2.6 million patients each year.

Headquartered in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, UHS has more than 87,000 employees and through its subsidiaries operates 26 acute care hospitals, 327 behavioral health facilities, 40 outpatient facilities and ambulatory care access points, an insurance offering, a physician network and various related services across 37 states in the U.S., Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom.  In 2020, UHS again was recognized as one of the World’s Most Admired Companies by Fortune; in 2019, ranked #293 on the Fortune 500; and in 2017, listed #275 in Forbes inaugural ranking of America’s Top 500 Public Companies.

The corporate supply chain team consists of sourcing and contracting, purchasing, value analysis, food and nutrition, pharmacy, process improvement and data analytics.

“We have operations teams across all of our medical-surgical acute care facilities providing service for our patients and their loved ones,” said Raymond Davis, vice president, supply chain, UHS. “We are a centralized team providing support for all of our business segments including behavioral health, acute care, corporate and our physician practices.”