Defining Core Values

New definitions will play a role in job evaluations, patient experience.

Published in Dome - April 2015

Johns Hopkins Medicine’s core values—excellence and discovery, leadership and integrity, diversity and inclusion, and respect and collegiality—are no longer concepts left open to employees’ interpretations.

Thanks to a retreat where representatives from across the institution were charged with defining the core values so that staff members, regardless of their role, could easily understand what behaviors were expected of them, the four pairs of values are now accompanied by two-sentence descriptions that begin with simple, inspirational phases: “Be the best,” “be a role model,” “be open” and “be kind.”

“This will help the organization move in one direction,” says Ruth Mitchell, a human resources organizational development consultant who helped facilitate the retreat. And as Johns Hopkins Medicine progresses through its five-year Strategic Plan, the defined core values will play an even more essential role in guiding employees’ attitudes and actions.

Over the next two years, as part of their annual reviews, Johns Hopkins Medicine employees will be evaluated on how well their job performance exemplifies the institution’s core values. For example, when being evaluated on leadership and integrity, an employee who “interrupts customers, does not respond and demeans” may earn an unsatisfactory rating, while one who “actively listens and takes personal accountability, advocates for system change” may earn a rating of outstanding.

In addition, the core values will become the standards of excellence as the health system transforms the culture of delivering patient- and family-centered care to one that creates a “five-star” experience for our patients, says Lisa Allen, chief patient experience officer for Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Mitchell, who has been tasked with helping teams fulfill the core values, says the definitions will create a universal set of expectations and guidance. “As I would ask managers and employees what the core values meant, some didn’t understand, and some had different interpretations. We were not in sync,” she says. 

She cited the diversity and inclusion value as an example. “When we think of diversity, it doesn’t just mean race and gender; it means ideas, values, personalities and so many different things,” Mitchell says. “By defining the core values, we have a broader understanding about what they mean to the organization, not just to an individual.”