Bonnie Windsor: People Person

Published in Dome - December 2015

Eighteen Johns Hopkins human resources leaders, gathered for their quarterly leadership meeting, are waiting for updates on the institution’s electronic performance evaluations, wellness efforts and retirement benefits. All eyes fix on Bonnie Windsor, senior vice president of human resources for Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Health System. The self-assured woman in her classic blazer and understated jewelry flashes an easy smile.

“Did everyone have time to read the minutes from the last meeting?” she asks. “Everybody good?”

For the next two hours, lively discussion follows on such topics as how to persuade employees to get flu shots, understanding new benefit changes, and why every staff member must complete mandatory discrimination and harassment training.

Windsor’s 33rd Street office in the old Eastern High School building hosts many high-level human resources management briefings. The senior HR executive also visits Johns Hopkins member organizations—from Howard County to the United Arab Emirates— to build relationships, educate and troubleshoot whenever complicated HR issues arise. As an accountable leader of the Johns Hopkins Medicine Strategic Plan’s people priority—“to attract, engage, develop and retain the world’s best people”—the 30-year Johns Hopkins veteran appears to have embraced her new role.

“I enjoy spending time with employees,” says Windsor, a northern Virginia native who started her career as a Johns Hopkins Hospital pediatric intensive care nurse. “We need to make sure HR is supporting a culture that champions diversity, inclusion and civility.”

Her job requires ensuring that more than 41,000 employees in every position across the Johns Hopkins enterprise understand the intricacies of the institution’s initiatives and benefits. She says her approach boils down to “engaging, retaining, recruiting and developing people who provide—directly or indirectly— the highest quality of care for patients.”

Windsor has built an unusual career in health care. She became a nurse in 1976 and was hired in 1977 as a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) nurse. She steadily advanced, becoming an associate director in pediatrics. Concurrently, Windsor earned a master’s degree in management from The Johns Hopkins University. After moving out of state for several years, she was recruited back to create and oversee Intrastaff, Johns Hopkins’ temporary staffing agency. She became Intrastaff’s director in 1990, eventually also leading career services in human resources. In 2004, she was named senior director of human resources for Johns Hopkins Medicine and was promoted to her current position two years ago.

Human resources leaders across the enterprise say Windsor’s success derives from an evenhanded management style. They use phrases like “always fair,” “approachable,” “thoughtful” and “unflappable.” Those qualities, they say, have gone a long way to ease the inevitable tensions that crop up whenever a policy, such as overtime compensation, needs to be changed. 

 “First and foremost, Bonnie loves people and knows what it’s like to be an employee on the front lines of a hospital,” says her predecessor, Pamela Paulk, now president of Johns Hopkins Medicine International. Along the way, adds Paulk, she’s built strong relationships with employees and leaders.

Several colleagues note Windsor’s calm, even voice, perhaps honed from years of working in clinical crisis mode. Claire Beers, nurse manager of The Johns Hopkins Hospital’s PICU, worked alongside Windsor in the 1970s. “Bonnie has always been a consensus builder, a wonderful listener who wants the best for whomever she’s interacting with,” says Beers. “She’s competent, attentive and always professional—the kind of person you’d want taking care of your child.”

Windsor makes a point of going deep into departments regularly to see the workforce in action. She affectionately calls these jaunts across the enterprise her “rounds.” She says she wants people to be more willing to speak out about problems, like patient safety or ways to work more efficiently. “What’s important,” she says, “is that employees feel comfortable sharing their experiences and feel that people are listening to their concerns.”

Currently, Windsor is focused on rewarding employees with healthy lifestyles. She’s working with Johns Hopkins HealthCare’s medical director, Richard Safeer to assess whether Johns Hopkins Medicine entities are using evidence-based strategies and interventions to prevent chronic diseases in employees, as well as working toward tobacco-free campuses.

She champions a more centralized, unified approach to retention and recruitment, “moving beyond the silo mentality,” while paying closer attention to diversity and making compensation/benefit packages more competitive. She says human resources is partnering with nursing to find solutions in support for a potential nursing shortage as more R.N.s near retirement.

“What I love about my job,” she says, “is that every day, I have the opportunity to work with employees who are hard-working, loyal and very caring.”