Human resources pro shares tips on how to keep diverse workers well—even in a pandemic

Submitted photo Dr. Tonya Jackman

Minneapolis native Dr. Tonya Jackman Hampton, senior vice president and chief people and cultural officer, joined Hennepin Healthcare just over a year ago amidst the pandemic. Recently named one of the Twin Cities’ 100 people to know in 2022, Dr. Hampton (TJH) shared with the MSR her perspective on how her role and the organization continue to navigate the challenges facing their 7,000+ employees.     

MSR: Congratulations on your most recent award. Was this position a new role at Hennepin Healthcare, and how is it positioned differently than a typical Chief Human Resources Officer? 

TJH: The role existed as a Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) before I was hired. In my role, I am responsible for the transitional human resource-related work—talent acquisition, benefits, payroll, compensation, employee and labor relations, organization development and design, health and well-being, recognition and engagement, and employee support handling quick yet sometimes life-changing questions for employees. 

We renamed the role to align with the market shift for the CHRO role as the market is evolving to establish Chief People Officer titles to emphasize that employees are not resources. We added culture to highlight that the strength of our culture is as important as our 7,000 employees. 

The culture we create has to be diverse and inclusive, and we’re taking time to implement strategies to further create a highly engaged workforce and world-class culture of inclusion, equity, and belonging. We’re taking the extra effort to provide an excellent employee experience at Hennepin Healthcare where every one of us feels like we’re #HereTogether. 

When it feels like our employer is here, cares and we’re valued—especially as health care team members and providers—this enables us to focus more on the needs of our patients and community, ensuring they have access to equitable care. 

Furthermore, we have a Chief Health Equity Officer (CHEO) role at Hennepin Healthcare. Together, my role and the CHEO are responsible for ensuring we have a focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and health equity across our care system. This means creating a diverse, inclusive and equitable work environment for the people in our organization and health equity for the patients in the community. 

MSR: You mentioned one of your main priorities was bringing more strategic focus on diversity, inclusion and engagement to Hennepin Healthcare’s workplace. What type of progress are you seeing in this important area?

TJH: We have a workforce that is over 35% diverse. We have one of the most diverse executive teams in the Twin Cities, and the progress we’re seeing includes making more diverse hires. We do need to continue to work hard to engage and retain all our employees as turnover is rising in healthcare. 

We’ve been able to increase our employee engagement scores since 2019. This year we will see, as the pandemic has taken a toll on our employees’ engagement. Thus, we will continue to mainly focus on diversity, inclusion, engagement and employee wellness.  

MSR: Are there any personal experiences that have helped guide big decisions during your first year at Hennepin Healthcare?

TJH: Shortly before I started my new role, I learned I had breast cancer. Two years before that, I lost my mother to cancer. These, in addition to the pandemic, are the most profound personal experiences I’ve had. 

Both directed me to make every effort to put my own oxygen mask on first. This gives me the strength to support other people in my personal and professional community. 

One way I do this is I run nearly every day. This past year, I took up yoga. On the days I don’t run, I do yoga or walking. I also reflect often, considering what can I do to make things better or do things differently, and how can I help someone or the organization achieve its goals, professionally or personally. 

Sometimes this intention requires me to make hard decisions, which includes deciding when to get up in the morning to exercise, when to tell someone no, and when to make a change at work so that the whole team can succeed. 

Another personal experience in my life stems from a legacy of individuals who supported the community. This newspaper’s founders, Cecil E. Newman and Launa Q. Newman, were my grandparents. My father Wallace Jackman was the co-publisher and constantly, even today, connects people in the community. 

Mom was a banking professional and certified personal care assistant, and my maternal grandmother was a school teacher—just to name a few. These individuals taught me how important it is to be Black and to do good things that uplift other Black people and the entire community. 

MSR: The pandemic continues to put tremendous strain on our healthcare system, particularly medical staff. Have you implemented any new programs to support employee wellness? And how can the community play a role in this? 

TJH: We just received a $1.5 million grant to focus on employee wellness! This will help us build our more strategies to focus on the wellbeing of our employees. As a public organization, having access to grant resources like this enables us to put in place programs that we wouldn’t otherwise have the means to do so. 

We have implemented holding town hall safe space conversations for our employees to share their wellness struggles. We then make sure they have the support. In 2020 and now, we’ve extended more through our wellness programs and resources, employee assistance program, and re-established our employee resource groups as ‘Collectives.’ These give employees a chance to connect with people who self-identify with some affinity or dimension of diversity, and leaders are connecting more with employee leader connections and team huddles. 

MSR: What “one thing” would you like to share with the local community about Hennepin Healthcare that may not be as understood?

TJH: We care about you! We want to take care of all your healthcare needs—clinical and trauma-related. We’re building a new corporate campus. We’re engaging the community and our employees in this work, and we’re going to be using these ideas to build a healthcare system that is #HereTogether for you, our employees and community. 

Those interested in learning more about Dr. Hampton’s experience can connect on LinkedIn.