European Union of Private Hospitals

EPHA awards finalist 2022 – Workplace excellence – EKH Vienna

“We are colorful – Diversity Gives us Strength

Evangelisches Krankenhaus Wien Gemeinnüzige Betriebs GmbH, Austria

Our project “We are colorful – Diversity Gives us Strength” was first contemplated on account of the increasing number of verbal hostilities and derogatory behavior towards members of the hospital staff with a different ethnic background, culture, and/or complexion. However, it ought to be emphasized, that the question of diversity had never been an issue within the teams, but impacted from outside sources.

In mid-2019 the decision to implement effective counter-measures against discrimination and marginalization was taken by the hospital´s committed medical director in collaboration with the pastor Dr. Leuthold as well as the marketing team who all felt strongly opposed to this unfortunate development.

The campaign „We Are Colorful – Diversity gives us Strength “, aimed at treating everybody equally respectfully regardless of profession, confession, origin, gender, sexual orientation, or physical challenge. The objective was not only to develop and strengthen a sense of belonging and the corporate identity due to common features within the teams but also to enhance vast interaction and mutual support between them. At the end of the day, it is exactly this conglomeration of characteristics, this very diversity that contributes to the hospital´s success and makes us stronger! Without our valuable collaborators, we would not be able to do our job.

Our goal was to convey exactly this powerful message to the public!

We are immensely proud to say that we have achieved this goal with flying colors! Due to the emotional component involved, the result of the campaign can hardly be measured in figures. But the feedback was simply overwhelming. Everybody – patients, staff members as well as management – was eager to be part of this unique project and have a share in spreading the message that the hospital is not only successful despite its diversity, but mainly because of it!

Cheerful, laughing faces – no matter which color – contribute not only significantly to a pleasant atmosphere, but also play a key role in the healing process of patients – which represents our highest priority – in line with our mission statement that reads “We want to serve and help people – Get well in pleasant surroundings.” These values are not just mere lip-service but express our firm belief that every employee makes an indispensable contribution to the functioning of the entire hospital – a vital part of the whole.

In the first phase, the project team started launching the initiative using articles on the intranet, to draw the employees´ attention to the issue in question, sensitizing and motivating them to take participate. In addition, collaborators with different ethnic backgrounds and physical challenges were addressed and invited to share their experiences in one-to-one meetings. The outcome of these interviews was summarized in 50 statements, in combination with both life-size portraits and the respective flags of their countries of origin to be presented in the form of an exhibition in the foyer, the staircases, and the halls of the hospital.

The radiance of smiling faces proved to lead to a lot of empathy – resulting in emotional statements such as “You cannot help but feel the urge to support and a warmth of kindness”.

In the second phase five short videos for produced not only on our homepage but also for different social media, in order to demonstrate the enthusiasm of the people involved even more and communicate its captivating effect to the outside world.

The initiative, comprising the poster campaign as well the videos, was conveyed via all communication channels available (social media, homepage, patient-TV, internal announcements, intranet, and repeatedly to the numerous readers of our print- and digital newsletters).

The third phase was devoted to the creation of a job platform referred to as “We are Colorful – Diversity gives us Strength”. By doing so, we wanted to emphasize the values of the Evangelical Hospital, as laid down in our mission statement, so that applicants were made aware of them when applying for job openings. In phase 4 a survey was developed to get feedback concerning perception and acceptance of the initiative.

The 120th anniversary of the Evangelical Hospital gave rise to phase 5, which was characterized by the motto “Tradition Meets Color”. The idea behind was to present the connecting red ribbon between our tradition and our colorful team. After all, the pioneers of the Evangelical Hospital were female (deacons) and predominantly of German descent. Already 120 years ago our slogan “We are colorful – Diversity Gives us Strength” would have been fully approved by the clerical staff because it embraces minorities.

The targeted issue and employee population universe covered

The Evangelical Hospital feels connected to and responsible for all 650 employees belonging to over 25 nations. To express this appreciation, in mid-2019 the idea was born to lend even more emphasis to the good relations between the different occupational groups independent of their religious affiliation, origin, or special characteristics and send out a signal affirming this point of view. Racist/derogatory rhetoric or attitudes, no matter if coming from patients or guest physicians, are most unwelcome in our hospital.

The targeted issue was not only directed at outside sources but our patients’ attention was also drawn to the campaign, aiming at sensitizing them to the issue as well.  From the very beginning, we had been aware of the fact that we would have to tackle all aspects of the issue in a subtle, positive manner, without a raised forefinger – which gained us high approval.

We made a strong statement, yet in a subtle way. We have sent out a signal, raised awareness, and taken a stand against discrimination.

This approach scored also high with our patients as their feedback proves. We firmly believe that employees who experience appreciation reinforce higher self-confidence and take greater pleasure in their work. They are thus in a much better position to transfer this pleasant atmosphere also to the patients. This, in turn, contributes to well-being and a speedier recovery – again one of the pillars of our mission statement and USP (unique selling proposition)

Categories of professionals/entities involved in the initiative development

The good and close collaboration between different professionals/entities of the Evangelical Hospital was crucial for the success of our initiative. Under the auspices of the marketing department and in close cooperation with Management, Administrative Directorate, Directorate of Medical and Nursing Care as well as Feedback Management, the framework for this project was implemented.

In addition, employees from nursing, doctors, surgery, ambulance, physical therapy, housekeeping, kitchen, Cafeteria, Counselling, and administration were happy to participate in the initiative temporarily.

In total, 60 employees participated directly in the initiative “We are colorful. Diversity gives us Strength”, with 52 (38% males, 62%females) being directly involved in the film and photo shooting. The distribution concerning entities was as follows: Nursing 6, Doctors 9, Surgery 5, Physical Therapy 4, Ambulance 1, Housekeeping 11, Kitchen 2, Cafeteria 2, Counselling 1 (evangelical pastor), different fields of administration 12.

Of equal importance were numerous employees who, due to their assistance and consideration on the filming days, contributed to the success of the initiative in a more indirect way. The involvement of such a vast variety of professional and hierarchy groups demonstrated not only the support and acceptance but also the appreciation of the initiative.

The benefits for the healthcare organization

It ought to be a matter of course to not only disapprove racism and discrimination of people with different ethnicities, traditions, color or skin, or religious affiliations but to counteract actively.

A hospital is typically a place where many occupational groups from all over the world work together. The interaction of these groups and individual people characterized by diversity represents a strong enrichment.

At the Evangelical Hospital, 650 collaborators belonging to over 25 nations are employed, mirroring the status in health care facilities all over Europe. As a result, the initiative “We are colorful – Diversity Gives us Strength” could act as an example for other establishments aiming at creating an improved social environment.

By involving the employees and the different hierarchy levels, the project was quickly communicated and supported in our hospital leading to better working relationships as well as to stronger cohesion and team spirit. The project has strengthened the employees’ identification with the Evangelical Hospital, promoting a good working atmosphere which in consequence, improves the workflow. Patients feel well taken care of by being in the best hands – which in turn plays a major role in the healing process. All these positive experiences by patients and employees respectively are of course passed on by word of mouth, leading to an enhanced corporate identity.

The most important resulting advantages of the initiative for the Evangelical Hospital are the following:

  • Improvement and consolidation of mutual understanding of employees of different cultures, genders, religions, and special physical/mental characteristics
  • Improvement and consolidation of mutual understanding of employees belonging to different groups
  • Current improvement and consolidation of understanding as well as acceptance on the part of patients towards employees of different nationalities
  • Achievement of media attention
  • Recognition of this initiative by the religious communities in Austria
  • Setting an example not merely in healthcare in order to improve and consolidate understanding and accepting persons with a different background

The benefits for the patients

The initiative” We are colorful – Diversity gives us Strength” with its positive statements from collaborators from all walks of life has succeeded in conveying the message that racism and discrimination do not stand a chance at our hospital. This message is not only written down in our Mission Statement, but we firmly adhere to it in our daily work.

  • …all our efforts center around the holistic care of individuals who are ill and need care based on Christian values…
  • Active love of others in caring for the personal fate of patients as well as employees.
  • The Evangelical Hospital is open for all persons, regardless of origin, gender, skin color, or religious affiliation.

These values embedded in our Mission are intensely conveyed inwards and outwards, equally addressing all patients who have experienced discrimination on account of their skin color, race, nationality, or physical challenge. Thanks to this initiative these patients feel especially understood and accepted and are more than happy to share their positive experience and communicate it to others facing a similar challenge.

Last, but not least, patients benefit from the pleasant and productive working environment which was strengthened through this initiative. The patients feel fine and well taken care of which has a positive impact on the best possible recovery.

The benefits for the employee

Through this initiative collaborators belonging to different cultures or religious affiliations or are physically/mentally challenged experience a boost in self-confidence and a positive change in self-perception.

By involving the employees and different hierarchy levels, the project was quickly communicated and supported, helping to develop a “We-Feeling” across the complete staff and all entities, demonstrating that his/her personal contribution is of utter importance and a necessary part of the whole. This has led to improved collaboration as well as strengthened solidarity.

The initiative has strengthened the employees’ identification with the Evangelical Hospital, promoting a good working atmosphere which, in consequence, improves the workflow. This helps to diminish the number of complaints by the patients, which, on the other hand, exerts a positive impact on the staff.

Their well-being is increased, they take great pleasure and pride in their work – which enhances their physical and mental health. The role model status of our hospital “to improve and consolidate the understanding for people of different nationalities” did not go unnoticed by the media and triggered quite some attention. That leaves a positive, progressive, and motivating impression on future applicants.

The most important advantages for staff members are above all:

  • Improvement and consolidation of mutual understanding of employees belonging to different groups
  • Current improvement and consolidation of understanding as well as acceptance on the part of patients towards employees of different nationalities
  • Improved working atmosphere, strengthened solidarity and collaboration of the different staff members