Baylor SVP and CHRO Keith Holtz encourages happy, healthy staff members and develops innovative programs to help them succeed.
By Kara Lawton
If Keith Holtz hired the entire population of the Midwest town he grew up in, he would only have half of the 20,000 people needed to run Baylor Health Care System. Baylor, where Holtz has been Senior Vice President (SVP), Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) since December 2008, is Dallas/Fort Worth’s third largest private employer—and not exactly where the executive thought he would end up.
Accounting Opens the Doors to HR
Holtz attended St. Cloud State University, which is about 52 miles north of his hometown Hutchinson, Minnesota, with the intention of becoming an accountant. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and became a Certified Public Accountant. After working in internal audit and accounting for Target, he made the move to Payless Shoe Source, who wanted someone with an accounting background to work as a functional controller in HR.
The new position allowed Holtz to take on special projects, including leading the HR for Payless’ largest acquisition to date. “It gave me the opportunity to get a little better view of the HR function, how it works with operations and other parts of the company,” Holtz said. “What I liked about it is it was broader in scope than what I had been doing on the accounting side, and that appealed to me.”
Later, when Payless started a Compensation Department, Holtz had the choice to go back into accounting or assume a purely HR role. It was a decisive moment that has led to a 25-plus year career in HR leadership for companies such as Michaels Arts and Crafts, Blockbuster and Baylor.
Keeping 20,000 Employees Happy
Holtz finds that the health care industry offers significant potential for growing professionally and having a positive impact on people’s lives. The latter is something he knows firsthand; his wife, Cindy, is a breast cancer survivor who received treatment at Baylor.
“She had a great experience prior to me working here,” Holtz said. “There are so many people here who really want to help other people get well and are so dedicated.”
In everything from the hiring process to training and development to compensation and benefits, Holtz is equally dedicated to improving the workplace and making sure Baylor employees live healthy, happy lives. Under his leadership, the organization’s retention rate is approximately 90 percent—above the median for the health care industry—and in the top quartile for first-year retention.
Much of Baylor’s HR success undoubtedly stems from Holtz’s commitment to developing programs that support the organization’s priorities and needs, and position it as a role model for health in the community. Chief among them are:
- A wellness program called Thrive that is also being offered to local businesses;
- A two-day companywide orientation that the CEO usually attends;
- A performance management program that gives people in the organization the ability to see everyone else’s goals;
- An executive leadership development program; and
- A service recognition program.
Holtz is especially proud of the service excellence awards program, a nomination process that recognizes 15 to 20 people per quarter with a formal reception hosted by the CEO. In front of their families and supervisors, employees are individually recognized for their unique contributions to Baylor, and they receive a $3,000 check and a service pin.
The Best Belong at Baylor
“We always say ‘the best belong at Baylor,’ and that’s really true,” Holtz said. “The people in our hospitals go above and beyond the call of duty to make it the best experience it can be under the circumstances.”
With 250,000-plus applicants per year and Holtz leading the search, patient satisfaction and quality of care at Baylor are poised only to improve as HR focuses on finding the right employees, setting them up for professional and personal success, and keeping them in the organization.
Kara Lawton is a freelance writer based out of Boston, Mass.
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