By Kevin Mull, Vice President, Operations
After a five-year stint as a full-service cook in the U.S. Navy, Tracey Mcmiller joined Morrison in 2009. He started as a grill cook, whipping up 600 portions of starches, vegetables and soups each day. But he knew he had the potential to rise from an hourly associate into a top management job. Thanks to a unique agreement between Morrison and the Sentara Healthcare system, that’s exactly what’s happened.
During the past 10 years, Tracey has methodically been promoted as part of a long-term plan, while receiving numerous training opportunities and getting his bachelor’s degree. He’s worked as a sous chef, an executive chef, then an associate director. And, earlier this year, he was named the director at Sentara Obici Hospital, a 168-bed, full-service hospital in Suffolk, Virginia.
Through an informal program started four years ago with Sentara, coupled with Morrison’s training and development programs, Tracey is one of several people that started in Morrison hourly positions and are now working as managers. The relationship is so strong that 22 people have been promoted, internal to the system, including eight former Sentara associates. The agreement between our two organizations has had a significant impact on the associates lives while building confidence in Morrison’s commitment with our client.
The incentive to begin identifying and promoting Morrison associates began in 2014 when we were renewing our contract with Sentara. Following a stint as director at Sentara Norfolk General, I took over at the Regional Director of Operations and put a plan in place. Within the first few months, we identified several Sentara supervisors for Morrison positions and set a goal to hire at least 60 percent of entry-level managers from Sentara before recruiting outside of the company.
Our actions had an immediate impact on our relationship with the hospital. By promoting their associates, we created a high level of stability within the hospitals. The new Morrison managers were familiar with the Sentara culture, the Morrison programs, and the teams they were leading.
“While there are plenty of growth opportunities at the hospital for any associate that wants a career in food service, the best move for them is to join the Morrison team,” says Catherine Hughes, executive director of support services, for Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital.
A great example is Ejay Roy, who began at Virginia Beach General as a catering associate. After two promotions within Sentara, he moved over to Morrison, where he’s now a patient service manager. “An associate’s growth might mean leaving Sentara,” says Samantha Kern, one of the directors at Sentara Princess Anne Hospital. “But we’re looking to do what’s best for the associate and our patients. Ejay had experience working with patients, retail and food preparation, and he knows how the hospital works. It’s a win-win.”
Game Changer for Associates
For hourly associates, the impact on their career growth and financial health has been life-changing. They have a career path, often because a supervisor recognized their potential, developed their management skills and gave them a chance to prove themselves.
Tracey Mcmiller is a textbook example of how the associate and the company benefit when people get the opportunities and training needed to succeed. Two years after working as an executive chef, Tracey approached me with an idea. He wanted to get his bachelor’s degree and continue working, but without the normal duties of an executive chef. We decided to move him to another facility where he could continue working while going to school, eventually setting him up for a job as an associate director.
While creating new career opportunities, we’ve also stemmed the turnover problem. One of the highlights of our presentation in quarterly business reviews with Sentara’s leadership team are the slides that highlight the reduction in turnover and the improvement in employee engagement. Our clients see value in our exchange of key people, especially those that were formerly supervisors at their facility, but now work at Morrison. They recognize the value it brings to the associate and the hospital.
Paying It Forward
I’ve derived a great deal of satisfaction in helping people advance their careers at Morrison – in many ways, I’m repaying the organization. I’ve worked for several leaders within the company that have provided me with opportunities to grow and prove my value. I’m always impressed by the amount of time and money our company spends on the development of our people and the emphasis on discussing our talent at all levels to ensure their career path always stays on the front burner.
Loyalty, unfortunately, has faded on both the employer and employee side to a large degree, but Morrison is different. I’m hoping all of our associates will take the initiative to speak with their managers and discuss the right career path for their future. Once you do, we’ll do everything we can to make you successful.