Chiro One Wellness Centers’ chief human resources officer, Nancy Alonso, says it was an unexpected opportunity by way of her background in human resources that led her into health care, but in many ways her career in HR was the result of a bit of good fortune as well. Alonso went to college with the goal of being an industrial psychologist. It was a career she settled on as a child, but when her college offered her an internship doing high-volume recruiting during the holidays, she realized that not only was she good at attracting talent, but she thoroughly enjoyed it. After holding positions as vice president of human resources at both NeuroSource and Vista Health Systems, Alonso found her way to Chiro One, the nation’s fastest-growing chiropractic physician’s group. Here, the HR professional shares four initiatives that have resulted in major success for Chiro One Wellness Centers.
Up Close & Personal
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be an industrial psychologist! When I was 12 or 13 years old my dad brought home a book on the subject and the idea that you could do things to make employees more productive was very interesting to me. I thought the book was the coolest thing.
Where are your parents from and where did you grow up? My parents are from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, but I grew up in Chicago.
What is your favorite thing to do with your free time? I’m a big movie buff and I love reading. I also spend a lot of time supporting Loyola, volunteering, and serving on their Latino alumni board.
What is your favorite vacation spot? Monterrey and Paris—and I don’t get to visit either one enough.
One of the first things Alonso did when she joined Chiro One in May of 2012 was restructure the organization’s talent acquisition department. “We were bringing people into the organization, but we weren’t making sure they were a good fit for us,” Alonso says. Part of the problem was the organization’s monumental growth. In 2006, Chiro One Wellness Centers had seven locations. By 2012, it had 78 and in 2013 the organization plans on adding 40 additional offices to the list. “We were growing so quickly that some of our support functions weren’t keeping up,” the chief HR officer says. As a result, she and her team redesigned the organization’s selection process, taking special care to identify behavioral traits that make potential employees more apt to be successful in the organization.
Making Chiro One the Best Place to Work
Alonso has spent a lot of time on the chiropractic group’s culture, defining it, upholding it, and ensuring that the organization is a great place for people to work. She and her team developed seven standards of excellence, the first of which is wellness through education. “The goal is to create a happy, healthy environment so that people can make the right choices about their health,” Alonso says.
Part of creating a healthy, happy environment includes offering free chiropractic services to all employees and their family members, which is Chiro One’s second standard of excellence. Number three places an emphasis on lifelong learning, which requires that Alonso and her team help employees continue their educations, in whatever shape they take, while also offering employees access to seminars, training sessions, and other educational activities.
Rounding out Alonso’s standards of excellence are clear communication, great customer service, appearance—which requires that all clinics look the same—and ownership. “Ownership thinking empowers the employees to treat the business as if it’s their own,” Alonso says. “Once you take ownership of something you feel responsible for it and you want to uphold the standards.”
Right off the bat Chiro One Wellness Centers’ employees have it better than 99 percent of the workforce, especially in health care—and that’s because those who work in the organization’s clinics only have a four-day workweek. “In health care it’s very hard to maintain work/life balance because so many are working double shifts six days in a row,” Alonso says. “We’re trying to put systems in place that provide our employees with work/life balance.”
Not only do clinic employees have a limited workweek, but each afternoon clinics also shut down for three hours. From the hours of 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., clinic staff members can have lunch with their kids, spend time with their families, nap, or do whatever else their heart desires. “What we’re doing is really different than other health-care organizations and even very different from corporate America,” Alonso says. “Working for us comes with a lot of perks.”
Rethinking the salary structure
Chiro One hires a team of individuals for its customer-engagement team, which goes into local communities to educate the public about chiropractic services. The compensation being offered when Alonso first joined the organization wasn’t attracting quality team members so, in late February, Alonso and her team relaunched the program, offering a more competitive salary. “We’re looking for individuals truly interested in wellness,” Alonso says. “We want people who want to be part of a dynamic company and I think that’s who we’ll attract because of these adjustments.”