NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital puts patients first. But according to Stacie Williams, the organization has taken a somewhat unique approach: prioritizing the needs of NewYork-Presbyterian’s employees as well. As vice president of human resources, Williams makes it her daily goal to ensure that the organization is not only addressing employees’ needs but also truly caring for them as individuals.
Today, Williams wouldn’t change anything about her career in human resources. But it didn’t start out that way—no one grows up wanting to work in HR, she points out.
“I really just fell into it one summer because of a friend who needed help with some filing work. I was making $10 an hour right out of high school and thought I had hit the jackpot,” Williams recalls with a laugh. “But I eventually got hired on permanently and decided to take classes at night for an HR degree.”
It took Williams eight years to complete her bachelor’s. Sometimes she would take five classes, and sometimes she would only be able to take one or two. “But no matter what, I never stopped,” she emphasizes. “Those eight years would have passed regardless, but this way, I at least had a degree at the end of it all.”
But, as Williams notes, the importance of learning extends far beyond the classroom. “I’ve always been the type of person who likes to figure things out,” she says. “Early in my career, I’d go and help out other departments in HR, even if it wasn’t my job, because I wanted to understand and learn more.
“I’ve never actually applied to any of the positions I’ve been promoted to,” Williams adds. “And it’s because people have recommended me after seeing my work, my passion, and the value I brought to the organization.”
“I am in a profession that has been historically dominated by white men, but I always feel valued here just as I am.”
And in October 2002, Williams’s exploration of the HR world brought her to NewYork-Presbyterian, a nationally ranked nonprofit medical center serving the broader New York area. As an HR manager, she was tasked with serving as a liaison between the organization and its related labor unions.
“It was an eye-opening experience,” Williams says of her initial days at the medical center. “It was a pretty difficult environment at that time. But now we have a much better working relationship with the unions.”
“When our new CEO took over the helm several years ago, we increased our focus on our employees,” she says. “Before, we were focusing solely on our patients. Now, we focus on our employees as well as our patients, and that has led to some really incredible results.”
The premise of this new cultural model is very straightforward, Williams says—it’s the simple idea that “everyone matters.”
“It’s about respect,” the VP says, “employees respecting each other, leaders respecting their staff and their teams. We call it our respect credo—it gives people an idea of what respect looks like, what respect means to different people, and what respect doesn’t look like.”
And in the several years since that respect credo was implemented, NewYork-Presbyterian has built significantly on that foundation, Williams says. “Everyone matters here, and everyone belongs here, too,” she emphasizes. “We of course want people to feel included, but they also have to feel like they belong here.”
“It’s only when you are your best self that you can provide truly exceptional care.”
NewYork-Presbyterian has rolled out an array of programs aimed at making diversity, inclusion, and belonging an organizational priority, Williams says, including a Cultural Diversity Week initiative and a series of panel events called Dialogues in Diversity.
“Basically, a group of employees gets together and speaks about their particular experiences, whether it’s their experience coming into the workforce as a veteran or their experience transitioning genders while working at the organization,” Williams says of the panel events. “Dialogue is everything—it’s how we learn from each other.”
At the end of the day, Williams says, NewYork-Presbyterian just wants everyone at the organization to feel like they can be themselves at work.
“I actually shaved my hair a while back,” Williams says, laughing. “I would never have done that when I first came here, but now I feel so comfortable working here. I am in a profession that has been historically dominated by white men, but I always feel valued here just as I am.”
And that is really the purpose for all of these efforts. “We want to create the best possible atmosphere for our employees so that they can be the best versions of themselves,” she says. “It’s only when you are your best self that you can provide truly exceptional care.