CEO Corner

How We Build a Strong Workforce

Originally published April 1, 2024

Last updated April 1, 2024

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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Diverse, happy health care providers walk down a hospital corridor.

Ekta Vyas, PhD, chief human resources officer of Keck Medicine of USC, discusses the importance of hiring and supporting a diverse staff.

Growing up in India, one of the most diverse nations in the world, I experienced several facets of cultural, linguistic, racial and religious diversity that have profound impacts on the political, economic and social standing of a nation. At a young age, I saw how crucial it is for all people to be offered equal treatment and opportunities.

I now live in Los Angeles, a rich blend of heritages and backgrounds that one study ranked as the 10th most diverse city in the United States.

My former and current homes make it all the more important to me that the Keck Medicine of USC workforce represents a broad mix of employees. And it does. In my two years here, I remain proud of our diversity. Within our workforce:

  • 82% are people of color
  • 35% speak a language other than English
  • 70% are women
  • Our employees represent five generations, from Gen Z to the Silent Generation

Not only do our employees represent our commitment to diversity, but they also reveal our strength as an organization. Our unique backgrounds expand each other’s world and make us more empathetic to each other, our patients and our communities.

Our differences also lay the foundation for building a respectful, culturally intelligent and  responsive work environment for all.

Our inclusiveness is witnessed through our recognition and celebration of unique backgrounds and traditions. These include flag raisings, events celebrating various cultural heritage days and months, such as Black History Month, PRIDE Month and Día de los Muertos, and community events for which Keck Medicine is a sponsor.

Our unique backgrounds also enrich each other’s daily life. For example, employees often form bonds by sharing their favorite movies, music, art and foods, with friendly debates over topics such as which is a better snack, Pocky sticks or pandesal with ube ice cream. 

Our eight employee resource groups (ERGs) celebrate diversity and provide staff with a sense of belonging. Our La Voz (Hispanic and Latinx) ERG starts off most days wishing each other a good morning in a Teams chat. And our Black Leaders and Colleagues at Keck Medicine ERG begins their monthly meetings with music, trivia and other activities to liven up the day and spread joy together.

We recognize the importance of hiring staff from different backgrounds to funnel new talent into the health system and support them in their careers with Keck Medicine. Our commitment to inclusivity is strengthened by our goals around diversity outreach and inclusive hiring practices.

The health system is also enhancing its commitment to equity and fairness through policy, practice and training in a concept known as Just Culture. Just Culture equips our leaders and workforce with the knowledge and skills needed to create an environment of psychological safety, continuous learning, justice and accountability.

Additionally, we have trained some 450 frontline managers in a management program based on trust and open communication that has received positive feedback and improvements across the health system. We are now aiming to launch a system-wide extensive leadership training in 2025.

Throughout my life and career, I’ve been guided by a strong desire to move beyond barriers, influence cultures and affect change. A diverse workforce is perhaps the greatest promoter of growth and positive change. I look forward to continuing to attract and nurture a workforce whose cultural richness allows our enterprise to thrive.

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Ekta Vyas, PhD
Ekta Vyas, PhD, is chief human resources officer of Keck Medicine of USC

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