Do happy employees make for happy customers? AVIA's founder thinks so

Andreas Rekdal — (Built In Chicago) October 4, 2016 — For a founder looking to build an impactful organization, hiring the right people is a great start. But once those people are in the door, establishing a culture that motivates them to do their best work is just as important — and possibly even harder.

Chicago serial entrepreneur Eric Langshur has given a lot of thought to the question of what makes people tick. After years as an entrepreneur and corporate executive, he realized that there must be another way to excel without continuing to sacrifice his own personal wellbeing. Determined to find more balance, he worked with former philosophy professor Nate Klemp to develop a practical strategy for combating stress and reclaiming the mental space to work on the task at hand.

In scaling his newest venture, AVIA, Langshur is placing the discoveries he made throughout that process front of mind.

“We put a huge premium on building a culture and a place of excellence,” said Langshur.

He said he believes the first step toward creating a healthy, collaborative culture is ensuring that employees feel like their happiness is a priority.

To Langshur, an employer’s responsibility in fostering a healthy culture make up a sort of pyramid. At its base, you’ll find benefits packages, compensation and perks like yoga, vacation and “Ferris Bueller days” where employees spontaneously take a day off to do something interesting. The next level of the pyramid centers on fostering learning, community service and wellness.

The third, and perhaps least commonly implemented, focuses on an employee’s individual well-being. Langshur said AVIA works closely with its workers to implement things like meditation and physical activity into day-to-day routines. In addition, the company works to celebrate inquisitiveness, showing gratitude and being compassionate.

“If you think about it, business performance is a function of human performance,” Langshur said. “And if you can have people who are really healthy, and anchored in balance and feeling in harmony, then it’s really going to show up and serve us in so many ways across the business.”

To put those predilections into practice, AVIA puts its employees through a leadership program that emphasizes interpersonal collaboration and values being curious over being right. If something goes wrong, Langshur said, the company’s management is far more interested in finding out what can be learned from the experience than in hashing out who’s to blame and why.

The strategy appears to be working. AVIA was listed among Modern Healthcare’s 100 best workplaces this year, and Langshur said his company has had very low turnover rates.

Connecting with one’s work doesn’t hurt things, either. AVIA’s mission to make healthcare better is an easy one to get behind. The company works toward that goal by helping healthcare systems around the country discover and implement new technologies that can improve outcomes and customer satisfaction. The latter, Langshur said, is in particular need of attention because actors in the industry are still adjusting to seeing themselves as service providers in an open marketplace where patients can and do shop around.

Navigating the ecosystem of options out there can be overwhelming, Langshur said, so AVIA operates as somewhat of a matchmaker between healthtech companies and healthcare systems. By becoming its clients’ go-to subject matter experts, the company makes technology adoption more scalable and helps providers stay nimble as technological paradigms shift.

“Our view is that a lot of this work is actually common across multiple health systems, so what we do is create process and products so that each one of our health system members can tap into our network,” said Langshur. “[That way they can] have better insight into how they can go from where they are to where they need to be … and what the universe of really compelling digital solutions that will assist them in that journey are.”

In a sense, what Langshur seeks to offer his clients and his employees is strikingly similar: it’s all about giving people and healthcare systems the tools they need to thrive and do their best work.