October 7, 2021
St. Peter’s Health announced today that the organization is raising its minimum wage to $15 per hour as part of an aggressive effort to attract and retain critical staff. The increased minimum wage will positively impact more than 400 employees, including staff who will receive equity increases due to rising pay scales or to account for longer tenure in the organization. Wage increases will be implemented in phases between now and April 1, 2022.
These adjustments represent $500,000 of a more than $3 million investment this year in employee compensation, over and above the standard two percent annual increase St. Peter’s offers every employee. Since March, the organization has benchmarked hundreds of positions and increased wages for staff, nurses and providers. By April of next year, this $3 million investment in compensation will have positively impacted over 1,400 St. Peter’s employees.
According to St. Peter’s officials, keeping pace with rising wages in the market and offering a highly attractive benefits program are critical given staffing shortages and competition for talent both locally and nationally. This is part of a complete redesign of the organization’s compensation and benefits program following a restructuring of the human resources department earlier this year.
“Working in health care is more challenging than ever, and we’re incredibly grateful to all of our team members for their hard work and dedication to serving this community,” said St. Peter’s Health Chief People and Communications Officer Andrea Groom. “Money is ultimately not the biggest motivator for employee engagement, but it’s important that we have programs in place to ensure fair and competitive compensation. We are doubling down on the investment in our workforce, and we’re fully committed to improving every aspect of how we care for and support our people.”
St. Peter’s Health’s People First initiative is a three-year plan designed to make sweeping changes to the organization’s human resources practices and transform the organization’s culture to align with its values. Led by the People Leadership Council (PLC), a new and innovative collaborative leadership team, St. Peter’s is revamping everything from compensation and benefits to recruitment, professional development, career advancement and employee engagement. Specific initiatives being evaluated include a performance-based compensation program, a variety of bonus programs, and more formalized career ladders to facilitate growth and advancement.
Since 2019, the organization has made substantial improvements to its workplace health and wellness program. St. Peter’s offers free family memberships to Capital City Health Club and hired a team of behavioral health and nurse navigator professionals dedicated solely to serving employees. The organization has also absorbed the premium increases for health or dental benefits since 2020, without passing these costs on to its employees.
The decision to invest in the local workforce is the right long-term strategy, but comes at a challenging time financially for St. Peter’s. As a not-for-profit community health system, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the organization’s bottom line given additional COVID-19-related expenses and lost revenue from cancelling surgical procedures and scaling back services. St. Peter’s typically budgets for at least a 4% operating margin but only achieved 2.7% for the past fiscal year ending May 31.
“We’re fortunate to have a strong financial foundation with the ability to weather these storms and stay focused on our mission,” said Groom. “When we support, empower and invest in our people, we know in turn they provide the very best care for our patients.”
St. Peter’s is a team of over 1,700 providers, nurses, administrative and support staff, and other clinicians who provide specialized care and support. The community health system is Helena’s largest private employer and pays $127 million in total salaries and $31 million in employee benefits. According to a June 2021 report published by the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research, St. Peter’s represents 3.5 percent of Lewis and Clark County’s total earnings.