What Is Partnership?
The Labor Management Partnership is an operational strategy shared by Kaiser Permanente and the Partnership unions.
This joint commitment is designed to:
- deliver high-quality care and service to Kaiser Permanente members and patients
- continuously improve performance as measured by national standards
- involve unions and individual frontline workers in decisions about how to deliver the best care
- make KP more affordable by removing waste from care delivery systems
- preserve and improve upon industry-leading benefits and working conditions for employees
The partnership is jointly led and funded by Kaiser Permanente and two groups of Partnership unions, the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions and the Alliance of Health Care Unions. There are more than 134,000 employees represented by the union locals that are part of the partnership, 17,000 managers and 22,000 physicians.
Results for KP members and patients
Our Labor Management Partnership has delivered measurable results for KP members and patients. Most of the day-to-day work of the partnership is led by self-directed work teams — what we call unit-based teams (UBTs) — made up of frontline managers, employees and physicians. All teams are measured quarterly on several dimensions of performance, leadership and engagement.
How do UBTs work?
Unit-based teams are co-led by a manager, a worker and (in teams that include doctors) a physician. The team includes all the members of a natural work group, which brings diverse perspectives and expertise to issues affecting performance or the work environment. In the course of their day-to-day work, UBT members collaborate to identify and solve problems; conduct tests of change to improve service, quality and operations; save member dollars through greater efficiency; and give frontline workers a voice in in their work.
More than 3,600 UBTs are now in place across Kaiser Permanente. All teams are trained in the Rapid Improvement Model, a well-established performance improvement approach, and are supported by peer consultants as well as KP and union leaders. UBTs have contributed to KP’s national leadership in many measures of quality, service and workplace innovation.
Model of mutual respect
LMP also sponsors organization-wide programs to support workplace safety and wellness, job and career development, dispute resolution, and membership growth for both KP and the Partnership unions. Observers at MIT, Harvard and Cornell business and labor relations schools, the U.S. Department of Labor, and leading business and academic journals have recognized the partnership’s effectiveness.
Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor of organizational behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business, summed it up this way: “Kaiser and its unions are attempting to build an innovative model of management — a relationship of mutual respect.”
Today it is the largest, longest-running and most comprehensive such partnership in the country. Our Partnership provides strength and stability for Kaiser Permanente and our workforce, and better care and service for our members, patients and customers. It provides an infrastructure for continuous performance improvement and a way to better resolve difficult issues.