There for His People

Whether responding to an emergency or the demands of rapid growth, S. Frank Fritsch exhibits a deep commitment to his company's employees and genuine interest in their needs.

Monday, October 16, 2006
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When Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast last year, S. Frank Fritsch, senior vice president of human resources at Mechanicsburg, Pa.-based Select Medical Corp., instinctively crafted an immediate and compassionate response to be implemented by his company.

The company operates long-term acute-care hospitals and outpatient clinics in 41 states. Its Biloxi, Miss., hospital was completely destroyed and its Gulfport, Miss., and New Orleans hospitals sustained significant damage.

Staff members lost their homes, cars and irreplaceable items such as photographs and sentimental keepsakes. Fritsch realized early on that for Select's employees, there would be much rebuilding to do, both financially and emotionally.

"It was extremely important for him to be a part of that initial team that went in," says Pat Rice, president and COO of Select Medical Corp., adding that Fritsch "went to the sites . . . within less than 36 hours after Katrina hit." He encountered Select employees who had lost everything, as well as those left unscathed but shell-shocked. "He became kind of a counselor to help them through their shock and grief," Rice says.

Fritsch quickly assessed employees' overall needs, "both personal and professional," Rice says. In response, he personally arranged for food drops and clothing availability. Additionally, he helped mobilize teams to assist staff members at the Gulfport and New Orleans hospitals. He spent two weeks at the Gulfport site.

With banks closed, Fritsch also addressed Select employees' immediate needs for cash. "I had a pocketful of money," he says of his arrival on the scene with $20,000 in cash and traveler's checks. "We handed out small amounts of money to every employee."

Additionally, he established the Select Medical Disaster Relief fund, enabling employees to help colleagues who have suffered losses due to natural disasters. With Select Medical contributing $2 for every dollar employees contributed, the fund yielded cash necessary for affected employees to begin to rebuild their homes and lives. "We raised $600,000 for employees down there," Fritsch says. "It was really rewarding and exciting."

For his determination to go the distance for his people -- not only amid catastrophic circumstances, but fast-paced corporate growth as well -- Fritsch has been named to the Human Resource Executive® 2006 Honor Roll.

Tackling Growth

Fritsch has served as Select's senior vice president of HR since the company's inception in 1996. During his tenure, the company has undergone monumental growth to $2 billion a year in revenues and increasing its payroll from the original 12 employees to nearly 23,000. The company now operates 97 hospitals, 700 outpatient clinics and numerous outpatient rehab clinics.

For Fritsch, the challenges of integrating cultures, programs and systems with each new acquisition have been profound. His approach has been to focus on leadership, working to create succession and leadership-development plans.

Earlier this year, along with Select's president and COO, Fritsch introduced a new leadership-development opportunity designed to identify the top 100 leaders within the company. The comprehensive list includes a variety of senior executives, general managers and junior leaders with whom Fritsch works individually to establish personalized leadership-development plans.

Selection is based on leaders' tenure and potential, among other criteria. Fritsch, himself, explores each leader's motivations, development opportunities, personal vision, specialized talents and ways in which each leader shares expectations for engagement levels with his or her team members.

He also developed the Fritsch/Rice Employee Survey for Select Hospitals, or FRESSH, designed to evaluate in-house employee engagement. Feedback on the assessment enables Select to benchmark employee engagement levels and track improvement over time. "Employee engagement is very much a part of the fabric of the company," says Fritsch.

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As founder and adviser for Caring and Resourceful Employees of Select, Fritsch has also enlisted more than 150 employees at Select's headquarters who actively participate in such volunteer pursuits as supporting Adopt-a-Highway and promoting community fund-raisers. "It's done so well, we've used it for a model for other towns," Fritsch says.

A Path to HR

Fritsch began to hone his people-management skills as a parole officer with the Department of Justice in Kentucky more than 20 years ago. "I learned everything I know about management from working with criminals," Fritsch says.

Within the criminal justice system, Fritsch recalls "gravitating toward management." He used his creativity to match resources with the needs of his parolees. 

In 1980, he moved into the position of personnel director at Chicago's American Hospital Supply. "I devoted most of my time to leadership development," he says of his tenure there. Eventually, he was drawn to HR and Select Medical.

John Saich, vice president of HR at Select, says Fritsch is especially adept at keeping the function well-integrated. "Frank doesn't allow HR to be remote."

Rice credits Fritsch with "keeping the HR function on the cutting edge of what needs to be done" at Select. "It's a very dynamic HR function that has to do with the growth of the company," she says.

According to Saich, Fritsch maintains his focus "on all levels of employees across the company" with an uncanny success. "He's effective in developing a network [throughout the country] to become good managers of people." Saich terms Fritsch "a very powerful influence that's trusted" within the company.

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