Jay Juffre

By Lois Thomson

Jay Juffre admitted with a chuckle, “We didn’t go into COVID thinking we’d be asked by people outside the industry, ‘How do you keep your employees engaged?'” But that’s exactly what has happened.

Juffre, executive vice president of ImageFIRST, said his company – which is currently the largest provider of medical linens in North America – fared well during the pandemic by focusing on three objectives: keep everybody safe, take care of employees, and take care of customers. “We put everything through that lens,” he said.

For that reason, Juffre added, “We’ve actually been asked to talk with medical and industry professionals on those topics.” He said that as organizations went through COVID and dealt with various staffing issues, as well as trying to meet patients’ and customers’ needs, they would look at ImageFIRST and wonder why that company wasn’t having as much trouble as others were. “They came to us and asked if we could offer any advice, could we come and speak to them.”

The crux of Juffre’s and ImageFIRST’s message could be summed up by encouraging leaders to connect the dots. For example, he tells his audiences, “You really have to know what employees today – post-COVID – are looking for, and then you have to have a leadership team that can connect the dots with what you can offer. If you blend what they’re looking for with what you can offer, and how you lead and how you organize your engagement, the outcome is usually pretty good. If you don’t connect those dots, you’re going to continue to have problems.”

Juffre went on to say that companies have an opportunity right now to reinvent themselves. During COVID, there was what he called a pause in time when companies with great cultures had to move away from that culture in the interest of safety; they had to do things a bit differently. Similarly, companies with poor cultures had to do things differently as well.

“So whether you had a great culture or a poor culture as it relates to employee engagement prior to COVID, now you can actually pivot if you need to or get back to where you were. A lot of the employee engagement activities we did prior to COVID we simply couldn’t do, because we wanted to keep people safe.” Then coming out of COVID, the company looked back at what it had been doing that made ImageFIRST a great place to work, and tried to determine how quickly it could start to implement them again.

On the other hand, Juffre continued, if you weren’t doing those things prior to COVID, what a great opportunity to say hey, we’re going to start doing employee events, coffee chats – whatever your list of activities is from an employee standpoint. If you weren’t doing them pre-COVID, you can start doing them now. If you were doing them pre-COVID, why haven’t you brought them back? And finally, in this new paradigm, what new things might you choose to add, no matter what your situation is.

The feedback is remarkable, because every industry is experiencing “the Great Resignation” right now, and the unique part is that a large percentage of those people are leaving without having another job lined up. And the highest percentage of those resignations occur in healthcare because they are very confident that they can find another job.

According to Juffre, companies began requesting more information from his company when they noticed how well ImageFIRST was succeeding at employee engagement through the COVID period. And when asked to participate, the executive team is happy to comply. “We’ll help anybody. All of this has been very organic, it’s been a result of ImageFIRST developing a great reputation in both employee and customer experience.

“When I or other executives of the team have time to do something that helps either our customers or our industry or someone outside the industry, why wouldn’t we? It’s not like anything we’re saying is a trade secret, and we are more than happy to go and share with people what we’re doing.”

Juffre has called the whole experience both humbling and interesting for both him and the team. “If you asked us a couple of years ago, we never would have said we were going to be talking about how we’re helping people outside the industry to improve their patient care, employee engagement or customer satisfaction. No one could have predicted this.”


For more information, call (800) 932-7472 or visit www.imagefirst.com.