Julie Jones: Busy Buckeye

By Paul King, Editorial Director

After two years, Jones returned to Ohio State to earn her master’s degree in nutrition and began working part-time at the medical center as a staff dietitian. She had moved up to be clinical nutrition manager when Mary Angela Miller came in as the department’s director. When Jones expressed the desire “to do something different,” Miller made Jones her protégé by appointing her to the newly created position of associate director.

“I did that for about 14 years and I loved it,” Jones says. “I managed every area of our department at one point or other, so I got to learn a lot about a wide variety of things.”

One of the things Jones has learned is not to ignore the present while planning your future. She has continued to improve foodservice in several ways, by leveraging technology, as well as by introducing low-tech programs for keeping staff motivated.

“With the growth that we have had over the years, we have had to find ways to do more for staff in remote locations,” she explains. “One thing we’ve done is opened two Seasons Express locations, smaller retail venues in places that external folks said they wouldn’t touch. In these retail areas we’ve done a phenomenal job of developing grab-and-go concepts and keeping them fresh to meet the needs of people who don’t have access to our bigger cafés.”

On the high-tech side, Jones has worked with the medical center’s IS department to implement payroll deduction for cafeteria purchases and create an online ordering system for nursing units so that they can order bulk items such as milk and juice more easily.

“Since we implemented the payroll deduct, speed of service in the cafeteria is much faster,” she notes. “Thirty percent of our 13,000 staff members use payroll deduct, and we also do credit cards. So about 50% of our sales are through payroll or credit, and we actually were able to eliminate one of our five registers because of it. And many days, we can operate with only three registers. Cash has become our slowest form of payment.”

Filling stock online: Online bulk ordering has solved the problem of keeping up with the needs of more than 40 patient care units for stock items like beverages and snacks.

“We worked with IS to develop a Web-based application to customize bulk orders,” she explains. “Nurse managers see what they need, then go online and place an order, we deliver it and they use online reports to tell us what they are using at all times. It also facilitates costing, making sure that the right units are being billed the right amounts.”

She adds that the bulk ordering system served as a platform for the department’s Intranet service.

“It allows us to put our retail café’s menus on the Web, and we tied in nutritional information, which also has allowed us to create ingredient labeling for our grab-and-go items. We really have evolved technologically.”

Jones believes there is something in her genetic make-up that has allowed her to take so well to the management side of the business.

“I remember taking a career planning test years ago, and as a result of my answers my dot fell on dietetics exactly,” she recalls. “But I remember that on the chart, dietetics sat up in a corner all my itself. The only career close to it was accounting, so I think it must be in our skill set. I’ve always liked accounting, so I’ve been able to develop those skills.

“I’m also more of a technology geek than I’d like to admit,” she adds.

But she also knows how to get back to basics when it comes to job satisfaction. Her department boasts a turnover rate of less than 15%, part of which she attributes to finding ways to keep staff motivated.

Lazer Tag and rock walls: “We actually have figured out how to do staff retreats,” says Jones. “We have taken members of the staff off-site for four-hour retreats multiple times over the last two years. We’ve gotten very creative, with things like Lazer Tag and rock-climbing.

“Not only do these retreats allow us to emphasize skills such as scaling new heights or taking control, it also gives staff access to us in management in a different way,” she adds. “For example, I can climb the rock wall with them. In Lazer Tag, they can ‘shoot’ us multiple times, which, believe me, can be a great way for them to release stress.”

Through other staff reinforcement, such as one-on-one chats and daily “huddles,” Jones believes her managers have brought staff more into the loop as they going through “a significant amount of change.”

“Staff feel they understand the mission and the vision of the organization,” Jones says. “We keep them engaged so that they understand their roles better.”

As if Jones didn’t have enough to do at OSUMC, she also sits on the Ohio Retail Food Safety Advisory Council, which provides recommendations for what the food code should be for the state’s Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture.

“I represent institutional foodservice in Ohio,” she notes. “That’s helpful because sometimes they forget that we’re not all like standard restaurants.”

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