For the Record with Steve Kregel, Quality & Regulatory Project Manager, Cantel Medical

April 19  

Steve Kregel is a Quality & Regulatory Project Manager for Cantel Medical. Prior to working for Cantel, he spent six years as a U.S. Navy Corpsman and later worked at Medtronic before joining the team at Cantel. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota and a Master of Business Administration degree from Concordia St. Paul. Steve’s career interests include a passion for project and program management, enterprise excellence, corporate responsibility and strategic leadership.

Steve and his wife, Kristen, have two children. In his free time, Steve enjoys backpacking, running, Dungeons and Dragons, traveling, and is a fan of the local Minnesota sports teams.

Give us Cantel Medical’s elevator pitch.

Cantel Medical is an industry leader in Infection Prevention and Control made up of the following key business segments: Dental, Medical & Life Sciences. Our core purpose is to safeguard patients from infection.

We may not be a household name, but chances are you’ve already met us at the dentist via our Hu-Friedy or Crosstex brands. For those over 50, you’ve probably met our Medivators brand while undergoing an endoscopy procedure such a as colonoscopy but slept through it. Another key division of the business is MarCor team who provide the equipment and clean water required for end-stage renal support.

We are a global company with ~4,000 employees at over 20+ sites. Major sites include the Twin Cities, Chicago, Houston, Germany, China and Rome. Our COO prefers to describe us as a small/mid-Cap Corporation doing just over $1 billion in revenue in FY20.

What does Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion mean to Cantel?

DE&I at Cantel is about putting the structure and processes in place that encourage employees to stay with the company and thrive, regardless of their personal dimensions of diversity. If we are doing DE&I right, it is a rising tide lifting all boats, to include our employees and increase bottom-line performance. 

As a business grows, its journey towards actualization is not unlike that in Maslow’s hierarchy. Employees must feel secure, safe, and cared for, in both the physical, psychological, and social sense. It is only then we can apply our best efforts towards the company’s mission. DE&I is a key aspect to building the sense of safety.

Tell us about how Cantel’s Diversity, Inclusion, Community and Equity (DICE) program got its start.

Before last year, there was no official company-wide DE&I program beyond those related to compliance concerns. However, this is not to say that work was not happening in and around the company. Examples prior to summer 2020 include our dental division’s DE&I council along with the CHRO piloting the Cantel Women’s Network based in Plymouth, MN. 

Like many others over the past year, the growth of our program came out of the justified outrage over the murder of George Floyd. Many people from around the company independently responded to our ELT letter on the event, not only to express their feelings, but to also offer their service in driving positive change within the Cantel community. I was one of that group. 

I had no formal HR or D&I experience besides co-chairing a Resource Group at my previous employer. What I did have was a project management skillset that could be used to create a program, and I had seen what good looks like.

Others brought their skills, a bit like the “putting together the team” montage in every heist movie ever made. Before we knew it, we had a DICE (Diversity, Inclusion, Community, & Equity) core team and got to work chartering, scoping, scheduling, and so forth. I am extremely grateful to all who have stepped up to drive the work forward. In addition, our CEO signed The Pledge on the CEOAction Network to promote structured DE&I efforts at Cantel along with more than 1,300 CEOs around the world.

What progress in the DE&I space have you seen for Cantel and what is on the horizon?

Over the past 9 months we’ve seen incredible progress in our DICE program. Several employee networks have launched (Women’s Network, Black Employee, Disabilities, Parents & Guardians) with other coming soon (Military Service, LatinX, and LGBTQ+). Our Education and Awareness team has a great quarterly newsletter launched to highlight the work and is currently building an official curriculum for the company. All of this has been accomplished during a time of social distancing preventing us from putting together the traditional “lunch & learn” to bribe prospective members with free food. 

As the world reopens, I look forward to the program bringing people together, in every form of the word, as we emerge from our basement, via robust offering of live DICE activities. As a growth by acquisition company, DICE will be a key tool in developing a holistic business culture, assisting in de-siloing, and encouraging cross-pollination of best practices.

What advice would you give to other companies who are starting their DE&I journey?

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve.”

You don’t need to be an HR expert or a D&I professional to get the ball rolling. Before leading this program, I just was a heavily tattooed Iraq veteran working as a process improvement manager, more likely to get talked to by HR for my use of salty language than do the talking. I’m far from the stereotypical “DE&I leader.”

All you need to start is a vision for positive change, and belief in your company’s potential to grow. Next, you must devise a plan to successfully articulate that vision, and its value to the business’s core mission. Without this key alignment, you will struggle to find a space for DE&I in the company’s strategic plan.   

Once you’ve done this, find your ELT champions, gain clarity on the mandate, include the resources provided and the expected deliverables. (They must have skin in the game and expect results.) Your ELT champions should be the ones to put out the call to action, clearly and loudly.

As your team gets to work, remember that DE&I improvement must be treated in the same fashion we treat any process improvement project/program. Sustained change comes from improving the processes, not from blaming people for past failures.

Make each person a valued stakeholder in the growth of the company’s culture. Through this approach, your team can change its organizational habits in a way that sticks. Live your values and be inclusive in the construction of your team; their perspectives are invaluable. Encourage diverse representation, perspectives and skillsets. Respond to their thoughts earnestly and be visible in citing the source when you utilize their good ideas.

It’s going to be a lot of work; be prepared to fail often. It will take time to properly define what works best for your organization. Fail fast and learn. Remember that meaningful change will always be accompanied by some level of discomfort. Even the most mature organizations in terms of DE&I took their lumps as they figured out what works and what doesn’t in their culture and context.

Lastly, keep a constant eye on the bandwidth of both yourself and your team. In the early going, these efforts will often be driven by volunteers. Then don’t let potential scope creep outpace your team’s ability to execute. Keep a laser focus on your key priorities, deliver on them, and own the tempo of progress.

What does leadership look like to you?

Integrity is non-negotiable. Be honest about what you know, be honest about what you don’t know. Demand the same from others. All healthy relationships are based in clarity of expectations. Be clear about what you expect and what others should expect from you; keep those promises to yourself and others.

What is the best advice you have received in your career? What is the worst?

Best: “Encourage people to give you honest feedback and thank them when they are brave enough to provide it.”

People often want to give you the good news about how they feel and sugarcoat the bad. Giving brutally honest feedback is awkward for all involved. Swallow that pang of ego and figure out how to get better, because that’s the point.

Worst: “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

What nonsense. I have a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old at home. Ask any parent if they love their kids, then ask them if it’s still work. Anything worth doing is going to be a grind sometimes. You’d better get used to it. If you truly love something, it means you’re willing to put in the work to excel at it. On the flip side, if you don’t believe in the purpose of the work you are doing, find that purpose, or find new work.

What have been the most rewarding moments in your career?

Participating in the immunization drive in several villages in Papua New Guinea as an enlisted medical technician in the US Navy. It was an incredible experience, and I think of it paying dividends each day for those kids. That moment is etched in my memory as a key example of the “why” of our industry. 

This DE&I initiative has also presented me with many of those moments:

  • Presenting the report out of the Cantel Culture Initiative to our ELT
  • Seeing the enthusiasm from places I never expected
  • Watching high potential early career individuals find their voice and being their journey towards leadership in the DICE program

What is one personal goal for the upcoming year?

I would like to run the Twin Cities Marathon in a sub 3:15 this year.

How do you relax / decompress?

Most mornings I get up at dawn to run the trails of Minnesota River bottoms. I find my Zen state in the tempo of my steps and enjoy greeting the sun as it rises. Getting up before I am “required” to do so by an alarm provides me with a sense of ownership of my day. It also provides me a chance not only to clear my mind but also meditate on the upcoming day’s priorities and formulate a game plan with a highly oxygenated brain. I am also and Dungeons & Dragons aficionado and attempt to run a bi-weekly session when life allows.

What do you enjoy most about the Medical Alley community?

The diverse set of subject matter and perspectives from our business segment. I can always find a nugget of insight that comes in handy later. Thanks for being there!

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