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The concept of “teams” and “teamwork” are well-established in general management literature, and their benefits are well-known to most Central Service Managers. Fortunately, there are no secrets necessary to establish and maintain relationships with staff members that encourage a cooperative work environment. Instead, common sense tactics can be used to encourage staff members to contribute to and participate in their most important work responsibilities. This two-part series focuses on employee involvement at two critical points in the management of the Central Service Department. Part 1 considers tactics to involve staff members as departmental plans are developed. Part 2 will address people involvement tactics when departmental plans are implemented.
The importance of staff members in the success of organizations is increasingly well- recognized. Figure 1 compares some beliefs about employees held by contemporary and traditional managers. Even a quick review will indicate significant differences between those who direct the work of staff members “today” and those who did so “yesterday.” (Note: hopefully, readers of this lesson will identify with the views of contemporary managers.)
The term, “alignment,” may be replacing the more frequently used term “participation”—although both terms recognize that numerous benefits arise when staff members are committed to the organization. Both concepts recognize that commitment requires a culture (history) of mutual leader and staff member respect. Not surprisingly, this respect must be earned, and it evolves from a long-term environment in which managers provide opportunities for their employees to succeed and reward them for doing so. This culture, in turn, promotes an environment in which associates enjoy their jobs, and they are enthusiastic about making contributions that benefit both the facility and their department. This best occurs as Central Service Managers work toward a culture that allows people to find pride and joy in the workplace.
Committed staff members want to be involved. They can do so as plans are developed (the topic of this lesson) and as they are implemented (the topic of the Part 2 lesson). Think, for a moment, about the level of your own interest in being involved in decisions and plans that affect you. Would you like to provide input? Do you believe your own boss appreciates you, values your input, and believes that plans and decisions are “better” when your suggestions and comments are requested? Does asking your advice make you feel more important (which addresses your ego needs) while suggesting that other persons think you are important (thereby satisfying your esteem needs)? You probably would appreciate opportunities to become involved, and it is reasonable to expect that those whom you supervise would probably feel the same. Fortunately, there are numerous ways that this involvement can occur and, as it does, benefits accrue to everyone involved.
Let’s start with the healthcare facility’s planning tools because they provide the context for departmental planning. For example, many facilities have a vision: a difficult-to-quantify idea about what the organization would be like if it was ideal. This vision, in turn, promotes a mission statement which is another planning tool that broadly identifies what the facility would like to accomplish and what it plans to do to accomplish it. The mission statement, in turn, drives the facility’s long-range plan which is a statement of goals and the activities that will be undertaken to attain them that will guide the facility over the next three to five years in efforts to move towards its mission. In many facilities, these important planning tools are unknown to department-level associates. Orientation sessions for new employees and ongoing training programs for experienced staff provide initial opportunities for sharing this information.
Figure 1: Perceptions of Contemporary and Traditional Managers about Staff Members
A typical planning model requires department leadership including Central Service personnel to develop plans that are in concert with those of the facility. In other words, departmental managers assess their role (determine what they can do) to assist in the attainment of their facility’s plans.
When employees understand and agree with facility plans, they can begin to align with them. Then they provide input to the development of departmental plans which, after approval, they will assist in implementing. As they do so, staff can be of significant assistance to Central Service Managers.
Entry-level member alignment can begin as the most significant questions about departmental effectiveness are posed. For example, as a long-range plan for the Central Service Department is developed, managers may benefit from their employees’ perspectives about the following types of questions:
Aligned staff members can help answer these questions or, at least, provide their perspectives about the goals which can be considered after these questions are addressed. As this occurs, it becomes even more reasonable to encourage employee involvement about the operating decisions which will allow longer-range goals to be attained.
Central Service Managers will do well to have brainstorming and other discussions with staff members to address basic departmental planning questions. Here are some examples:
suffer from higher-than-necessary employee turnover rates. It would be interesting to learn how associates answer the question, “What can we do to increase retention rates in our department?”
Many management observers recognize that decisions about specific operating procedures are best made by those who undertake them. Central Service Technicians involved in everyday processing activities and in interactions with staff members from other departments may be most knowledgeable about their peers’ perceptions of the facility and their department. They are also likely to have excellent suggestions about operating improvements. Another advantage to employee alignment occurs when “our plans” rather than “the manager’s plans” are drafted, tested, implemented, and evaluated. As we’ll discuss in Part II of this series, staff member “buy-in” can significantly reduce resistance to change concerns that arise when staff input has not been requested.
Central Service Managers can incorporate the following tactics into the procedures used to facilitate the work of their staff members:
In many healthcare organizations, relatively few healthcare staff members may fully know and understand their organization’s planning strategies and what is expected of them to help achieve the facility’s goals. It is in the best interests of the facility, the Central Service Department, and its managers and employees to help associates clearly understand how their work relates to the short-and long-term goals of their facility and department. Fortunately, this can be done, and it is among the most important responsibilities of every Central Service Manager.
The purpose of this lesson is to promote the need for and benefits to employee alignment as Central Service Department planning activities are undertaken. The second and final lesson in this two-part series explores employee alignment as departmental plans, once developed, are implemented.
This column was written by Jack Ninemeier, Ph.D, CHA of the Eli Broad Graduate School of Management at Michigan State University. Dr. Ninemeier is the editor of Central Service Technical Manual (5th Edition), Supervision Principles: Leadership Strategies for Healthcare Facilities (2nd Edition), and Material Management and the Healthcare Industry, all published by IAHCSMM.