CHL Lesson Plans provide members with ongoing education focusing on supervisory or management issues. These lessons are designed for CHL re-certification, but can be of value to any CRCST in a management or supervisory role.
For Online Grading (www.iahcsmm.org):
To activate a quiz:
Each lesson plan graded online with a passing score of 70% or higher is worth two points (contact hour). You can use these points toward either your re-certification of CRCST (12 points) or CIS (6 points).
Mailed submissions to IAHCSMM will not be graded and will not be granted a point value (paper/pencil grading of the CHL Lesson Plans is not available through IAHCSMM or Purdue University; IAHCSMM accepts only online subscriptions of the CHL Lesson Plans.
The term “empowerment” relates to the act of authorizing staff members to make discretionary decisions within their areas of responsibility. Its objective is to enable people to “own” a complaint or service opportunity and to then address it to the satisfaction of the customers being served.
There are three basic levels of empowerment. Managers can encourage people to take an active role in their work, involve people in the responsibility for improving their work, and enable staff members to make additional and more impactful decisions about their work and/or organization
Many traditional leaders perceived that most employees did not want to work, could not be trusted and required very close supervision to ensure that detailed assignments were completed. Their contemporary counterparts recognize that staff members can make significant contributions to their jobs and to their workplace, including when departmental plans are developed1 and as plans are implemented.2
To what extent are staff members in most Central Service departments empowered? The answer is often difficult to assess. For example, how would most supervisors answer the question, “Do you like and appreciate the contributions of your employees?” “Who creates the most on-job problems: managers or their employees?” “Could staff members perform their current work responsibilities without on-going and focused supervision?” How many managers would respond to these and related questions may differ significantly from what they really perceive or believe.
Are your employees empowered? Figure 1 identifies some characteristics of a work environment in which employees are not empowered.
As you review Figure 1, ask yourself how often and/or with how many of your staff members these problems arise. If your answers are, respectively, “all too frequently” and “with many people,” it is likely that empowerment is not ingrained into the culture of the organization.
There are several important benefits of empowerment including:
There are additional benefits of empowerment which reinforce its importance in facilitating the work of people in today’s CS departments. Many people say they don’t quit companies. Instead “they quit managers” (and sometimes stay employed as they do so!). Lack of respect and appreciation is often a silent reason employees leave an organization or work only to the required minimum levels of performance. Empowered persons typically have increased levels of morale (the feelings that employees have about their organization and their work environment) which leads to reduced absenteeism and turnover rates, and increased safety records. Many experienced managers know that when people can help to determine their destiny (success), they are motivated to achieve, and this, in turn, is directly linked to positive organizational outcomes.
The numerous benefits of empowerment can be lost, and its results can be less-than-successful when:
We have noted that, to be effective, empowerment must be ingrained into an organization’s (department’s) work culture, and numerous aspects of an organization’s culture supports (or does not support) empowerment. For example, consider the issues of self-responsibility, effective communication, and trust. In a culture of empowerment, employees accept the responsibility to help make their job, team, function, and organization be the way they want it to be. Communication is open and honest, and people talk about the real and significant issues confronting the organization. People also feel safe trying new behaviors and taking risks without fear of punishment if they make mistakes.
In an empowered organization, employees and the organization use established protocols and develop skills to resolve interpersonal issues. People are encouraged and rewarded to address their interest in professional growth by participating in training and other developmental activities. As well, top-level managers tangibly demonstrate concern for the well-being of their employees. As a result, employees feel valued, and they want to provide their best efforts to support the organization.
There are four leadership essentials necessary to maximize empowerment within a CS Department:
There are a wide range of tactics that managers should use to prepare their employees for empowerment. First, they must share their vision (e.g., people helping other people). They must also define the boundaries of responsibility that individual staff members should assume as they (the employees) make decisions that help their employer move toward attainment of the vision. Managers must explain their expectations, and they must empower people with important (not just unimportant) responsibilities.
The most effective managers also acknowledge the successes of their associates, solicit feedback from them, and provide their employees with the necessary authority (power), resources and training required for their jobs. With these basics in place, they should “get out of the way,” and randomly but routinely monitor their employee’s on-job performance. One effective method involves managing by walking around.3 Effective managers understand that, to the extent possible, they should remove or reduce approval steps, and assign non-routine jobs to their staff members who are capable of assuming these responsibilities. They should also define jobs broadly (e.g., assign projects rather than tasks), and they understand their personal responsibilities to prepare staff members for the decision-making authority they will have.
Managers can be assured that the benefits of empowerment will be ongoing if they role-model their high regard for their staff members—including their interest in long-term professional relationships with them. They must share the healthcare facility’s vision, mission, strategic plans, and goals and attempt to get their employees involved in the development of these planning tools.
Managers should solve problems rather than identify “problem people,” and they should listen, ask questions and facilitate and reward the work of empowered people. Finally, managers best ensure that the benefits of empowerment will be realized if they:
1 See, for example, Jack Ninemeier. Aligning People With the Organization, Part I: “Planning the Plan.” International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management. Communiqué. January/February, 2009.
2 This topic is discussed in this current lesson and also see: Jack Ninemeier. Aligning People with the Organization, Part II: “Working the Plan.” International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management. Communiqué. March/April, 2009.
3 See: Jack Ninemeier. Managing By Walking Around: A “Common Sense” Supervisory Tactic. Chicago, IL. Communiqué. International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management. January/February. 2006.
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.