Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Constant Change

In the November 10th issue of Hospitals & Health Networks magazine, Molly Joel Coye, M.D.., the CEO of the Health Technology Center in San Francisco wrote an interesting article entitled, "From Ellington to Einstein: Leaders have the courage to ask why - any why not - and then to act." In one section she wrote, “Change that is big enough and important enough to matter is disruptive. It threatens long standing relationships and processes.”

This is an important issue to manage as we ride the “constant change” roller coaster in the healthcare arena and most businesses as well. And though we all know that change happens, it does not always make it easier when change arises. We have seen this through changes in leadership, physician groups, clinical protocols, vendors, etc. We even saw this with a certain vegetable soup we served (which I thought was outstanding). When we switched (to one that I thought was even better)...the "regulars" wanted the original version and back we went. Though this may not seem like much, it pales in comparison to changes that impact us more personally and on a daily basis - again, typically relationships and processes as Dr. Coye describes above.

The past two years, SJMC has realized a lot of changes (some have been referenced in prior blog entries). Though we also have “constant change,” we have a few constants: very loyal and dedicated employees; an exceptional nursing team that has achieved Magnet recognition and is praised daily by our physicians; a volunteer workforce that brings the equivalent of over 54 full-time employees to our hospital; a very strong and devoted medical staff; and people who I know will speak up at every Town Hall meeting to share what we are doing well and how we could do better as an organization.

In the November Workforce Management magazine, an article references a May survey by Watson Wyatt of 1,300 workers at large U.S. employers which found that the engagement levels for top performers fell close to 25% over the prior year. Employees overall experienced a 9% drop in engagement. According to the article, the most common step to improve this has been increased communication, which can be in the form of briefings about the organization’s financial strength, staffing plans and business goals. It stated that by and large, companies do not appear to be tackling the engagement issue in a comprehensive way that creates a more inspiring work climate and give employees what they want.

Our most recent Employee Engagement survey reflected some of these changes. Though there were several areas where we scored well, there were other areas where scores were lower than prior years and it was certainly disappointing to me. I will make sure that our senior executives and hospital leadership team continue to do the following:

- Offer additional forums for enhanced communication including more one-on-one communication with associates (e.g., Cynde, our CNO just completed her formal CNO rounds this past week and will schedule these on an ongoing basis)

- Listen more to associate ideas and ways to make SJMC the best place for our patients

- Continue to share the strategic direction of the organization (e.g., we have posted our mission vision and strategies in key areas throughout the hospital, we send out monthly highlights, provide bi-monthly town hall meetings and a new Carondelet Health system publication is underway).

Though it was not referenced, it will be my continued personal mission to ensure that everyone in our organization (associates, volunteers and physicians) understands his/her role and the importance of that role in helping SJMC advance and exceed the goals of our organization.

And while we have seen improvements in our facility, we will ensure that we are fanatical about the cleanliness (e.g, Kevin, our new Regional Director of Environmental Services and Linen Services has new plans, processes and training which will be put in place for everyone on his team).

More than 80% of our associates completed the engagement survey and I want to thank each and every one for their very direct and honest feedback.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

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