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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

Employee Engagement Program is a Good Investment

Published March 29, 2011 6:45 PM by Glen McDaniel

There is no doubt that this a time of serious belt tightening for many companies. Even healthcare with its reputation of being recession proof has seen cutbacks in staffing to reduce expenses. One reason for staff reductions is that hospital censuses have dropped as unemployed, uninsured and under-insured individuals have avoided going to the hospital for all but medical emergencies. But that's another story.

However in the same way that employers reduce staff on the fly, employees are jumping ship at the first sign of insecurity or major organizational change. Despite (or because of) this willingness of employees to jump ship it is important for organizations to invest in their employees and reward their best workers.

I recently read an interview with Bill Logue, the CEO of FedEx Freight. He said, "Our employees are our brand. Every day these employees come across challenges and the way they solve these problems, the way they impress our customers (positively or negatively), is a reflection on our brand and our company." He explained how FedEx expends real effort to make their employees fully engaged, and gave their successful strategies for rewarding employees.

Logue is convinced that despite economic challenges investment in employee engagement is good business.  He believes, "If you take care of your people, they'll take great care serving the public, the company will generate a profit and that's a win-win situation."

The CEO's formula is remarkably simple, but has worked for this multi-billion company and can work for your organization as well. First, empower employees to be creative about meeting customer needs. Sure there are policies to be followed. Sure you cannot allow everyone to authorize huge expenditures, but employees should be empowered (and even encouraged) to address customer concerns and make things right at the point of service. If complaints have to move up the chain for resolution, it is more likely the organization will end up with an unhappy customer or even lose that customer completely. The same applies for a patient. Think about the typical patient who has to jump through hoops to see a manager or be told , "We'll investigate and get back to you."

Next FedEx visibly celebrates exemplary employees. They use emails, company newsletters and the like to highlight good employees or outstanding examples of service excellence. An employee can be recognized by his manage, another manager, or his peer, so modesty or favoritism are minimized. This Public recognition rewards the employee and provides a model for other employees.

Next the company asks employees to submit ideas for service improvement, cost savings or improving organizational efficiency.  Contributions are featured on the company's website and the winner each month wins a monetary reward.

It is no secret that employees who are fully engaged and committed to the organization's success can be pivotal factor in financial success. Of course engagement and incentive programs must be supported from the top down, must be very visible to staff and must be clearly communicated. These simple lessons from FedEx show the cost of empowering and recognizing employees is money well spent. I bet this would work for your lab as well.

3 comments

Jonas: we are hearing more and more that "healthcare is a business" and indeed it is. However this statement is usually made to justify an action that considers finances; sometimes to the exclusion of other concerns. It is true that every organization needs to be financially viable to be successful. However that does not mean that  the human factor should be ignored.

Healthcare might indeed be reluctant to adopt some general business strategies because healthcare is seen as so different that it can play by its own rules. Research shows, however, that practices that work for general business can often work in healthcare-even if they have to be modified slightly.

Terry: The practice you describe can certainly be detrimental to employee morale. Businesses (including labs) can generally make choices which are legitimately lumped under the category called  "business necessity." Those are practices that may adversely affect one group but are necessary for continued business success.

However, legally they cannot be arbitrarily applied-there must be a real reason (eg decreased business, a disaster, shortage of staff etc) and the rule must be applied uniformly. Courts have held that it is illegal to claim business necessity for one or two individuals while others are somehow exempt.

Your employer can legally limit hours so that an employee does not work more than the agreed on (or assigned ) hours per pay period. BUT--(big but) they have to do it for all similar employees.  In the case of your own employer make sure  they are not violating labor laws. Is overtime regarded as more than 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week? Both are legal but an employer's policy cannot be changed arbitrarily  once established.

If your employer has an 8/80 overtime rule and the employee works 9 hours one day they MUST get overtime pay. The 1 hour cannot be carried over to another pay period. If the policy is 0/40, then all time over 40 hours in one week must be considered overtime. This is not discretionary.

Another factor to consider: once the employee has worked, he/she must be paid. If an employee works 28 hours, the employer cannot arbitrarily pay only 25 hours. They have to pay the full 28 hours even if they reduce hours worked next pay period.

I hope this explanation helps. Despite an employer's RIGHT to do something, they dont necessarily exercise that right if it is harmful to employees.  Employers can keep morale high by working WITH employees rather than working AGAINST them; or by simply using them as faceless, dispensible labor.

It's the human factor that fosters engagement as discussed in the original blog.

Glen McDaniel April 3, 2011 6:34 PM

My director is failing to pay people for the hours that they work.

If a  person is hired for 25 hours a pay period and they have to work over those hours, because of weekend work or staffing problems he has them remove the hours in the next pay period or take time off PTO if they have PTO in that pay period.......is this legal??? It certaintly does not make me a loyal employee

Terry Young, pathology Laboratory - Mlt, Midelfort Clinic March 30, 2011 5:01 PM
Eau claire WI

I wonder why healthcare organizations including labs are always the last to do stuff like the one you describe above. I think they assume we are so dedicated to the point that we will  work under any situation and they dont have to make us feel wanted or comfortable. Lucily times are changing and no one really stays at one job for a lifetime. Folks will leave in a flash.  Healthcare needs to wake up and find ways to engage employees.

Jonas MT, Chemistry Supervisor March 30, 2011 12:01 AM
Alpharetta GA

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