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Keep morale high — hire the right people
Ongoing training increases skills, motivation
You have to replace four out of 14 nonclinical patient care coordinators because they’ve all left at the same time: one due to childbirth, one due to a family relocation, and two due to job stress and burnout. Because you’re in a crunch, you just place your standard ad in the paper and choose the best four people who apply and who can start immediately.
Not any more, says Mary Gailis, COA, administrative director of the Ocean Surgery Center in Toms River, NJ. She faced the situation described and decided that she not only wanted a pool of excellent job candidates from which to choose, she also wanted to address the low morale of her front-office staff who were feeling the effects of four people leaving at once.
"We wanted great people to apply for these positions, but our first ad resulted in only 10 resumes from people who didn’t really fit our needs," says Gailis. "I asked for help from our marketing consultant who arranged for focus groups and interviews with our managers and staff members," she says.
The consultant asked employees what would appeal to them in an ad, Gailis explains. "He talked with some of our best employees to make sure the ad appealed to people who would work well in our center," she says.
The best way to address low employee morale is to hire the right people in the beginning, says Anthony Belli, president of Killer Bee Marketing in Tarrytown, NY.
"When you’re hiring customer service people, you should hire the right personality and plan to train them," he says. "You can teach skills, but you can’t teach courtesy and motivation."
The second ad that ran still was a simple classified ad, but the wording appealed to customer service-oriented people, Belli says. (See box, below.) Instead of focusing on the job and what was unique about it, the ad copy focused on how special the person applying for this position needed to be, he explains.
Customer Service Specialist
hire the smile and train the skill.”
Source: Job advertisement from Ocean Surgery Center, Toms River, NJ. Reprinted with permission.
Within a few weeks of the ad’s appearance in the paper, the center received 60 resumes from people with solid customer service experience, Gailis says. Because the patient care coordinators work closely together, Gailis had everyone in the department talk with each of the top candidates for the jobs. "We believed that we could increase morale by giving everyone a chance to meet the candidates and get a feel for how well they might work with each other," she says.
These meetings also alleviated the stress of dealing with new people in the department because all staff felt as if they had some input, she adds. "It’s tough to absorb four new employees into a group at one time, so we also developed a training program to orient the new people to our policies, procedures, and job functions," says Gailis.
Because that training program was more formalized than the one the center usually provided, the new employees stayed motivated and were trained easily, she says. "In fact, the new group of employees were so quick to learn and did everything so well, it raised the bar for expectations of all employees," Gailis adds.
One year after hiring the group of four, all employees still are at the center, she says.
After meeting the staffing need, Gailis turned to another project to address the morale of the entire group of patient care coordinators. "We turned to our marketing consultants who offered an ongoing customer service education program that has kept our employees focused on customer service," she says.
"Employees want recognition for their contributions, an opportunity to grow, a sense of importance, enjoyment of their job, and pride in what they do," says Belli. Any organization than can meet these needs will have a group of loyal, motivated employees, he adds.
"We put together a program that uses a combination of biweekly faxes, monthly e-mails, monthly seminars, and quarterly newsletters that present tips and information on topics such as leadership, motivation, customer service, and conflict resolution," says Belli. "We also offer a quiz every two months that employees can take to test their knowledge of topics we’ve covered."
If all 10 questions are answered correctly, the employee’s name goes into a drawing for prizes, he adds.
"We believe that the cost of $150 per employee for the year was well worth it," says Gailis. "We tend to focus on clinical personnel’s ongoing education, but it is really the front-office people who greatly affect a patient or family member’s perception of your program," she says.
Not only have Gailis’ efforts paid off in terms of retention of all the new employees and higher morale within the group of patient care coordinators, she sees the program being effective for other departments as well.
"Our financial department that includes billing and collections personnel has seen how positive the changes have been in the patient care coordinators, and they want us to implement a similar program for them," she says.
For information about recruitment of patient care coordinators, contact:
• Mary Gailis, COA, Administrative Director, Ocean Surgery Center, 501 Lakehurst Road, Toms River, NJ 08755. Telephone: (732) 341-7299. Fax: (732) 736-7287.
For information about customer service training program, contact: