Selling occ-health means selling management
Selling occ-health means selling management
Take cues from marketing staff
When you want your employer to let you introduce a new program, don’t approach the management team as an occupational health nurse — take a page from the marketing department and approach management as a salesperson.
"I find that one of the biggest challenges for nurses, especially for nurse managers, is that they don’t know how to sell their skills," says Beverly DaCosta Tobias, MBA, RN, COHN-S, CCM, FAAOHN, director of occupational health and safety for Stanford University Hospital and Clinic and the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, CA.
Tobias says the first step in pitching a new idea in employee health and safety is to understand the company’s vision and priorities.
"The nurse manager needs to look at how, in his or her company, information is processed, how it’s reviewed, the big picture and the small picture, and frame his or her skills in a way that’s easy to translate into the business world," she says.
Nurses working in the corporate world sometimes have difficulty communicating with management, Tobias says, creating problems when the nurse must demonstrate how his or her work affects the company as a whole.
"Nurses need to hone the way they speak to business leaders, to be able to show that what they do will impact the big picture," she explains.
Tobias says nurse managers should familiarize themselves with three facts about their company before approaching management with change:
- the chief executive officer’s goals;
- the company’s overall mission;
- how the employee health and safety programs dovetail with the company’s mission and vision.
Knowing when to take your pitch to management is important, too.
"If you want to start a new program, how does that program work at that particular time within the organization?" Tobias suggests asking. "If the company’s financial picture isn’t good, maybe it’s not the time to bring forth a new program that is going to cost money."
Because every workplace has its own language and culture, learning what those are is important in successfully presenting ideas to management.
"Put your skills in business language, and if you’re doing a report, make it look and feel like what [management] is used to seeing," Tobias suggests. "If it has no meaning to them, they won’t read it and won’t see the value of it, and you’ve just spun your wheels."
To really get an accurate picture of where occupational health fits within a company, Tobias says, nurse managers hoping to gain approval for their ideas should familiarize themselves with their company’s metrics.
Metrics: Another way to measure
When a company refers to its metrics, it doesn’t mean a system of measuring weight, volume, and distance; rather, it is a way of articulating and measuring current conditions, desired outcomes, and the means of bridging the gap between the two.
Articulating the current state provides a baseline measurement of where an organization or program is; defining the desired state provides a clear, measurable goal; and the third step, analyzing the gap between the current and desired states, provides a definitive plan for reaching the goal.
"Metrics is just like charting," Tobias explains, using a health care analogy. "Managers doesn’t know that something exists unless it is written down, and if you can’t measure it, you don’t know what it really is.
"Metrics allows you to know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it."
The so what?’ test
A change or new program might look good on its face, but Tobias suggests putting it to a very basic test.
"If you do your research and you look at your report and you say, So what?’ then the program probably won’t make a difference, and it’s not going to have value," she says.
Having a good idea isn’t enough by itself. Tobias advises nurse managers do a "serious peel-down" of the layers of what is being proposed, to demonstrate the problem or need, what is being done to correct it, how it meshes with the organization, and what changes in behaviors, attitude, and dollars will result.
"No one wants to have something go to management, and have all the bells and whistles, get approval, and then have it fall off the radar because it’s not sustainable and consistent," she continues. "It goes back to metrics and the vision of [management]. If it is the company’s vision to have a well work force, how do you dovetail onto that, how much does it cost, and how do you measure the efficacy of it?"
This approach, which Tobias has presented to occupational health managers in both the hospital and nonhospital settings, can be applied to any work setting.
No matter what the work setting, there is someone at the top of the management chain, a CEO or administrator, who has a board to answer to and who needs to have useful information on a program or change that he or she will be accountable for.
"And you need to be able to show, for example, with a workers’ comp program, that you are saving money," says Tobias. "You should be able to show that [what you propose] will save your salary or double that. That’s a real value-add to your organization.
"And showing a real value to the organization means you’re doing more than merely justifying your job," she continues.
Enlisting a senior member of another as a sounding board and ally can help ensure your proposal is what management needs to make a decision, and can back you up when it comes time to approach the management team.
For example, Tobias says when she is trying to enact a new program, she enlists a senior member of another department, such as finance or facilities, and goes over with that person what her proposal is, what she expects to accomplish, and how the idea fits into her institution’s overall vision. The objective feedback helps refine her presentation, and when she goes into the management team meeting to make her presentation, she already has one person in the room supporting her proposal.
Tailor pitch to the audience
When the research is done, the metrics are defined, and you are ready to pitch your program or change to company or hospital leaders, Tobias suggests doing it in two steps.
"Prepare an overall view — what does it look like to senior management, the people who have limited time to read?" she says. "How much does it cost? Does it make sense? Use those kinds of terms."
The second part of the pitch delves deep to provide detail all the stakeholders need. Present goals, financials, risks, effects on employee health and workers comp, and other fine details, so that supervisors, the CEO, financial officers, and risk managers all know what to expect.
"And know how people perceive your presentation," she continues. "If it looks like you don’t understand the idea yourself, and you haven’t done your research, what’s the confidence level going to be in you and the success of your proposal?
"When you approach senior management, you need to be internally convinced that it’s a good idea and that you know what you think you can achieve at the end of the day."
Take a look at your appearance and how you present yourself, as well. Tobias suggests observing the marketing and sales employees at your hospital or company, to see how they dress and how they present information to management.
"They look confident, dress appropriately, and can articulate what they need in terms of resources in dollars and people and space; and they can convince people that they have the best idea since sliced bread," she explains.
[For more information, contact:
- Beverly DaCosta Tobias, MBA, RN, COHN-S, CCM, FAAOHN, Director of Occupational Health and Safety, Stanford University Hospital and Clinic and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, Palo Alto, CA. Phone: (650) 725-9583. E-mail: btobias@stanfordmed. org.]
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