July 2011
SullivanLuallin Benchmark Newsletter Banner

In This Issue
Q & A: Rewarding staff members
Staff Feature: Summer Petralli
Join Our Mailing List



Welcome to the Summer edition of our BENCHMARK newsletter! This issue focuses on the value of assessing your insider's' perceptions and what to do with what you learn. There's also a great idea for a no-cost employee "extra-step" recognition reward, and an introduction to our newest team member, Summer Petralli. Enjoy!


- The SullivanLuallin Team



Ever noticed the difference between a visit to a veterinarian's office and a doctor's office? The smiling girl or guy behind the vet counter (usually wearing a smock or shirt with the practice logo) greets you and your pet with enthusiasm, calling your dog by name or reaching out to pet your cat.


Contrast that with the reception you get at your doctor's office. It's not uncommon that the individual looks up and greets you with, "Name?" or "Who are you here to see?"


Why the big difference? It's a matter of employee engagement. Folks who work in a vet's office usually love animals. It's obvious that they enjoy being around dogs, cats, birds, turtles, and snakes (although that may be going a bit too far!) On the other hand, employees who work in physician offices are there often primarily for the paycheck not because they love people.


It's been documented by the Gallup Organization in a poll conducted in 2005 that only 29% of employees are energized and committed at work, in other words, "engaged." (You may have already noticed!) More distressing is that the data showed 54% are effectively "neutral" - they show up and do what's expected, but little more. That leaves 17% who are "disengaged." They've quit - but not left. They've quit and stayed! (You've probably noticed this too.)


Why is this an issue? Because it's only the 29% who are engaged and committed to making the patient encounter a positive experience. These folks also contribute to the positive word-of-mouth referrals and patient loyalty your practice relies on for future growth and revenue.


So what's the answer to creating more employee engagement in your practice? It's a two part process. First ask, then fix.


Step one: Conduct a simple Staff Member Survey to identify who's pulling with you and who's just not on board at all.


The neutrals and disengaged folks aren't lost souls. Many times they've tuned out because they have the impression that no one cares about them, their opinions or their contributions. A Staff Member Survey tells them management is interested after all. Your employee survey can assess their perceptions of what's working well and what's not working at all. Further, when all members of the practice, including managers and providers are polled, disparities in perceptions come through loud and clear.


In addition to typical questions regarding working conditions, the SullivanLuallin Staff Member Survey asks unique "mirror" questions to compare perceptions among physicians, managers and employees. "Mirror" questions pinpoint specific areas where impressions differ. For example, typical "agree-disagree" statements are phrased like this:


Physicians:  I praise employees for good performance

Managers/Staff:  Physicians praise employees for good performance


Needless to say, when there is a major difference of opinion between physicians and staff members, it can lead directly to a concerted effort by providers to be more appreciative of staff efforts.


To view a sample of SullivanLuallin's Staff Member Survey, click here.


Step two: Develop a work plan that includes employees in finding solutions.


At the University of Florida, Jacksonville, Tim O'Connor, Training and Development Manager, has a system in which department managers enlist their employees in finding cooperative ways to improve "engagement."


"We give each of our 54 managers summary reports on how their employees responded to the survey," Tim says. "Then we ask them to select a survey item each quarter and involve their staff members in a team process to analyze what's behind the scores, and build an action plan for raising them."


The team approach transforms what used to be a solitary managerial process into a consensus-building activity which makes staff members part-authors of the action plan. "There's lots of research to support the team strategy," says Tim. "People who are involved in the plan are more likely to support it - and that raises the likelihood of its success."


Q & A: Rewarding staff members

Q.  With lean times upon us and reimbursement ever-declining, our doctors are curbing the "give-aways" we've used to reward "extra step" performance. Do you have any ideas for staff rewards that don't cost money?


A.  It's true that times are tough, but we've heard of one staff incentive that hits a home run every time. It's a coupon for 15 minutes of free time. Staff members who receive one in appreciation for going above and beyond can apply their 15 minutes to extend the morning or afternoon break or take a little longer for lunch. One caveat, though, "15-minute" coupons cannot be stockpiled. Sure, it'd be great to collect 32 of them and get eight hours off, but that's a "no - no!"


STAFF FEATURE : Summer Petralli


Summer Petralli graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in Communications. She has a passion for healthcare related marketing, sales, customer service, event planning, and project management. Summer has several years of experience developing marketing campaigns through creating brand awareness and consumer engagement.  When you meet Summer, you'll see why she has an excellent reputation for building and maintaining customer relationships!


Have a question you'd like our team to answer? Contact us!

SullivanLuallin specializes in patient satisfaction services, and is the premier healthcare customer service consulting firm in the nation. For over 25 years, we've helped physician practices implement Customer Service Initiatives that produce immediate improvement and ongoing results. Clients come to us for on-site and web-based Customer Service training, Shadow Coaching for low-scoring physicians, Mystery Patient/Mystery Caller assessments, and Customer Satisfaction surveys.

Dr. Alt