By Thomas F. Steiner
A Gallup study of the American workforce demonstrates that staff “engagement” is key to productivity and profitability. Here are practical steps toincrease your staff’s personal dedication to meeting practice goals.
AMERICAN WORKFORCE NOT ENGAGED
The first article in this two-part series on staff engagement reported Gallup survey findings that 70 percent of American employees are less than fully engaged at work, causing substantial reductions in productivity and quality in every corner of corporate life. Based on ECP feedback, insufficient staff engagement is a major issue in many eyecare practices, resulting in inefficiency, waste and patient dissatisfaction.
Some ECPs place the blame for inadequate staff engagement on the motivation and work ethic of staff members themselves. But from studies in many work environments, Gallup observes that engagement is nearly always an accurate barometer of the quality of the relationship between bosses and their direct reports. How a boss interacts with employees determines engagement.
Ways to Improve Staff Engagement
It is within the power of any boss to improve employee engagement. Here are methods Gallup recommends that bosses adopt:
Articulate and Define. Continuously articulate the company mission and what makes the company different from others. Define the mission in terms of how it will improve other people’s lives.
Demonstrate commitment. Demonstrate a personal commitment to living the company mission in all daily actions.
• Clearly convey how each person’s unique job is critical to achievement of the company mission.
• Match individual job responsibilities with strengths and talents. It is ineffective to focus on eliminating employee weaknesses to achieve an identical level of competency in all employees. People are most engaged when they do work they are good at and least engaged when they frequently fail.
• Empower people to manage their area of responsibility.
• Involve employees in process improvement initiatives. Listen to and act upon employee recommendations.
• Define personal success criteria in measurable ways that an employee is able to influence directly.
With conscious effort, practice owners can apply these recommendations in everyday interactions with staff. It is worth the effort because the level of patient engagement and loyalty is always highly correlated with staff engagement.
Engagement suffers when employees:
• Feel powerless to fulfill responsibilities because of outmoded or unavailable tools or lack of empowerment to make decisions about how work is performed.
• Have not received a concrete definition of what outcomes constitute success or failure, or a precise definition of what represents good or unacceptable performance.
• Do not receive regular and timely feedback on their performance.
• View their goal as achieving a unit production quota, rather than helping other people in a meaningful way.
• Believe that their role is to complete rigidly defined functional tasks, not to contribute ideas to improve work processes.
• Are infrequently complimented or thanked for a job well done.
• Feel that the boss does not know their personal ambitions, their family demands or care about their growth opportunities.
• Observe a disconnect between a supervisor’s lofty, customer-friendly words and their self-serving actions.
For more details about Gallup’s employee engagement surveys and recommendations on improving engagement, see “State of the American Workplace,” available at www.businessjournal.gallup.com.
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Thomas F. Steiner, Director of Market Research for ROB, has spent more than 25 years helping eyecare practices succeed, including pioneering the introduction of color contact lenses into optometry. To contact him: firstname.lastname@example.org