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How Can I Make My Staff ’s Jobs Better?

Question

Based on your advice, I have changed a lot of things that I do. The biggest change I’ve made is asking people, “What is the one thing that I can do to make your job easier?” I have even incorporated that question into my annual reviews. I ask my doctors and all of my employees.

Most of the time, all I get back is blank stares. I just do not think that people are prepared to answer this question. I find that I get a lot out of spending more time on the floor—sitting at the nurses’ station, working the night shift, etc. I see things and ask, “Why is this like this?” I have to lead folks to say, “Hey, that’s messed up!”

How do I get my employees to truly think outside of the box—to get away from the mundane—and tell me just what I can change to help them in their work?

Answer

My experience echoes yours. Many employees have shut themselves down after years of not seeing action. I believe people get worn down and stop using their own intellect to solve problems. Here are some tips:

Bring up observations and ask employees why? How does it impact them? What do they think about it? For example, I know a leader who on rounding one Monday asked an employee who had worked over the weekend how it went. Her answer was, “Okay.” The leader then asked some specific questions about staffing, ancillary, etc. When they got to supplies, the employee said they ran out of some and had to call for more, but that was normal. It happened every weekend. The leader then asked what the employee felt could be done. The employee said, “We could check census on Friday and adjust inventory based on our expected shortage.” They had always stocked the same amount. The leader asked her to talk to staff and decide what levels made sense. The employee had the “Aha!” look. By drilling down, the leader helped the employee return on an engine that had been shut down.

Select key issues that are problematic and have staff members give suggestions. It’s a good way to start.

Capture things that are excellent and, with your staff, outline the reasons why. Then ask if the same methods might work in other not-as-good areas. You’re teaching transfer of learning and techniques.

When positive ideas and solutions begin to appear, publicize widely. I once invited two lab techs to come to a department meeting to explain how they felt when asked to solve a problem.

Build into each person’s evaluation at least one implemented idea that made the organization better.