Attention managers: Stop Managing Your Staff

  1. Attention managers:

    Stop Managing Your Staff

    By Dale Shimko, for, May 20, 2002

    Executives are trying to manage the wrong things

    As healthcare providers have cut staffing levels to the bone, each employee has become proportionately more important to the organization's operational success. With fewer staff providing services for the same number of patients, each staff person has more impact on quality of care, clinical outcomes, patient relations and operational effectiveness.

    It is no wonder that many healthcare leaders are scratching their heads and asking: "How can I get my staff to do more with less?"

    Healthcare executives have tried any number of popular "flavor-of-the-month" approaches for motivating employees to perform better. While many ideas have merit and offer some insights into human behavior, their application is often applied with faulty thinking.

    The flawed thinking lies within the question: "How can I motivate my employees to perform better?" This is faulty for a couple of reasons.

    First, the executive is not omnipotent. The executive has taken on the challenge to discover the "something" to do to employees to get them to behave differently. This thinking represents the continuing quest for the Holy Grail of managing employees i.e. "What is the magic bullet for getting employees to do what I want them to do?" But, in reality, there is no such fix, so you might as well stop trying.

    Second, the executive has assumed responsibility for motivating the employee. But executives can't motivate someone else. Motivation comes from within each person and can't be imposed externally by the executive or anyone else.

    The real key to motivating and retaining employees is still what it has been always: a workplace environment carefully designed to elicit employee satisfaction. Research by Yankelovich Partners, a prominent market research firm that has polled U.S. employees for over three decades, consistently finds the three most important sources of staff satisfaction are:

    *To be able to do quality work,
    *To be given the opportunity to contribute in meaningful ways, and
    *To be recognized for doing so.

    Aon Consulting's Healthcare@Work recent joint study with the American Hospital Association and the American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration reports similar findings.

    In other words, staffs want to do their best work. They want to have fulfilling work content. They want to be significant contributors to their organization's success. They would also like to be given some credit when they are doing so. The very doors that open the way to staff motivation are things most executives would embrace
    But research shows that the three most significant sources of staff dissatisfaction are:

    *Policies and how they are administered,
    *Supervision and the way work is overseen
    *Interpersonal relationships

    Employees want to do things that closely parallel what executives want them to do, but organizational policies, management personnel, workgroup dynamics and interdisciplinary issues are getting in the way. Unfortunately, my own experience working with many organizations supports the research findings.

    Executives are trying to manage the wrong things, often with predictable results. They are doing the same things over and over again but are expecting different results. Staff, and executives would be more satisfied and more productive if executives stopped trying to "manage employees" and focused instead on creating a workplace environment where employees can thrive.

    Here again, there is no Holy Grail for the "right" environment. Each leadership team must determine what will work for their organization's unique needs. But asking a few strategic questions will start the discovery process.

    *What are our most important organizational goals?
    *How do we enable every employee to contribute directly to these goals?
    *How do we ensure that staff is set up to perform the highest skill levels of work for which they are qualified?
    *How do we create an infrastructure that provides both the staff autonomy needed to make the best patient care decisions and the discipline needed to control costs?
    *What are the obstacles (e.g. policies, supervision, control systems) to staff providing the highest possible quality of care?
    *What can we do to improve patient-centered collaboration among nurses, doctors, managers, and other staff?

    The answers to these questions and others will illuminate the way to a high-performance workplace environment.

    There is an old organizational management adage from Peter Drucker and other respected management gurus that current research suggests still holds true today: "Manage the work environment rather than trying to manage the people.

    If you manage the environment wisely, the people will take it upon themselves to do whatever is needed for the organization."

    Dale Shimko is president of Performance Alignment Systems, a leadership and organizational behavior services provider based in Nashville. He can be contacted at (615) 352-7666 or via e-mail at

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    Last edit by -jt on May 22, '02
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    Joined: Oct '00; Posts: 2,662; Likes: 46


  3. by   CRNI
    jt - What a great article! Dale Shimko is right on. I happen to work for a very visionary director (he is a Pharmacist, not a nurse) who believes the only way to have a high-performing team is to truly have a shared vision of what the work environment should look like. He facilitates our work, removes obstacles and provides us with the resources we need to achieve our goals. He challenges us and is very generous with recognition. Administration supports HIM because he is extremely successful with his 3 teams (Pharmacy, IV Therapy and Oncology Clinic). Very low turn-over, patient satisfaction, employee satisfaction, educational opportunities, etc.
  4. by   Jenny P
    JT; great article and really very true. Being able to do quality work, make meaningful contributions, and be recognised for the work we do makes for happy employees.
    This is an article that should be hung in every administrators office across the country.
  5. by   indeed
    I concur with what was said by all above. But I have to wonder, if someone were to hang that on the bulletin board at work or hand it to an administrator, exactly how would that be received? A gnawing feeling is telling me.....NOT VERY WELL, simply because it criticizes accepted management strategies. Ahhh, I do love irony.

  6. by   LaurieCRNP2002
    Why not send it in an umarked envelope during off hours? Who says anyone has to personally hand it to the administrators?!
    I suggest we also include the study that just came out in the New England Journal today on nurse staffing from Needleman, et al. Think they would get the hint?!?! :chuckle