Employees rarely leave their profession. Instead, they leave their bosses. Even in the worst job market in recent history, if employees don't feel engaged and satisfied, they will leave. The worst part is, your highest performers head for the door first.
One of the most important ways to keep employees engaged is to have them know, understand and commit to a specific set of standards. To accomplish this most effectively, have employees themselves draft standards they believe to be most important. Administration can guide the discussion and be part of the process, but the employees must be the ones who organically develop them.
The next step is to hold an in-service where all employees can read and sign a copy of the new standards they created. This accomplishes two things. First, employees know exactly how they should act. Second, it encourages complete accountability if someone doesn't follow the standards.
Once the standards are in place, ensure the organization measures what is important. Objective standards are more effective--e.g., number of sick days used, IV and intubation success rates, etc. If your service measures patient satisfaction, ensure that every employee is held accountable for that score by putting it into the evaluation and weighting it appropriately. Subjective measures are important, but they must be defended with accurate documentation. It is also essential that administration sign the document and be held to the same standards and evaluations as employees.
Reward a Job Well Done
Define employee culture objectively using a survey tool. I recommend the Gallup Q12. In my experience, it is one of the best out there. Take the survey annually and follow up with action plans to improve areas where the organization scored less than desired.
Reward and recognition are important in any organization, but they are supremely important in EMS. Here's why: We are trained to recognize the negative, find the problem and fix it. It's how we keep patients alive. However, this approach focuses on the constant identification of what employees do wrong. This is important for deviation from policy or scopes of practice, but when was the last time your employees were recognized for doing something well? What gets rewarded and recognized gets repeated.
Find out how your employees like to be recognized, then use that strategy. Some prefer to be praised in private, while others like to be put on a pillar and celebrated. Finding out what each employee prefers shows your employees you're paying attention to them and you gain some credit in the emotional bank to use when things aren't going as well.
One of the best reward and recognition tools available is handwritten "thank you" notes. They are short, simple, specific and inexpensive. The impact of "thank you" notes is one of the greatest motivators in employee satisfaction. To use them most effectively, someone higher in the chain of command than the employee must hand-write them. Be specific to the one behavior or action they did. Don't include a long diatribe or vague language that thanks them just for working at your organization. Finally, mail them to the employees' homes so they can celebrate in private, or show their family or significant others the impact they make at work.
Harvest Success with Rounding for Outcomes
EMS leaders can also gauge their organization, deal with issues before they become problems, and communicate in a way that conveys their appreciation for great performers with a tool taught by the Studer Group called Rounding for Outcomes.
Many managers and leaders may say, "I don't have time for this." Or they may deny there are any problems at all by saying, "I already know my people and what they want." Maybe you do. Perhaps when you ask how things are going, people say "fine." But how hard do you drill down to ensure they are doing more than just paying lip service? Rounding allows managers to go beyond the superficial and really figure out how employees feel, what the issues are, and most important, harvest success.