5 Tips to Improve Employee Communication From Mackinaw Surgery Center’s Steve Corl

Steve Corl, administrator at Mackinaw Surgery Center in Saginaw, Mich., discusses the center's most successful initiatives in improving internal communication between management and staff members.

1. Set clear guidelines for employee expectations. The surgery center should first clearly articulate what is expected from all employees, management and staff. One way to do this is by creating a committee to initiate a Standard of Behavior Statement for the organization, says Mr. Corl.

From that point onward, it is important to frequently touch base with employees to ensure that standards are understood and any outstanding questions are answered. "Our upper management has a monthly meeting that follows a given outline, which can change with employees' input if the staff has a different focus topic," says Mr. Corl. "Make sure the meeting date is posted each time, and offer the option to write down topics of interest with initials next to it for follow-up or clarification purposes."  

2. Hold more frequent meetings as necessary. In addition to the monthly upper management meetings, Mackinaw Surgery Center began to hold weekly nursing meetings that typically last 15 minutes and occur first thing in the morning, says Mr. Corl. Each meeting, which aimed to address pressing staff issues or concerns, would be organized by a list of each topic to be discussed and the name of the staff member who requested each point of discussion. "As issues and concerns were followed up on and resolved, the staff could decide to have the meetings less often," he says.  

3. Set up monthly check-ins between supervisors and employees. The surgery center also implemented a monthly "rounding" protocol for managers, in which they privately meet with each employee to collect feedback on the employee's performance and gather feedback about the employee's peers. Each one-one-one meeting should take between five and 10 minutes, says Mr. Corl.

"Rounding must be done privately — preferably in the manager's office — and at a time convenient for the employee, not the management," he says. "This program helps to identify employees that are doing an outstanding job not just from the management's point of view, but from their peers' point of view as well, as this is one of their questions they are asked during rounding."  

4. Recognize employees who have high performance ratings. Following the employee rounding sessions, supervisors can gather feedback to determine which employees are consistently rated as high performers and recognize them accordingly, says Mr. Corl. "It can be as simple as a thank-you card mailed to their home, a gift card or an 'employee of the month' parking spot up front in the parking lot," he says.

Simple group activities in the office also serve to recognize the staff's positive performance as a whole. "We will have pot lucks in which all employees bring something in, or the organization will sponsor it if the staff meets certain goals, such as patient satisfaction or quality initiative goals," he says.  

5. Use communication books between departments. Mr. Corl placed communication books between departments to better organize supplies and operational costs. For example, the operating room staff began using a materials management book to track backordered supplies and document any supplies that would be needed over the next several weeks — a process that encouraged collaboration and enabled employees to more closely understand one another's roles. "With this all in place, morale has been positive," says Mr. Corl.

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