March 4, 2005

Elevate leadership training under way

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Elevate leadership training under way

Vanderbilt University Medical Center is in the first stage of a push to upgrade service and general operational performance, an all-out endeavor that gained momentum last week when some 721 staff and faculty gathered for the first elevate Leadership Development Institute.

Those who were invited to the session have jobs that involve hiring and/or employee evaluations. Elevate pivots on the varied contributions of this throng of leaders, and on adoption of a specific, detailed set of leadership principles and practices promoted by the Studer Group, the consulting firm engaged to assist elevate. If you weren't invited to last week's session, you'll be hearing about what happened from your supervisor, because attendees were asked to recap the session for their VUMC work groups by March 25.

There are a few Studer organizational development “must haves” — effective leader rounding, employee thank you notes, discharge phone calls to patients, use of “key words at key times” (scripting), aligning leader evaluations with desired behaviors, successful employee selection and special coaching for new employees, especially the first 90 days of employment — but the bulk of last week's session had to do with Studer's top “must have,” leader rounding. This is a strategy for staff communication and systems improvement and a way to engage all employees in elevate.

To the extent that supervisors stick to the Studer recipe for rounding, they'll be walking around complimenting the good work of staff and physicians, asking about what is going well and which staff and physicians may be particularly deserving of thanks, asking about how systems might be improved to ease any work hassles and asking whether staff have the tools and equipment they need. Leaders will initially round with staff and later will also round with patients in their areas. For leaders with internal responsibilities, it is expected that they will round on their internal customers. The recent session included some consideration by leaders of how to respond to tough questions from staff. Attendees were asked to begin periodic rounding of staff by March 30.

Leaders also heard about the value of writing thank you notes to deserving employees. It was acknowledged that it may appear a bit hokey to set this up as a regular practice, but thank you notes were presented as one of the most effective things that can be done to foster continued staff commitment. Attendees were asked to send at least two handwritten thank you notes per month to deserving employees.

Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs Harry R. Jacobson, M.D., introduced some of the long-range goals that have been identified to help steer elevate. These goals fall into five categories — people, service, quality, growth and financial results. Jacobson said the goals will be translated into annual targets, and attendees were asked to talk over the goals with their work groups by March 25

From its current level of 3.87 on a scale to five, Jacobson and his team want to raise employee satisfaction to 4.5; Jacobson said this is the most ambitious of all elevate goals.

They want to continue the positive trend in VUMC job turnover; it's currently at 15 percent overall, and at 10.9 percent for nurses, and they want it down to 12 percent and 8 percent respectively.

They want to coax employee retention at 18 months to 80 percent; it's currently 57 percent.

They want VUMC to make it by 2007 into Fortune magazine's 100 Best Companies to Work For.

Jacobson wants at least 95 percent of VUMC patients to say they would be likely to return here if they needed care, with 88.6 percent currently saying they would return.

They want Vanderbilt hospitals to achieve the lowest patient mortality in the nation, and to perform among the top 10 percent in publicly reported quality measures.

They want to increase sponsored research dollars by 10 percent per year, and increase the pool of high-volume referring physicians by 5 percent per year. Finally, they want to increase hospital and clinic net revenue 10 percent per year, and increase the bottom line by 18 percent per year.