December 7, 2001

Survey shows satisfaction improvement

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Dr. Robert “Buck” Buchanan, 91, recounts his days in World War II. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Survey shows satisfaction

Over the next several months Medical Center managers will take a long look in a mirror of sorts, the 2001 staff survey, which reflects employee satisfaction on topics from pay to parking and patient care to Vanderbilt’s reputation.

They should like what they see.

Compared to a similar survey performed in 1998, overall satisfaction improved “dramatically,” with a lower score on only one of 41 repeat question, according to Morehead and Associates, the consulting firm that administered the 55-item questionnaire and quantitated the results.

“People had a really strong feeling of respect for their managers, as well as their co-workers, and a sense that their work group was performing at a high level,” said Darlene Lewis, associate vice chancellor for Human Resource Services.

“We’ve come a long way,” said Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, vice chancellor for Health Affairs. “This survey confirms that we’ve made improvements in areas of the Vanderbilt environment that employees were concerned about in 1998.”

Survey results have this week been revealed to Medical Center executive administrators and were distributed to unit managers, whose goal it will be to share them with staff and take the process one step further. “We’re asking managers to develop action plans and to address five or six of their staff’s concerns that were revealed in the survey, and to post those plans on the Web,” Lewis said.

That move, Lewis said, points to the main purpose of the survey—to investigate what in the Medical Center environment needs improvement.

Question No. 38—“When the medical center is financially successful, it rewards its people” received the largest improved response. That’s a direct result of an action plan from the 1998 survey that led to a $200 bonus to all staff and the new performance incentive system.

In a Medical Center Board meeting on Dec. 6, Norman Urmy, executive vice president for Clinical Affairs, highlighted the survey’s scores. “I’m proud that we can say we listen to our staff and take action based on their input,” he said. “It’s gratifying to see their positive responses to those actions.”

Other concerns that surfaced in 1998 that have been addressed include free parking for patients and a planned $1.9 million renovation to the child care center that will create more room for toddlers and infants—specific requests from the 1998 survey, Lewis said. Alternative work arrangements were also implemented, allowing flex time and other creative work arrangements to help balance work with a personal life. To increase diversity, the Medical Center created the position of associate dean for Diversity, launched with Meharry Medical College and the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance.

The survey measured responses on a scale of 1-5 and asked employees to rank on the same scale how important each question, or the issue it addressed, was to them. A formula also determined if a response from this year’s survey was significant when compared to the one in 1998 or to a national average.

Besides question No. 38, significant improvement was also reflected in questions about the satisfaction with performance appraisal (a score of 3.15 compared to 1998’s 2.68 and a 2.91 national average), and whether supervisors “listen to my comments and/or suggestions” (3.84 compared to 1998’s 3.59 and 3.63 nationally).

The question that soared highest over the national average dealt with the medical center’s role in the community. The statement, “The medical center is respected in the community,” yielded a score of 4.24, half a point higher than the national average.

A statement regarding a sense of pride also received high marks. “The medical center is committed to excellence” scored 4.05, up from 3.88 in 1998 and higher than the national average of 3.83.

“Everything we do here we want to do excellently,” Jacobson said. “Furthermore, we want everything we do, from patient care to research to educational outreach, to be an asset to the Nashville and Middle Tennessee communities.”

The issue of promotions is the foremost area of focus for the next few years.

Answers on the survey about promotions included: “The most qualified people get promoted”—scored 2.74, and another—”There is a good chance that I will get promoted”—scored 2.78.

Jacobson said the implementation of performance reviews will continue to address the issue of promotions.

Another area that administration would like to see improved is response to the survey. Of the more than 10,000 employees, only 54 percent responded, Lewis said.

“We really value people’s opinions,” Jacobson said. “Getting input from the staff is one of the most important things we do around here.”