Finding a work/life balance in health care

Finding a work/life balance in health care – Dear Workforce

Dear Workforce:

I am looking for information on how health-care facilities, such as hospitals or long-term care facilities, have implemented work/life programs (especially for employees such as nurses and nurse’s aides). What has worked and what hasn’t worked?

–Instructor, health care, Kent, Ohio

Dear Instructor:

The answer comes from Megan Healy of The Segal Company:

Work/life programs have been most effective in hospitals that have done the necessary research to assess their employee demographics and the needs of their workforces. Recognizing the prevalence of women and parents of young children in the health-care industry, especially in nursing, can help focus program design. Gathering organization-specific information can help in the design of targeted and successful work/life programs.

Paid time off (PTO) programs have become one of the most popular work/life benefits offered to hospital employees. Although providing flexible work arrangements in the health-care industry continues to be a challenge, PTO programs are providing employees with more control over their time than has traditionally been offered. PTO programs recognize that employees need time off for a variety of reasons, many of which can be linked directly to work/life balance. In addition to PTO programs, many hospitals are addressing flexibility by allowing nurses opportunities to work 12-hour shifts. Longer shifts are enabling nurses to compress their workweeks into three or four longer days, leaving more free time to tackle work/life needs.

In addition to increased control over their time, the predominantly female health-care workforce values benefits that address childcare needs. On-site child care, sick-child care, and backup care have become critical levers for hospitals looking to retain single parents and shift workers. In addition to child-care accommodations for younger children, many teaching hospitals are offering full tuition support for the older children of employees as an incentive for employees to stay with the organization.

Hospitals have also had success utilizing internal resources in the design of work/life programs. Many hospitals offer their employees comprehensive wellness and preventative on-site health-care programs. Providing everything from health screenings to flu shots, hospitals are using these programs as opportunities to practice what they preach.

One new and growing trend: spirituality programs in the workplace. While these benefits are especially popular in the Southeast, many hospitals are beginning to recognize the value of these programs to employees who are struggling daily to balance work and life demands, as well as dealing with the stressful times in which we live.

Managing Peers

Dear Workforce:

I’ve been recently asked by our HR director to take on a promotional assignment to manage our recruiting team. The first challenge I see is that I will now be managing a former peer. How can I make this situation successful?

–Assistant vice president, human resources, finance/insurance/real estate, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Dear Assistant Vice President:

The answer comes from Mike Sweeny, managing director, T. Williams Consulting, Inc.:

This situation happens quite often in companies and, if not correctly managed, could cause major headaches for you in your new role. If your peer was also in the running for the same promotion, I suggest that the director of HR meet with that person to fully explain why you were selected. This should help to minimize any possible resentment toward you.

Meet one-on-one with your former peer to discuss your plans for the department. Stress that you believe in taking input from all your staff members and that the lines of communication are always open. During your discussion, try to learn more about this person’s career goals and emphasize that you want to work together to help achieve them.

Don’t forget to meet separately with all your staff members so they don’t think that your peer is getting preferential treatment. Always be conscious of how your decisions appear to the rest of the team. If you are very friendly with your peer, try hard not to let the friendship appear to shape your decisions.

Smoothing Out Salaries

Dear Workforce:

We recently hired a new employee whose salary was about $5,000 more than that of his supervisor, who had been with the company several years and had recently been promoted. However, the supervisor wasn’t aware of this pay discrepancy until the information came out somehow in management conversation.

Up until that time, the supervisor had been a happy employee, but now he feels humiliated and I fear he may resign. Management tried to smooth things over by pointing out other benefits that compensate for the lower salary, but to no avail. What else can we do to smooth things over?


HR and office manager,

finance/insurance/real estate, Houston

Dear Bedeviled:

Rob Capretto, Ph.D., The Herman Group, says a person’s sense of self-worth is often measured by the value that his employer places on him. Either your compensation program needs an overhaul or you are overly rich in supervision and lean on labor.

The answer is in having a solid compensation philosophy. The worth of every job should be objectively determined against market criteria. This will assure you not only of internal equity but also that you are paying your employees competitively. Smoothing things over is an exercise in futility. Setting things right is the long-term solution.

Sit down with the supervisor and tell him that you agree that the compensation discrepancy is not right. Rather than take a chance on making a bad situation worse by acting precipitously, you should evaluate your overall compensation philosophy. Whatever adjustments you make will build a fair and equitable compensation program for the future. Remind him that the company has been fair with him in the past, and request his patience for a month to six weeks while you sort things out.

Your goal should be to develop a compensation plan that is fair to every employee.

Earning Employee Trust

Dear Workforce:

What are the challenges faced by organizations in earning, developing, and retaining employee trust?

Want to Be Trustworthy, management consultant, services, Hanover, Maryland

Dear Want to Be Trustworthy:

The answer comes from Jim Concelman, leadership development product manager, Development Dimensions International:

Organizations cannot earn, develop, or retain employee trust; only people can.

Trust is an inherently interpersonal experience; while organizations can define policies and practices that promote trust, ultimately it’s the cumulative behavior of individuals-especially leaders-that determines the level of trust in an organization. In many ways, trust means confidence: confidence that others’ actions are consistent with their words, that people are concerned about your welfare, and that you are valued and respected.

I’ve seen trust described as “the emotional glue that binds associates to the organization.” What is it that strengthens or weakens this bond? In 1999, DDI conducted a survey about trust in the workplace. The results showed that senior management had the biggest influence on “organizational trust,” and they were the least-trusted group (compared with front-line leaders, peers, and other teams). The survey also showed which behaviors were associated with trusted leadership:

* Consistent behavior

* Dependability/reliability

* Support during risk-taking

* Keeping the best interests in mind of the people who work for you

Few leaders deliberately act in an untrustworthy manner. Usually, leaders do things that reduce trust unintentionally and even unconsciously. Bob Rogers, president of DDI, has examined trust closely and notes that it’s important for senior leaders to place a high value on trust and address five crucial areas that have a direct impact on the level of trust in an organization:

* People find it easier to place their trust in an organization that has a clear vision that represents an attainable “stretch” goal and emphasizes the importance of individual contributions. This gives people a high degree of trust that their organization is headed in the right direction, which will benefit them.

* Trust occurs when organizational values are exhibited and followed by senior leaders. This provides a benchmark for all employees and leads to a sense of consistency, dependability, and reliability regardless of economic, environmental, or organizational changes.

* Few subjects create as much controversy or distrust as compensation. Senior leaders must manage their organizations’ compensation systems, especially executive compensation, to ensure fairness and consistency

* The work environment plays a significant role in people’s perception of how much top-level management really cares about them. Work environment means more than physical surroundings. For example, all employees should be able to trust senior management to create an environment free of discrimination and harassment.

* Some of the most scrutinized decisions that senior leaders make involve personnel decisions, such as hiring, firing, appraising, and promoting. If an organization is to build trust, such decisions must be based on factual, objective data.

Building and maintaining a high-trust environment takes dedication and commitment. Assuming that trust will just happen is one of the biggest traps in which leaders can get caught.

This article is intended to provide useful information on tile topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state and foreign laws may differ from US federal law.

Dear workforce: Online

You can now get a week’s roundup of Dear Workforce in your e-mail box twice a month. Not only will you be able to ask your own questions, but you can also see what’s on the minds of your friends and colleagues in the HR field, as well as in recruiting, benefits, and training. To sign up for the free newsletter, just go to www.workforcc.comldearworkforce.

COPYRIGHT 2002 ACC Communications Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group