CarolWyattMost managers of HTM departments have had employees that need constant minding, while others—our dream employees—seem to require little or none. Unfortunately, the most natural response for us as managers is to allot our most precious commodity—time—to those employees making the most noise.

The Costs of Neglect

It’s time to take a closer look at that practice. What is it really costing us to put our valuable time into dealing with our squeaky wheel employees? What do we lose when we don’t have enough time to pay attention to our outstanding performers?

One result may be that our star employees withdraw. That is, they no longer volunteer for projects or tasks, and no longer offer unsolicited advice or assistance. They are happy to help when asked, but the desire to excel is no longer there. They have fallen into the “why bother” mode. They invested their time and expertise, and got nothing in return. Through our neglect, we have unintentionally killed their passion for the job. In effect, our noisemakers have turned our stellar techs into status quo techs.

Alternatively, neglected high performers may redirect their time and energy into something that offers a better return on investment. They may pour their talents into one department or one line of equipment. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be a terrible waste of a valuable resource.

And of course, underappreciated star employees will very likely leave us for employment where they feel more valued. We can throw money at those great employees to stay, but we all know that’s a temporary fix.

But here’s what I believe is the biggest risk: The stellar employee may become a squeaky wheel. Believing that they are not appreciated, have no purpose, or don’t make a difference, these employees begin to make noise to get attention. They would rather have negative attention than no attention at all.

Cultivating Your Stars

So what can you do? First, understand that everyone needs acceptance, to be listened to, and to be validated. We can start by meeting these basic needs. It’s really not hard and doesn’t take a lot of time. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Connect the dots. Biomed technicians bring a lot of value to our facilities. It’s important that managers remember that and express our appreciation. We all need purpose. We perform better when we know why we do what we do. By tying purpose to the institution’s vision and engaging our employees in the process, we can connect the dots between what a tech does and how it affects the hospital.

Say “thank you.” A thank you has a huge ROI. It is a multilevel gesture that shows appreciation and recognition. Saying thanks doesn’t take a lot of time. It’s equally effective whether conveyed in person or by email. And to make it more meaningful, remember to be specific whenever you say thanks.

Recognize accomplishments. Show your employees appreciation for the work that they do. Some everyday tasks may not appear above and beyond, but look a little closer. Sometimes it’s not the work itself that is outstanding, but rather what it took to do the work. Was that task completed under time constraints, after hours, or with a cost savings? A good technician I know, saddled with an unusually heavy PM workload one month, was nonetheless able to complete 95% of the PMs. Unfortunately, the technician’s manager chose to focus on the 5% that were not completed. Although well intentioned and looking out for the hospital’s best interest, the manager made the tech feel worthless for not completing 100% of the PMs.

Acknowledge competence. Sometimes you should recognize employees simply for doing their job.

Recognize in public. While employees will appreciate getting thanks by email or a handshake for a job well done, such gestures mean even more when everyone knows it. Public recognition enhances the feeling of appreciation

Manage up. Remind your department nurses, managers, and directors of all the great work your stellar employee does on a daily basis.

A day should never pass that the great employee doesn’t feel appreciated. Every day should be filled with purpose and passion. Keep these high performers engaged in projects, decisions, and training.

Building a Positive Environment

As for those squeaky wheel performers, find the root cause of the squeak. Work with the technician to resolve the issue. Attack the problem, not the symptom. It may be as simple as some extra training or a change in hours.

Sometimes, unfortunately, there will be nothing that can be done. It’s highly unlikely, for instance, that workloads can be lightened, and shift changes may not be possible. Complaining about this kind of situation doesn’t mean the technician isn’t a good technician, but that he or she would probably be happier someplace else. Helping a technician move on in such cases is sometimes the best thing that can happen to the technician and to the biomed office. Everyone works better in a positive environment.

Nothing I have shared with you here is earth-shattering advice, but it is important to remember to value your team members and recognize them for their work. Rather than focusing on your squeaky wheels, manage in a way that cultivates your star performers. David Braeutigam, director of biomedical engineering at Baylor Scott & White Health, puts it this way: “Who would you rather lose: the outstanding technician, or the technician that brings down the biomed team?”

Carol L. Wyatt, MPA, is manager, biomedical engineering, at Baylor Scott & White Health, McKinney, Tex. For more information, contact [email protected].