As I travel the country working with HME companies of all sizes, it is clear that employees and managers have one thing in common: Their behaviors feed off one another. Moreover, managers often direct the manner in which the operation functions and set the morale/tone for their employees. So how does behavior impact the functionality of the HME organization?
First ask yourself, what is behavior? According to Merriam-Webster, behavior is the “manner of conducting oneself.” Another definition states “the response of an individual, group or species to its environment.”
Staff behavior is typically a response to that of superiors. In fact, most employees emulate and mimic the ways in which work is done by their managers or supervisors. From my experience in hundreds of HME companies, I've noticed a recurring theme: When managers have no spark, no burning desire to succeed, neither does the staff.
For example, in one company I visited recently, the billing supervisors didn't see the point in resolving open claims. They preferred instead to write off the receivable dollar because they felt their attempts might be futile. This taught me that if supervisors don't work their hardest to overcome challenges in meeting adversity, neither will staff.
Conversely, when managers feel a sense of ownership and urgency to get the job done, so does staff. Motivated managers breed motivated staff.
In today's HME economy, it is imperative that managers behave as the role models staff requires and deserves. Make sure your managers have the dedication and drive to succeed. Those factors, combined with the necessary technical skills, will allow them to get the job done.
Once you find key staff to develop as company leaders, you must provide training and expectations. This translates to setting realistic accountability measures for supervisors and managers. In turn, they must establish objective measures for their employees. These measures should come from a collaboration between staff and management to decipher what tasks the employees undertake daily and how long it takes to complete each task. The exercise will give you an opportunity to learn how each person works and what they accomplish daily. Further, it will enable you to set standard levels of performance and accountability measures.
Clearly, the more objective you are with your staff, the more they will understand what is expected of them. For example, if denials are an issue as in many HME organizations, set a goal to work denials for the first two hours of every day. See how long it actually takes to resolve the denials, and track the action taken for the timing and accuracy of the response.
Once standards are established, create a reward program for success. It might be as simple as a gift card to a restaurant or pizza lunch. You will find that success breeds success. The more staff achieves, the more they want to achieve. This positive behavior will show that managers who lead by example achieve desired results. Coaching and leadership combined with the necessary tools and resources will help your staff excel.
As you start to see the desired results, you will find that employees like short-term goals because they feel like winners in achieving them. In addition, your employees will feel pride of ownership if you allow them to engage in establishing goals.
Finally, meeting regularly (provided there is a worthwhile agenda) is critical to keeping the lines of communication open. In fact, permit staff to help lead these meetings. Once your employees see a positive role model leading the meetings, you might just find a hidden gem, another leader who might otherwise remain unrecognized in the background. A quick daily huddle is also helpful as you try to bring staff together toward a common goal; this will, in turn, promote a team-playing approach.
The overarching message is that management behavior is critically important to the success of any HME organization (or any organization, for that matter). If they model positive behavior with a sense of urgency, openness and approachability, managers will show through their leadership that they act as business owners. Their personal integrity will be mimicked by their staff. With this positive behavior, objective measures for accountability will help them gain additional profitability.
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Miriam Lieber is president of Lieber Consulting, Sherman Oaks, Calif., specializing in operations management and reimbursement for the HME industry. You can reach her at 818/789-0670 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.