At Lakeland Regional Medical Center, the company is facing a major HR crisis with low morale that has even fueled an alleged age discrimination that has resulted in a lawsuit. Before giving an analysis of a human resources response that could deal effectively with this issue, I will discuss the extent of the problem. This accusation about age discrimination has caused the reputation of the company to diminish. In fact, according to an official with the company – who only wanted to be referred to as Dean for fear of facing consequences at work for talking to a member of the public – the company was in fact ranked as the top place to be employed for five consecutive years. The age discrimination has led to several other factors, such low morale, which has resulted in high absenteeism and low
employee retention. This absenteeism is resulting in poor quality of care for the medical center’s patients. A Gallup Survey that is used by the human resources department noted that the majority of people say the working conditions are hostile, particularly among manager/employee relationships, a low opportunity for growth within the company and no incentive programs. The specifics of this study weren’t released, and Dean said he couldn’t divulge details about the extent of the problem. However, he did say patients have been complaining about the quality of care because of a lack of staff. The problem isn’t confined to one department. In fact several departments are experiencing what they deem to be poor working conditions.
Even though management is aware of the issues the complaints have been ignored, Dean says. Management isn’t taking the concerns seriously. For example, the Gallup Survey wasn’t looked at closely because it wasn’t taken seriously. The company has even left a group of employees out of staff critiques. Among the hostile relationships was an abundance of gossip and a lack of communication. Because this company deals so closely with the public, there isn’t really anyone in the area who is immune from the confrontation between management and the rest of staff. Those who rely on the medical center are also feeling the impact in service delivery.
In order to address this issue, the company needs to focus on who is affected, why they are affected, when this problem started, how it started, where it started and what will be done to bring this company back to its former glory. Members of the HR team have said they need upper management to fully cooperate in order for the tension between them and the employees to be resolved. If the company is to prosper again, they need to address the low morale before even more patients find themselves without proper care. Dean was tight-lipped about the strategies that are currently being undertaken; however, negotiations are ongoing, which is a prime opportunity to deal with the issues and the lawsuit.
The situation at LRMC is clearly getting out of hand and needs to be addressed immediately. The alleged age discrimination lawsuit is just part of the larger problem of low morale. Many techniques are available to address low morale. Once this is addressed employees will be happier and situations such as the lawsuit about the age discrimination will likely stop. LRMC could be suffering from a lack of leadership, expertise in each department and focusing each person on their core capabilities, (Fulmer, 2006). The HR team is responsible for setting the tone for a strategy that will improve the morale. It is important to note that this transformation process can’t occur overnight, but will take sustained application of HR policies.
A similar situation was experienced at a workplace. In this case, the Midwestern hospital had the same situation where morale was at an all-time low. The staff there was reported to have lowered physician satisfaction and there was worry among the staff about leadership and whether it was effective enough in the hospital’s largest operating units. “Despite increased capacity, patient volumes were flat or falling. Physicians were complaining, and employee-management relations were strained,” (Sekowski, 2008). The HR team knew it had to take action, and so after a critical assessment of the situation, it was determined that the HR teams would have to work closely with the hospital leadership. Together the stakeholders came up with several solutions. In doing so, they determined that customized surveys of the employee and physician satisfaction were needed. But instead of not paying attention to these surveys, as what was suggested by staff at LRMC, management needs to carefully consider each response in making their determination about the actions that are needed going forward. This will help the HR department know exactly what the concerns are. At this point, plans that can help shape the leadership strategy and address the low morale will become more obvious. HR should work towards coming to a full understanding of the level of employee dissatisfaction and how they relate to the organization’s issues. Without a complete understanding, an effective plan can’t be developed. This is why it is important to implement a plan on the specific circumstances surrounding low morale at the medical centre.
Whatever the issue is relating to low morale, leadership generally needs to be modified if the current model isn’t working. Typically, when morale is low, there isn’t an adequate reward system for good work. This should be modified in order to address the concerns about a lack of opportunity for advancements. Bonuses, raises or promotions should be considered as ways to reward workers. This, in turn, will result in greater job satisfaction, as employees will feel like they are being appreciated for the work that they do. This reward system will also likely encourage employees to excel. That would include showing up to work, which has been a major issue at LRMC. The reward system could be aligned in a way that places the company in a competitive position to other companies. However, a “best practice” policy says there should be a bundle of policies that should benefit the employees, (Maloney, 2001).
For employees who are facing conflict, one-on-one coaching can be an effective method to dealing with these situations. Often, employees might not have an issue with the leadership under which they are working. However, there could be a problem with their peers. Recognizing and addressing these issues will increase morale. Employees will feel more of a desire to come into work if conflicts are either addressed or the workers who are at odds are separated. An executive coaching method could help address these concerns. The strategy is becoming more and more popular throughout the United States to deal with employee conflicts. It involves dealing with the employees one-on-one to get to the bottom of issues. “Problems occur when executives who may be having difficulty with change or its related organisational impacts such as the need for enhanced skills, performance and development,” (Paige, 2002).
Also, by seeing how LRMC lines up against other hospitals in terms of service, employee recognition and pay, the medical center more accurately positions itself into a competitive position. Employees aware of conditions in other hospital where there are more rewards, are more likely to be negative about their job. By matching what LRMC has to offer, such as pay and rewards, with other hospitals, there is a more likely chance that the employees are being given what they deserve. As for the services offered at other medical centers, employee wait times that are industry standard should be used as a benchmark for the staff at LRMC to strive for. Once that is accomplished, then the medical center can aim to be the best in the business by beating those times. Comparing companies to each other, or benchmarking, is a common practice in HR and it allows companies to see how they line up with potential employers of their current staff. “We assume that to use HR practices as a competitive advantage and to manage the paradoxes of HR, HR professionals need to be business players,” (Brockbank, 2002). The aforementioned strategies were also implemented by an example of a hospital that was given by HR Strategic Partners Inc. “In just over six months, these intense efforts resulted in gains to both patient volume and unit efficiency,” (Sekowski, 2008).
The idea to learn from other companies is echoed in Gerry Czarnecki’s “Morale and Making it Work for You: Case Study.” In the piece, Czarnecki says a lot can be learned from companies that treat their workers like owners. “Inside the surprising performance culture of steelmaker Nucor, describes the high level of commitment exhibited by the steelmakers’ workers to get a troubled plant up and running, claiming that the company had ‘the most dynamic and engaged workforces around,’” (Czarnecki, 2010). By giving the employees a stake in the company, Nucor was able to develop its employees into being productive. A similar approach should be considered at LRMC.
In a different approach, at another medical center, the CEO, matron and HR manager decided to implement a one-day workshop for all of those who are internal management at the hospital. This workshop was designed to create a focused course of action about the ways in which they could develop a united team over the next 18 months, (Changed, 2008). This approach provides an organized way for the management to handle the problem. It also makes the team more aware of the issue. In a medical center, there are many people in charge of a variety of department, which means that management needs to be on the same page to work towards better implementing a cohesive plan.
In an industry quite different from health care, but in an area suffering from a similar situation with employee morale, an international scrap metal processor was bought out. The buyout resulted in a change in management at a 50-year-old firm. This company employed approximately 200 people. A survey was handed out to all the employees and 85 per cent filled it out and returned it. The survey allowed management to look at the issues that the employees identified. After management reviewed them, they were prioritized and then an action plan was formulated. Senior management met with employees to let them know about the actions that would be taken. After this initiative, the management noticed an improvement in morale, (International, 2011). The firm also noticed improvements in communication between the employees and management. The unit leadership showed improved functions and capabilities. The availability of the resources and equipment improved. The general morale and satisfaction among the staff experienced an obvious increase. There was also an improvement in the employees’ comprehension of the unit goals and business objectives. This method is similar to what was identified in the first case study, which also called for the implementation of a survey and then the development of a course of action.
LRMC can also consider taking additional measures that can boost morale in the company. Little things can make a difference, such as making coffee and tea to get employees raring to go in the morning. This strategy not only wakes the employees up, it also says to them that management cares about their well-being. When there is no interaction, or only bad interaction between management and the regular staff, morale can suffer significantly. Little things like making tea, recognizing birthdays, generally treating employees with respect, treating employees to lunch, checking in to see how members of staff are doing, and standing up for employees: “Though customer satisfaction is important to every business, supervisors must support their employees if they encounter problems despite having followed company protocol,” (Hartog, 2008). Another effective way to improve the morale of the staff is to improve the working environment. “Being uncomfortable and isolated from the world is bad and it makes employees feel like they’re lost in the machine of business. Adding comfortable office chairs or desks is a great way to make them feel a bit better, and doing away with harsh lighting helps brighten their day,” (Tips, 2011).
In order to address the urgent need at LRMC, a combination of these efforts should be implemented. The Midwestern hospital example, where the hospital was suffering from the same type of morale loss should be examined carefully at LRMC. If a combination of the practices is implemented, and enough time is given for the results to show, then there will be improved outcomes at the medical center. Careful consideration of the employees’ concerns should be compiled before a specific course of action is undertaken. After surveying the staff, management needs to come together to prioritize the items that need to be addressed. Management should then meet with employees to communicate a course of action that will improve morale. These actions should be measured periodically for meeting management’s goals.
As has been seen in this essay, there have been several other firms that have relayed the issues at their workplace, and they have come up with strategies to address their problems. It has become evident that the HR team at LRMC needs to work closely with the leadership to come to a solution about the problems that are plaguing the hospital, (Fulmer, 2006).
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