The Case for Empowerment in the VBP Era

You've heard about it for years now, and have likely even read cases about it in B-school.

You may have even wondered how it might work for your hospital or continuing care facility.

I'm talking about empowering your employees.

First, let me put your heart to rest: empowerment is the absolute opposite of abdication.

By empowering your employees, you're not letting them 'run the show'...you're letting them do their job.

By definition, an empowered workforce is a workforce that is highly trained, held accountable to strict productivity and quality standards, and operates with supportive, 'enabling' managers.

Empowerment also requires maturity:

- it requires that the empowering managers (starting from the CEO) 'get' their new roles as coaches, enablers, holders-to-account, and trainers.

- it requires that the employees being empowered 'get' their new roles, and why they are being asked to solve issues that previously were escalated to their supervisors. They must willingly accept this role...want this role...for their own good, their client's good, and the organization's good.

The latter can be a tough sell, particularly if previous relations with management haven't been the best.

Bowen and Lawler, in their groundbreaking work 'The Empowerment of Service Workers' laid-out the six factors favoring a strategy of employee involvement - all of which are present in today's hyper-competitive health and continuing care fields:

They are:

1. Strategy is dependent on competitive differentiation and offering personalized, customized service

2. Relationships with customers are ideally long-term ('customers for life') instead of transient transactions

3. The organization uses complex processes and technologies

4. The business is unpredictable - surprises are routine

5. Managers are comfortable letting employees work independently

6. Employees have a strong need to to grow

I'm a strong advocate of empowerment because:

1. It forces maturity on an organization, which brings rapid, customer-centric change. In this era of Value-Based Purchasing, hospitals simply can't survive without an empowered, motivated, and accountable workforce

2. It forces managers to challenge and re-engineer low-performing business processes.

3. It brings an organization closer to its customers: organizations that have successfully transitioned to a culture of empowerment inevitably enjoy increased customer satisfaction, sales, and profit.

Interested in an Empowerment Diagnostic? Give us a call at 1-800-667-7325.

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