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From good intentions to effective communication - with TheWorxHub - Part 2

Posted by Ronald Carlson | Tuesday, January 17, 2012

In part 1 I said that to be a successful leader of an operations department in senior living it's not enough to be an expert technician or a good manager - you have to be an effective communicator. Perception is reality, and it's up to you to be continually shaping what others think of you and your team. I talked about how TheWorxHub is helping us strengthen relationships with residents and families through better communication. I touched on how managing life safety and compliance with TheWorxHub sends a message of competence and control to authorities having jurisdiction.

Here, I'll complete the picture by describing how TheWorxHub improves communication with other departments and within our team.

Delivering what matters to other departments

In part 1, I explained that we've trained all staff members to enter requests for maintenance work into TheWorxHub. I'm often asked how I persuaded my colleagues to start doing things differently from the way they'd been done in the past, since people often resist change.

In our case, what made the difference was showing them how TheWorxHub makes it easier for them to monitor the status of work they've requested and hold us accountable for getting it done in an appropriate amount of time. Instead of wasting their time trying to track us down or playing telephone tag, they can simply pull up any request they've entered and look at what is happening. If a delay is unavoidable due to difficulty getting a part, at least they know we're on the case and not forgetting their request.

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Also, now there are never debates over whether or when a request was actually made, since we can all see it there in the system, date-stamped at the time of submission and prioritized according to established criteria.

As facilities director, I especially appreciate how TheWorxHub helps me report my department's performance in a way that makes sense to the finance department. Tight budgets and pressures to keep costs in line are a fact of life in any senior living community these days. If your department is one of those "expense" lines, you want to make absolutely sure your chief financial officer understands that there is a positive return on investment. You also want the CFO to know the success you're having in tracking costs carefully and taking advantage of opportunities to reduce them.

Anecdotal stories about how happy residents are with your service or the volume discount you managed to negotiate with a supplier won't cut it. You need to produce accurate numbers that show trends over time. If you can also give budget planners a view long in advance to when you expect major equipment to need replacing and capital costs to hit - as you can if you're using TheWorxHub asset management and capital planning applications - they get the message that you understand what matters in their world and are a partner in delivering sound financial management.

It's also important to senior management to know the maintenance department is taking all appropriate action to mitigate the risk of accident or injury due to faulty equipment or building infrastructure. If something does go wrong, your preventive maintenance program in TheWorxHub is documented evidence of due diligence in providing a safe environment.

Motivating your team and improving performance

I'm now using TheWorxHub to help communicate expectations to my team, empower them by giving them direct access to the information they need to do their job well, ensure our performance conversations are meaningful, and recognize them for a job well done.

In an environment where we must always be looking for ways to reduce costs, my staff understand it's in their best interests to record how they're spending their time - which is easy to do if you're managing with TheWorxHub. When time is being tracked, you can set standards for how long routine tasks should take and be explicit with your employees about expectations. They can monitor their own performance statistics and self-correct without waiting for management to tell them there's an issue.

They appreciate the fact that if they need a part to do a job, they can look up what's required on the system and take care of the problem on their own. They don't need to come to me and watch me rifle through old files. If you've made the effort to link the right attachments to recurring work orders, technicians assigned to the task have instant access to detailed instructions and maps showing equipment location. They'll do it right - even if they haven't done it in years.

Having time and work records for each individual - as well as results of resident satisfaction surveys on work performed - can take some of the emotion out of the difficult conversations that have to happen if performance isn't up to par. Rather than relying on anecdote or generalizations ("I don't think you're working hard enough"), together we can look at the data showing what is routinely being missed or taking longer than it's taking others. We can discuss what's preventing someone from meeting expectations, decide what remedial action to take and immediately start monitoring what difference this makes.

When individual or team performance exceeds expectations, I make sure I post that report to my door or circulate it. In my experience, paying attention to effective communication within your team makes people feel more connected with the larger mission of the community, more determined to contribute to it, and more satisfied with their work lives. Everyone in the community benefits from that.