| Re-Sharpen Your Pencils
The employee satisfaction survey is right around
the corner. It's time again to make your mark.
When employees on the East Baltimore campus complained about limited
mealtime choices, Hopkins opened two new eateries-Asian Café
and Subway. Next up: a "wings-to-go" program and two-week
hot food menu rotation in the main cafeteria.
While planners and architects are busy sketching out the physical characteristics
of Hopkins' medical campuses of the future, others are attending to
what human resources specialists call its "most valuable resource"-its
In June 2001, leaders at every component of Johns Hopkins Medicine asked
their staffs to weigh in on a host of common workplace concerns. The
confidential, 120-question survey asked for opinions on pay and benefits,
advancement opportunities, the qualifications of supervisors, and employees'
views on parking and food services.
Over the past 18 months, the questionnaires (some 6,500 at Hopkins Hospital
and School of Medicine alone) have been analyzed and acted upon, not
only by Hopkins leaders but also by department directors who've compiled
their own "action plans."
What's happened since then? Not an insignificant amount of progress,
considering that making changes in an organization as complex as Hopkins
can sometimes feel like steering the Titanic.
At Hopkins Hospital and Health System Corporation, where only 46 percent
of employees reported satisfaction with benefits, a slew of new perks
was introduced, including tuition for dependents, long-term care coverage,
a college savings program, domestic partner benefits and PTO improvements.
Retirement benefits, one of the biggest dissatisfiers among Hospital
and Health System Corporation employees, were beefed up by improving
the employee pension formula and by adding a matching contribution by
Hopkins to non-union employees' 403(b) plans.
Although the School of Medicine is a separate organization with its
own policies and procedures, many of its responses to the survey overlapped
with Hopkins Hospital's under the umbrella of Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Those include everything from more funding for patient safety initiatives
to new eateries like Subway. Perhaps most significant is the School's
new in-grade salary adjustment policy, an alternative way for employees
to move up the pay scale.
Now, from Feb. 3 to 14*, Hopkins is checking in with its employees again.
Much as it would like to, the organization cannot grant every wish.
"We must prioritize how we spend our limited budget to provide
the maximum benefit for the most employees," says Ronald Peterson,
president of The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System.
Hopkins hopes to improve its scores this month, even if it doesn't get
skyrocketing bar graphs. It does, however, expect better participation.
In 2001, 40 percent of School of Medicine and 50 percent of Hospital/Health
System Corporation employees took the hour to complete the survey.
Pamela Paulk, vice president of human resources for Hopkins Hospital
and Health System, stresses how important participation is. "The
more representation you have, the more relevant your survey results
Here are a few ways Hopkins has been working on employees' concerns
expressed in the last survey.
Surveying the Surveyors
Gloria Bryan feels like the cobbler whose children have no shoes. She's
been so focused on responding to hot-button issues expressed by the
10,000 employees of the School of Medicine, for which she is senior
director of human resources, that she's had scant time to sit down with
her own crew of 21 to delve into issues troubling them.
Luckily, they are a happy group, judging from how they rated their division.
Eighty-five percent report overall job satisfaction; 83 percent like
their co-workers; and 86 percent approve of their supervisory support.
"Every score is comparable to or higher than the School of Medicine,"
says Bryan proudly. "We have this incredible spirit and interact
So it's all the more perplexing that half of School of Medicine employees
said they were dissatisfied with human resources' policies and service.
"It hurt us," says Bryan. "We've got this little group
who's absolutely grinding themselves to the knob delivering the best
service they know how."
Staffing is certainly part of the problem. When the School of Medicine
formed its own "personnel" division in 1983, it began with
half the staff it has today and was charged with filling 80 vacancies.
Now, they're dealing with more than 550.
Bryan's group saw a way to improve customer service, however, when they
tore apart the hundreds of pages of narrative comments written by survey
participants. Employees had lots of questions, and no easy place to
go for answers. To solve the problem, a new Web site (www.jhu.edu/~hr1/hrdivis/
somdiv/somhome.htm) was created in direct response to the survey,
complete with a meaty FAQs section and easy access to the JHU personnel
From a broader perspective, the School's overall scores were good enough
to "shock" the consulting firm who administered the survey,
according to Bryan. The organization excelled in areas like satisfaction
with work and co-workers. It also scored well in benefits satisfaction,
a confirmation that the money the University invests in benefits ($208
million in FY'03) is worth it, says Bryan.
The School received its lowest score in pay satisfaction, but this was
no surprise to Bryan "I've not seen a survey here or anywhere where
pay satisfaction isn't universally low," she says. Still, it's
an area that begs for improvement, "not necessarily because people
need to be paid better across the board, but because we don't adequately
explain the procedures that lead to a salary determination."
There is a bright spot here. A new "in-grade salary adjustment"
allows employees to move through pay ranges quicker than waiting for
an annual review. The policy can be used if an employee has taken on
extra duties (but not enough to result in a job reclassification); if
there are internal equity issues (such as a new hire making as much
as someone with many years of service); or market changes (such as in
nursing or information technology).
Of course, an increase hinges on two factors-the employee's performance
and the health of the department's budget. "An academic medical
center is not an easy environment to implement consistent compensation
plans," says Bryan. "There are such limited resources and
so many demands on them. And yet, I believe that even our biggest skeptics
have seen that in the last 18 months things have changed."
Shabby may be chic in some circles, but not among Hopkins employees
working in antiquated quarters. One of their strongest complaints on
the last survey was the state of their physical plant. Not surprisingly,
people working in a depressing environment expressed dissatisfaction
in categories such as productivity and concern for employees.
In the Department of Pathology-where some 650 Hopkins Hospital and 330
School of Medicine employees work in two of the East Baltimore campus's
oldest buildings, overall survey scores came in 12 points below those
of the hospital. This was no fluke. Whereas 50 percent of hospital employees
took the survey, in Pathology it was an emphatic 68 percent.
"Where we scored best," says Rosemary Hines, Pathology's assistant
administrator for finance, "was in enjoying the people we work
with. But, by and large, people were especially unhappy in the areas
of communications, the work environment, HR and benefits, and patient
care. We've always had staff meetings. Now, we talk employee satisfaction
at every meeting."
In fact, they scheduled more than 50 small-group meetings to convey
the survey results, get feedback and solicit ideas. Then, everyone got
to work. Formerly drab walls now sport lighter colors and artwork. New
racks, cabinets and lockers help organize work and gear. Live and artificial
plants soften hard edges. And even though it's unlikely they can change
the black tile in some bathrooms, everything looks much cleaner.
To beef up communication, says Hines, "we're using more elaborate
bulletin boards. We reinstated the departmental newsletter. We're working
on making our educational things more fun. We're emphasizing teamwork.
Anything to blow away the little silos where people don't talk to each
Furthermore, employees' concerns about overtime have resulted in a re-design
of the weekend rotation and what Hines calls "creative shifts."
And because employees are determined to provide the best patient care
possible, departmental leaders have updated computers and improved automation
to ensure both timeliness and accuracy where specimens are concerned.
"You can't always move as quickly as you'd like, or change everything,"
says Hines. "But I firmly believe improving employee satisfaction
will improve patient satisfaction."
Please Say Thank You
Throughout Johns Hopkins Medicine, there's been a new push to recognize
employees who make going above and beyond a way of life. Everyone-co-workers,
supervisors, patients and family members-can "Catch a Shining Star."
The reward and recognition program (at Johns Hopkins HealthCare it's
called "Say Thanks"; at Howard County General Hospital, "Recognition
Matters") shines a well-deserved spotlight on those who exemplify
Service Excellence. Nominees get on-the-spot certificates, and qualify
for quarterly and annual awards.
At the Johns Hopkins Home Care Group-where employee satisfaction is
a standing agenda item on management committee meetings-the idea has
taken a unique twist. Here, you can receive the "Almost Anything
Can Happen Award."
Over the last three years, faced with decreasing reimbursement and increasing
government regulations, Home Care employees have had no choice but to
get creative. "'Do More with Less' is kind of our first name,"
says Linda Scott, senior director of home health services. And that's
meant asking people not only to stretch beyond roles they're used to,
but take on jobs they had no idea they could do.
Last November, at Home Care's annual employee recognition ceremony,
Nancy Pasternak was stunned to learn she'd been named the "Almost
Anything" award winner. The special projects coordinator (she calls
it "the other-duties-as-assigned job") says she thinks one
reason is her willingness "to try pretty much anything."
Scott says one reason is that, when they asked Pasternak to tackle nurse
recruitment-in the midst of a nationwide shortage-she ended up getting
a nearly one-third vacancy rate down to almost zero.
A pediatric nurse practitioner by training, Pasternak streamlined hiring
guidelines. Two years ago, she says, hiring went from human resources
to the nurse managers, who were so busy running operations that they
couldn't make timely decisions about job candidates. Now, Pasternak
does the interviewing, and if she senses a good fit, makes the job offer
within 24 hours (pending a background check).
"I'm a cheerleader for the organization," she says. "I
tell the nurses that you get quality time to teach and have the potential
to make a huge impact on people. But I have to figure out quickly whether
they have the organizational skills, the ability to know what you don't
know, the understanding that you're a guest in someone's home. Am I
100 percent on the money? Nooooo. But I think the managers trust my
"In this environment, you have to act while the iron is hot,"
says Scott. "The fact that Nancy is making offers on the spot is
something we consider a major accomplishment. Now the managers can focus
Still, says Pasternak, "I'm a little embarrassed by the recognition.
I do the job they ask me to. But it was very kind, the thank you."
*Includes employees of The Johns Hopkins Hospital/Health System Corporation,
School of Medicine, Home Care Group and Community Physicians. In late
spring 2003, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Howard County General
Hospital and Johns Hopkins HealthCare will conduct the employee survey.
-Mary Ann Ayd & Mary Ellen Miller