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Are We Happy Yet?
Employee Satisfaction Survey scores rise across the board

Thanks to changes following the 2001 survey, employees at the Home Care Group rated management’s “concern for employees” higher by 41 percent.

When it comes to griping at the office, it’s often the things that people complain about the most—working conditions, paychecks, parking—that have the least to do with overall job satisfaction. The best motivators are challenging work, the chance to grow, and a sense of achievement. Given that, employees will feel charged up about their jobs even without a corner office or flat-screen computer.

Still, you can’t ignore employees’ basic needs. “You need to get rid of the complaints to the extent you can,” says Pamela Paulk, vice president of human resources for Hopkins Hospital and Health System.

Fixing basic needs was a task Paulk took on with a vengeance after getting the results of an employee satisfaction survey conducted in 2001. A slew of new perks was introduced throughout many of the Johns Hopkins Health System components, including tuition for dependents, long-term care coverage, a college savings program, domestic partner benefits and PTO improvements.

Judging from the results of the 2003 survey, which showed improvements at every JHM entity, that tangible response to people’s concerns has borne fruit. At Hopkins Hospital, for instance, where 20 percent more employees took the survey this year (for a total of 60 percent), scores in every dimension improved. Most tellingly, Hopkins Hospital reported a 63 percent increase in positive responses to the statement, “This survey will result in change for the organization.”

At the School of Medicine, where 17 of 18 dimensions improved, that statement scored a 53 percent increase in positive responses.

The star performer among JHM entities was the Johns Hopkins Home Care Group, the 500-employee company made up of Home Health Services, Pediatrics at Home and Pharmaquip. With a whopping 84 percent participation rate, the group’s overall ranking among all the organizations surveyed by the Chicago-based HR Solutions Inc., leapt from the 10th to the 52nd percentile.

“The most important thing we do is keep employee satisfaction up front daily,” says Terry Lovell, director of human resources for JHHCG, “and that’s because our president, Steven Johnson, has made it an issue.”

Lovell, too, has been focusing on basics like improved benefits. Furthermore, he has found that sprucing up the company headquarters on Broening Highway has done wonders for employee morale. Since the 2001 survey, the organization added new computers, an employee lounge and even, to great acclaim, installed umbrellas on the picnic tables outside the building. “We joke about it, but it sends a strong message,” says Lovell. “Little things mean a lot.”

Next, Lovell intends to concentrate on the role of supervisors. “You get the most bang for the buck in the all-important supervisor-employee relationship,” he says.

Paulk agrees.“We need to enlist the supervisors because they are key,” she says. “It’s what the front-line supervisor does that builds trust, camaraderie, makes employees feel valued and proud.”

Her biggest concern is how to support managers in their jobs, given Hopkins’ huge, decentralized environment (there are 430 supervisors at Hopkins Hospital alone). Hiring the right people up front is a place to start, she says, along with training and good role modeling, but finally, “we need to hold them responsible.”

The next survey takes place in 18 to 24 months. “As long as I’m here, there will be a survey,” promises Paulk. “How can I sit on the fourth floor of Phipps and pretend I know what employees need? I need to ask them.”

- Mary Ellen Miller




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