​In many ways, the long term care provider market is considerably ahead of the curve in understanding employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction, and how the two relate. Thousands of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, independent living organizations, and continuing care retirement communities have been collecting satisfaction data for years. In addition, many states have long term care pay-for-performance programs that include consumer and/or employee satisfaction data as key measures.

While the importance of customer and employee satisfaction is well known to long term care, the path to improving and maintaining high levels of satisfaction is still not always clear, easy, or straightforward. If you are a long term care provider, you must find the approach that works most effectively for your organization, given its size and other provider characteristics.

There are three consistent components, however, that make up a solid foundation for improving satisfaction rates, regardless of unique provider attributes: 1.) developing the culture; 2.) having the right data; and 3.) putting performance in context. 

A Culture That Values Satisfaction

The importance of having a culture that values customer and employee satisfaction is often overlooked in the analysis of satisfaction and the development of satisfaction programs. It’s an unfortunate reality, because organizational culture is arguably the most influential factor in attaining high satisfaction rates. Cultivating a culture that values satisfaction requires more than just collecting feedback from employees and customers once a year; it is seen and felt on a daily basis in most everything that a long term care provider does.
Critical aspects for realizing a culture that values satisfaction are: 
  • Embracing satisfaction as an executive responsibility and opportunity

Ensuring the satisfaction of customers and employees requires a committed, thorough, and long-term effort. Core beliefs need to be demonstrated in the everyday actions of a diverse team. Executive buy-in and leadership are critical to achieve these difficult goals. The C-suite of the organization should be actively involved in satisfaction initiatives, and the board should be driving the organization to improve results. 

  • Ensuring that everyone in the organization understands the importance of satisfaction

Satisfaction is more easily achieved when the provider clearly and frequently communicates the importance of satisfaction to employees. Unlike clinical or facility initiatives that can be executed by the specific actions of a subset of your employees, satisfaction requires comprehensive employee involvement. The role of employees in influencing the perceptions of fellow employees and customers cannot be underestimated. 

  • Placing an ongoing focus on satisfaction

Any initiative that becomes a point of focus only once per year cannot legitimately be considered a part of an organization’s culture. Fortunately, there are many ways to continue to focus on satisfaction on an ongoing basis that not only help encourage a culture of valuing satisfaction, but also represent important steps to actually improving satisfaction rates. 

The Right Data To Measure And Manage Satisfaction

Without an accurate assessment of the perceptions of employees, residents, and residents’ families, improvement activities will not be properly designed and therefore will not be effective. The right survey tools for customers and employees will provide you with information that allows you to quickly understand your performance at a high level and also drill down into the details that uncover insight into the specific drivers of overall perspectives.

The first phase of satisfaction assessment generally involves a baseline survey that will enable you to understand stakeholders’ opinions at a high level. Many organizations stop at this step.

The next level of satisfaction assessment should be done with the intent to delve into the details to better understand specific areas in need of improvement. Detailed information will identify specifically what is driving positive and negative opinions that are uncovered in the baseline survey. A follow-up or drill-down survey allows you to collect information at a level of completeness that isn’t possible in a baseline survey and can direct performance improvement activities by providing actionable insights into the causes of dissatisfaction. 

Other opportunities to collect detailed feedback include:

  • After major events or key changes within your organization, such as an acquisition, a change in leadership, or a facility remodeling project. These major events often trigger strong opinions among customers and staff.
  • When new residents move in and new employees begin work. According to a 2010 study by the American Health Care Association, the nursing facility turnover rate is about 43%. According to data from an analysis of almost 250,000 nursing home customers conducted by My InnerView, 36% of residents have a length of stay of less than one year. With this amount of churn in the staff and customers of long term care providers, new customer and new employee surveys allow providers to hear important feedback that may present opportunities to lower turnover rates or increase lengths of stay. 

Put Data In The Right Context

Results from a satisfaction survey may be interesting on their own, but you can learn more about the meaning behind the numbers and the relative strengths and weaknesses of your performance when viewed in the context of benchmarks. The perspective and consultation of a knowledgeable third party can also prove to be helpful.

Benchmarks offer a comparative viewpoint that can be an essential tool for identifying strengths and weaknesses within the organization and useful for providing targets for performance improvement efforts. They offer you real-world insight into what’s possible, which is a good starting point for identifying what level of performance you want to aim for in your organization.

An external perspective can be extremely valuable in addressing two challenges often faced during the critical process of analyzing survey results and using them to direct change within the organization. First, an advisor or consultant with expertise and an outside perspective can provide education on the survey, reports, and interpretation of results tailored specifically to your organization, shortening the time that it takes to act on the feedback provided in the survey. Second, a third party can help guide the discussions that relate satisfaction results to organizational decisions, reducing the likelihood that decisions are influenced by the biases and preconceptions of provider employees. 

Satisfaction For Business Success

Despite the many changes facing long term care leaders, one thing should remain constant—the focus on the customer. With a culture that values satisfaction, the right data to assess performance, and the proper perspective to improve results, organizations will be better positioned to demonstrate quality through high satisfaction results. Great results create a solid foundation for organizational success.

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