Whether formal or informal, written or unwritten, every hearing care practice owner or manager develops a philosophy for dealing with people. If the owner has the necessary commitment, he/she can, and should, develop a total organizational philosophy, which will serve as a base for positive approaches to managing individuals, as well as the practice. A personnel philosophy is important because it determines how the human assets of the organization will be led and managed to achieve their maximum productivity.

This philosophy is determined primarily by a set of assumptions about human nature. The "economic" assumption views employees as motivated only by money and security. It leads to an approach to management based solely on economic factors and usually fails because people look for more in a job than just a paycheck.

The "social" assumption regards employees as primarily seeking an affinity with their fellow workers and looking for social interaction on the job. This assumption suggests that management should create a happy-family atmosphere in order to forestall personal conflict in the office. It usually fails because contentment and productivity do not necessarily go hand in hand.

The "self-fulfilling" assumption regards employees as seeking challenge, as well as opportunities for achievement and continued advancement. This suggests that management should create an environment that is flexible and that offers continual opportunities for new experiences and growth. The main weakness of this assumption is that it implies a type of motivation that does not exist to the same degree in all people.

A "total" personnel philosophy that views employees as both complex and different is, in reality, the best management approach. This requires an approach that adjusts to fit each individual.

Productivity Impact Factors
In addition to a consistent, total management philosophy, there must exist within the practice a plan and a coordination of effort to reach common goals through effective productivity. The plan and the goals must be communicated to and accepted by all.

The most successful practices of the hearing care industry, therefore, are those that have a comprehensive business plan that stimulates productivity in reaching defined goals and a staff committed to productivity in achieving these goals. Several factors have a direct influence on a practice’s productivity:

• Human Resources: Of the major resources available to management, the human resource is simultaneously the most productive resource and yet the most volatile. Positive, effective productivity depends on the capability of management to direct, coordinate, motivate and evaluate individuals and groups. The human resource factor is the key to an organization’s performance.

• Planning: Essential for a smooth operation, planning involves personal and group time that is allocated to an orderly system of evaluating needs and opportunities, establishing priorities and developing strategies and tactics to enhance productivity and achieve goals.

• Goal Clarity: Establishing and attaining goals is a process as old as civilization itself. In modern times, organizations have developed sophisticated systems for establishing, monitoring, measuring and evaluating goals and results. The critical aspect of any goal-setting system is the clarity with which those goals are stated so that they can be communicated, pursued and measured.

• Accountability: Accountability refers to the identification, definition, communication and acceptance of tasks and roles encompassed by (in) a job, position or organizational unit. The tasks and roles must be real, not imagined. If employees are to perform at their maximum, they need to know and accept accountability for what is expected of them.

• Climate: The general feeling one gets about his or her work place has a direct bearing on morale and productivity. Climate is the state or condition of an entire organization or organizational unit measured in terms of the degree of positive or negative influences, attitudes and relationships that exist at a point in time. Of course, the better the climate, the better the morale and productivity.

• Involvement: Each of us needs to feel that we are a part of the organization—that we are involved. Involvement emanates from existing or potential opportunities that use individual or group capabilities in creative, constructive and productive activities.

• Communications: Information—whether oral or written—is the lifeblood of an organization. Information is not information until it is communicated, however, and hence communications becomes the functional partner of information. Whether communicating goals, plans, results, ideas or needs, the quality and quantity of the communications processes within an organization are critical to its achieving productivity goals.

• Recognition: A critical need of the human psyche is recognition in terms of belonging, of being involved, of making contributions, of improving, of achieving. These needs exist at every level of the organization: employee, supervisor, middle management and top management. Organizations must incorporate the opportunity for recognition into their management techniques, systems and jobs.

• Measurement: To determine an organization’s success in achieving its goals, it must measure regularly its employees’ job activities, comparing them to the business plan. Measurement techniques consist of reasonable, rational and practical standards by which an individual’s or an organizational unit’s performance is measured in a fair, mutually acceptable manner.

Profile of a Productive Practice
Owners/managers use certain indicators to achieve and measure productive practices. Commonly used indicators focus on the basic characteristics listed below. Typical observations follow each characteristic. Note that, at their core, virtually all of the characteristics are based on people, that is, on managing and motivating people to be productive.

AHAA uses the following indicators in its two-day course to help its network Associates identify specific areas that need improvement in their practices:

The practice is effectively staffed and is people oriented:

  • Has effective and respected management/leadership;
  • Has outstanding personnel in key positions;
  • Uses people to the best of their abilities and matches all assignments to the individuals;
  • Provides the proper opportunities, and performance feedback necessary, for personal growth and advancement;
  • Respects staff and their individual differences;
  • Is sensitive and responsive to staff concerns;
  • Keeps staff informed;
  • Has an effective system for recognizing and rewarding achievement.

The practice has high standards:

  • Stresses managerial, staff, operational, and product integrity;
  • Is conscious of performance quality, reliability, safety and cost;
  • Maintains justice and equity and discourages politics and gamesmanship;
  • Continually strives to improve operations.

The practice has a creative and productive atmosphere:

  • Provides an open, creative, professional work environment;
  • Encourages innovation and the taking of calculated risks;
  • Furnishes employees a continual flow of meaningful and challenging assignments;
  • Provides up-to-date facilities, equipment, and technological aids;
  • Effectively recognizes, channels, and manages creative ideas;
  • Consistently conceives, promotes, and successfully conducts innovative programs;
  • Successfully selects and develops new areas of product and service expansion;
  • Is not satisfied with merely matching the competition;
  • Is leading the way to the future and advancing the state of the art.

The practice has a "can-do" attitude and a high esprit de corps:

  • Staff exhibits high vitality, a genuine sense of commitment, and a determination to perform;
  • Staff shows mature confidence in the face of difficult situations;
  • Staff have strong team spirit, enjoy their positions, and are proud of their team contributions;
  • Team members depend on one another rather than compete with one another;
  • Team members exhibit strong mutual trust;
  • Staff have confidence that management fully supports them and their efforts;
  • Staff have strong organizational loyalty.

The practice operates in a sound, competitive manner:

  • Is always aware of industry forecasts and trends;
  • Is responsive to its patient/market;
  • Meets its goals/commitments;
  • Has a strong business sense and is profitable;
  • Maintains a balanced capability that is broad enough in scope to assure stability;
  • Keeps costs under control; operates within budgets;
  • Maintains a solid market share of business in its area;
  • Affords reasonable organizational growth or at least relative stability;
  • Responds quickly and effectively to emergencies.

Productive people ensure successful practices. But people must be motivated and led to be productive.

The extent and effectiveness of staff productivity translates directly into patient satisfaction and financial success for a practice. So it behooves the owner/manager to recognize the key factors that have a positive impact on enhancing productivity. Moreover, the owner/manager must use effective leadership skills to motivate the staff toward greater productivity. Finally, he or she must also use time-tested indicators to measure the effectiveness of staff productivity in achieving the goals of the practice.

Vince Russomagno, MBA, is founder and CEO of American Hearing Aid Assoc. (AHAA), Concordville, PA., which provides its national network of independent hearing care professionals with business and marketing support. This article is adapted from a two-day training course offered by the company.

Correspondence can be addressed to HR or Vince Russomagno, AHAA, Box 889, Concordville, PA 19331; e-mail: [email protected] ; 800-984-3272.