Business Management | December 2017 Hearing Review

One of the best ways to quickly increase the productivity of your hearing care practice is to get your employees more engaged in the business. Here are some tips and practical steps for coaching and “getting your employees on board” for long-lasting business success.

Employees should be any company’s most valuable assets, and the very best employees are highly engaged. That means that they are both highly satisfied and offer maximum contribution to the company’s goals and objectives.

Pillars of Employee Engagement 

The good news is that if you’re a hearing care practice owner or manager, you can control your destiny. The primary drivers that lead to your success are fully within your grasp, and employee engagement is at the heart of them. Employee engagement can be expressed as an equation:

Max Employee Satisfaction + Max Employee Contribution = Engagement

In this equation a framework can be implemented in a practice, and an Engagement Model has been developed that identifies five key Pillars and the Success Factors for each.

Research conducted by Gallup and Selection Research Inc. (SRI) with millions of employees has validated the success factors required to optimize employee engagement in your practice.

What Constitutes Employee Satisfaction?

Back in 1959, noted psychologist Frederick Herzberg (1923-2000)1 published his theories on employee satisfaction that are still very much valid today. His two-factor theory for employee satisfaction is based on “satisfiers” and “dissatisfiers.”

For satisfiers, he cited career development, job fit, recognition and reward, and commitment to customers:

Career development. Employees look for new challenges and experiences, new knowledge, and skills. They want to know that their efforts lead to career growth and achievement, as well as a sense of progress.

Job fit. This means that the work itself satisfies their values and interests. It allows them to use their talents and is stimulating. In other words, their work works for them.

Recognition and reward. Employees need to feel valued and appreciated. R&R comes in many forms, but remember that recognition is free and should be used generously.

Commitment to customers. Exposure to external customers is a strong driver of engagement because it allows employees to see firsthand the value their own work creates and the purpose of the enterprise in action.

So think about your practice. If you have fit a patient for the first time and that person is hearing well—maybe for the first time in years—think about the gratification you have from that experience. It is important that everyone in your practice feels that same connection from their roles in the process.

Employee Engagement Is Important to Your Practice

According to a Deloitte study,2 employee engagement has risen to the second-highest concern among business leaders. To start, a significant difference exists in how an engaged employee performs versus an unengaged one.

Engaged employees. In a study by Gallup,3 engaged employees begin their day with a sense of purpose and finish with a sense of achievement. They bring high levels of determination, tenacity, energy, and resilience to everything they do. Engaged employees are dedicated to their jobs, and it shows in their enthusiasm, inspiration, and pride in their work. They are easily engrossed in their roles, and time flows quickly for them when they are at work.

Unengaged employees. Another Gallup study4 found that unengaged employees dread going to work and have more negative interactions with their coworkers. Unengaged employees also treat customers poorly and speak poorly about their company. They achieve less daily and have fewer creative moments at work.

How Does Employee Engagement Affect Your Bottom Line?

The Gallup organization has also found that absenteeism rates for unengaged employees are 230% higher than for engaged ones.  Moreover, a global study by Towers Perrin ISR5 found that the financial performance of companies with more engaged workforces greatly improved. Operating income increased by 20% versus a decline of 33% for unengaged workforces. Net income grew by 14% in engaged and declined by 4% for unengaged work forces.

The point of all of this, of course, is that employee engagement will affect your bottom line—positively or negatively. This is amplified in a competitive marketplace such as the one we have  in hearing healthcare today.

Implementing the Engagement Model

Four factors drive the effective implementation of the Engagement Model:

Culture. An ethical, fair, nurturing, caring culture can produce wide-reaching, lasting value. It is your culture that embraces the entirety of engagement.

Clarity. Leaders establish a clear vision and goals for their organization. They have plans for the short and long terms. They ensure that their core values, goals, and job expectations are clearly stated.

Change. Ongoing success requires change. Highly engaged employees are more receptive to change and therefore more likely to adapt successfully.

Coaching. Coaching is one of the greatest drivers of employee engagement.

AHAA supports its associates in developing all these areas. Some aids it provides include sample job descriptions, recognition and incentive programs, and EDP and tele-training.

Coaching: Driving Employee Engagement

We feel that coaching is the key factor that drives employee engagement. Employees who do not do what they are supposed to do usually lack clear understanding of what their jobs are, how to do them, and why they should do them. Worse, they think that they are doing them well. However, only two reasons exist that point to something inherently limited with the employee: personal limits or personal problems.

Most of the reasons for nonperformance lie with management failing to give clear, consistent coaching and feedback. A Watson Wyatt survey6 shows that engaged employees have frequent work-related discussions with their immediate manager. It found that 43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week compared to only 18% of employees with low engagement.

Table 1. The Pillars and Success Drivers in the Engagement Model.

Table 1. The Pillars and Success Drivers in the Engagement Model.

Moreover, effective and consistent coaching has a positive effect for the majority of the Pillars and Success Drivers in the Engagement Model (Table 1). The coaching process is easier than you may think. Ferdinand Fournies in his book, Coaching for Improved Performance,7 gives some steps to follow:

  • Observe. First, be aware of employee performance. Observe at appropriate times; take detailed notes; observe, particularly, behaviors previously coached; and have realistic expectations.
  • Provide feedback. Provide specific positive feedback from observations, as well as specific feedback for behaviors that need improvement. Reinforce confidence!
  • Coach. Provide training, identify and remove obstacles, and discuss how the employee feels about his/her job and how he/she can contribute more effectively to the practice.

Why Managers Do Not Coach

It’s true that there are managers who do not coach well because they do not know what to do, how to do it, do not want to do it, or they cannot do it. But these are rare. The main reason, in the vast majority of cases, is that they want to avoid conflict out of concern for the employee.

The reality is that it is more about the manager. However, if you really care about your employees and your business, you will have the conversations you need to have, when you need to have them. That is the way you can be sure you are doing all you can to help—and in hearing healthcare, that means helping the patient, helping the employee, and helping the practice.

Remember, too, that problems do not age well. So the coaching process has a real benefit in allowing you to address employee performance issues early on when they are small and have not become habitual. Most employees will appreciate timely intervention because they want to do their best.

Roadmap to Implementation 

Coaching benefits your practice in many ways. Brush up on the coaching process outlined above, take the time and initiative to do it, track your results, and stay with it. AHAA Associates have told us that coaching gives them challenges, but that the results are very rewarding.

As noted in the equation above, employee engagement equals maximum employee satisfaction plus maximum employee contribution. Engagement is vital for the competitive and financial success of your practice. Coaching is one of the greatest drivers of employee engagement. It is a process that presents challenges, but it is one that is easily learned. Most important, though, is that it pays huge dividends in helping employees stay engaged for their own benefit and the benefit of your practice.  ?


This article is based on a presentation made by the author at AHAA’s annual convention in 2016. More information about AHAA is available at

Correspondence can be addressed to Walter Bass at: [email protected]

Original citation for this article: Bass W. Engage! Fire up your employees and they will take you further. Hearing Review. 2017;24(12):12-13.

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  3. Reilly R. Five ways to improve employee engagement now. January 7, 2014. Available at:

  4. Royal K, Sorenson S. Employees are responsible for their engagement too. June 16, 2015. Available at:

  5. Towers Perrin-ISR. Engaged employees drive the bottom line. Available at:

  6. Towers Watson. Engagement at risk: Driving strong performance in a volatile global environment. 2012. Available at:

  7. Fournies F. Coaching for Improved Performance. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw Hill; 2000.