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Executive Director of AHE Patti Costello (left), and Board President Gary Dolan, CHESP (right) chat after a general session at AHE Exchange Conference.

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Association for the Healthcare Environment (AHE) Exchange Conference wrapped up today with a lightning round of general sessions. (Catch up on Day 1 and Day 2 if you missed it.) 

Jonathan Fanning, a career consultant and coach, led the first session titled Who Are You Becoming as a Leader? Fanning discussed pillars necessary to enhance organizations, such as seeking clarity in arising issues, connecting with staff and practicing courage in new endeavors.

Anton Gunn, a motivational speaker and health care expert, followed with his session titled Leveraging Talent, in which he focused on ways to approach and make the most of diversity within health care teams, such as conducting one-on-one meetings with staff, setting up advisory groups and developing hiring practices that value diversity.

Leah Brown, talent retention strategist for Crescendo Strategies, discussed the mindset of young professionals in her session titled “Think You Understand Millennials? Think Again!” Brown left the audience with five key takeaways to improve effectiveness with managing the millennial workforce:

  • They want to be heard.
  • They want recognition and appreciation.
  • They want opportunities for advancement.
  • They want flexibility for a better quality of life.
  • They want a coach, not a boss.

In the last session, Navigate through Noise, Rick Lozano, an international keynote speaker, discussed ways to avoid the trap of being one’s own worst enemy, as well as how to silence critics while balancing risk-taking initiatives. His advice? Trust your voice and process, create experiences and opportunities, and develop patience and perspective.

Overall, the conference featured sessions that struck a balance between general best practices in leadership and management, and issues specific to health care environmental services.

Yesterday afternoon, Mike Catazaro, FAHE, MREH, CLLM, CHESP, led a peer-to-peer discussion during his session titled Managing an Environmental Services Department: It’s Not Just About Cleaning. Catazaro is the environmental services director at  in Dover, N.H., which won AHE’s Environmental Services Department of the Year award in 2014 and 2016. Catazaro opened the floor to attendees to discuss four topics: managing to benchmarks; managing perceptions, such as HCAHPS and Press Ganey scores; managing with transparency; and motivating and recognizing staff.

Here are a few of the attendee responses:

  • One manager said he noticed that scores related to the environmental services department decrease every time the nursing department’s scores decrease. The environmental services department now works with the nurses to make sure they aren’t overburdened with tasks outside of their responsibilities, resulting in increased scores for both departments.
  • To encourage transparency, one hospital reports creating advisory groups with 10-20 staff members to test products and processes, gain feedback on key issues and voice concerns directly to managers.
  • Another hospital uses a strategy learned from the hospitality industry to incentivize employees. The hospital will pay employees an extra 50 cents per work hour for each pay period in which they hit a specific target. Bonuses average approximately $80 per employee, and helps employees to pull together as one team.

At the end of the discussion, Catazaro encouraged each leader to motivate their staff through rewards and recognition, such as celebrating National Healthcare Environmental Services Week and entering departments and individuals in award competitions.

“You’ve got to be proud of your staff,” Catazaro says. “You are the only person who will be their spokesman. If you don’t put them up for recognition, who will?”