With today's economy, the challenges of delivering health care and keeping abreast of reimbursements and other components of health reform, hiring staff may not be at the top of your list of priorities.

You may be struggling with keeping your productive hours in line with the budget or even having to reduce staff. But I honestly believe that if we hire the right staff members in the beginning, we will see our productivity increase and ultimately improve patient outcomes.

I don't know about you, but I typically receive upward of 60 applications for each open position. Reviewing each and every application is daunting, but well worth the time. It is in the details that we can truly assess whether an applicant should be interviewed. I dig through each application and separate them out as "no," "maybe" and "yes." I start with interviewing the "yes" applicants and only move on to the others if the "yes" applicants do not interview well.

Because patient satisfaction, customer service and Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems scores are so critical to our success, we look for customer service skills more than ever before. To more accurately assess customer service skills we use behavior-based interviewing. Because of the kinds of questions asked in this form of interviewing, we can get a better sense of how applicants will handle situations that arise on the job rather than asking closed questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. For example, we frequently ask "what if" questions such as:

  • What do you do if you see someone lost?
  • What should you do if a patient is wheeled into an elevator and you are in it?
  • What do you do if you have a conflict with one of your teammates?

Responses often lead to meaningful dialogue and can provide a peek into the psyche of the candidates.

I am often amazed, even after more than 20 years of being in leadership, at how candidates dress for interviews. I have seen candidates dress in jeans (with holes in them) and a T-shirt, short shorts and low-cut shirts, and work uniforms. We've learned that the way candidates present themselves in the interview generally is the way they will present themselves when they are at work. We are careful to look for warning flags.

Good hires are important to any team, but are essential within environmental services for two primary reasons. First, whenever a new employee joins the team, the dynamic within that team can change. A single new employee added to a group can either enhance the team's cohesion and ability to work well together or can literally destroy the team's positive dynamic and turn a happy and productive unit into one with infighting, backstabbing and low output. Second, if a new employee has low productivity, friction can result rather than a welcomed reduction in everyone's workload.

This month's column was written by Kent L. Miller, MHL, CHESP, president of AHE's board of directors.


Valuable resources available

AHE offers a comprehensive educational and professional development program that engages all levels of health care experience.

• Conference — EXCHANGE 2012, AHE Conference & Healthcare Marketplace. This will be Sept. 16–19 at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel and Phoenix Convention Center.

• Webinar — The EVS Leader: Surprising Truths about What the C-Suite Requires. This 60-minute program will explore strategies articulated by a panel of top health care executives and officers, outlining how environmental services leaders can position themselves and their departments to get an audience with executive leadership and demonstrate their value. The event, which is $99 for AHE members and $139 for nonmembers, will be on Sept. 27 at 11 a.m. CST.

For more information on either of these events, please visit AHE's website at www.AHE.org.

ES & Housekeeping Week

National Healthcare Environmental Services and Housekeeping Week is Sept. 9–15 and offers managers the opportunity to demonstrate the importance of environmental services and housekeeping staff. Official commemorative products can be purchased at www.jimcolemanltd.com/esweek.