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Happy, High Performers: A Beginner's Guide to Culture Satisfaction Surveys in Sterile Processing

(A few years ago, my SPD department in Louisville Kentucky had the highest performance cultural assessment scores of any department in an entire health system of 17+ hospitals. Here are a few concepts that worked for us...)

If you work in a hospital of any size you are probably familiar with the idea of an annual facility culture assessment or employee satisfaction survey. These are questionnaires that come out every year asking things like: "Would you recommend this hospital to any of your friends looking for work?" or "Would you trust this hospital for your family member's surgery?" Although these surveys differ from place to place, they all try to get at one main idea: Are your employees happy? 

As simple as it may sound, ensuring that your team leads the way as happy, high performers is one of the hardest things a leader will ever do. You can't force someone to enjoy their job -- but there are ways to create an atmosphere in your department that draws in the passionate and encourages the faint of heart. Let's take a look at three must-haves for making happiness a major win on your next department survey . . .

1) Hire for Happy, Train for Performance

Believe it or not, high scores on your department's employee satisfaction survey actually start before you hire your first employee.

When you sit down to interview a candidate, in addition to discovering their character, former work experiences, and commitment to excellence, you should also be gauging their general outlook on their profession. Did they enjoy their previous job? What about in the midst of challenges? How did they deal with employee conflict? These things are bound to come to fruition in any department, so the important part is how the person handles it. A technician who can operate under stress -- and yet still keep a positive outlook on their departments are an invaluable asset to your team (and your scores). 

On this front, I would recommend being very intentional with the kind of employees you use to train these new (happy) hires. One of the worst mistakes you can make is allowing a preceptor/trainer with skill, but no passion for their job, have three months of one-on-one training with an earnest new team member. The first 90-days in your department can make or break future happy, high performers, so ensure your trainers are models for the kind of culture you want replicated across your team. Hire for happy, train for performance. 

2) Keep Your Ears Open and Finger on the Pulse

Once you've recruited and hired the happiest new technicians on the block, and have them being trained by model citizens in your SPD kingdom, you now need to focus on keeping the lines of communication open. Nearly every cultural assessment and satisfaction survey I've seen has been filled with questions about how well department leadership communicated and how well the employee thought their concerns were being heard.

While this may sound like Leadership 101, in the flurry of activity found in most CS/SPDs around the country, consistent communication from leadership is often lacking in critical ways.

A great example of this is the supposed holy grail of leadership theory, the Open Door Policy. I've heard countless leaders pat themselves on the back because they leave their office doors open for staff to come and speak to them about concerns, only to wake up 12 months later to strikingly low survey scores for department communication. "What happened?" they ask, with a mixture of unbelief and consternation on their faces. In two words, reality happened. And the reality is, very few employees feel comfortable interrupting their boss with the little issues of life and work that make up their days. But because it's these little things that push the needle from a "mediocre" experience at work to a "happy" one, many bosses never know about them until it's too late. Make it a point to leave your office on occasion and spend time on the department floor, gauging the pulse of your people, asking about the little things they need to feel valued, and watch y