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8% of Hospital Staff are Underperforming – How to Improve Quality in Healthcare Staff

December 17, 2015


Quint Studer is a recognized leader in hospital excellence. His Studer Group helps hospitals achieve and sustain exceptional outcomes. At a recent event in Pittsburgh, he pointed out one of the challenges faced by hospital executives (from coverage in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette):

"We have to help leaders feel OK about removing people from the organization."

Mr. Studer said ... a survey of more than 26,000 health leaders found that, on average, those leaders described 8 percent of their workers as "underperformers" -- although about half the time, the worker's poor performance had not been documented or tracked.

"You're making patients get care from people they should not be getting care from," he said.

Read more here.

At a time when we need more than ever from our workforce, hospitals are tolerating poor performance. Poor performance is rarely about technical skills. It’s almost always about behaviors: Staff who aren’t patient-focused, who aren’t conscientious, who aren’t collaborative. These behaviors impact patient care – not just patient satisfaction but actual clinical outcomes and overall organizational success. What can you do about it?doctor checklist76811007

1. Do a better job defining expectations. Few hospitals have a handle on what behavioral competencies are important. They may have an idea, but have never taken steps to “operationalize” the competencies in a manner that can drive change.

  2. Select better candidates. It’s that simple. Few hospitals take a deliberate approach to evaluating candidates’ behavioral competencies. They may use what they “call” a behavioral interview but it’s either poorly designed or inconsistently used. They may use some sort of behavioral assessment, but it’s often a generic, off the shelf tool that adds little objective data to the hiring decision – often a tool not even designed for selection or for healthcare.

3. Build performance management around clear behavioral competencies. Traditionally, the “behavioral” or “patient-focus” component of performance management has been vague at best and, often, useless. It’s been paid lip service but without clear definitions or expectations, the ability to develop these behaviors, or create accountability, is almost non-existent. Specific behaviors (positive and negative) should be built into the performance management system and staff held accountable for demonstrating proficiency.

Quint Studer is right. What he proposes is what other industries have known for decades. Hospitals are notorious, though, for focusing their talent resources on finding technically qualified candidates, and then doing almost nothing to move poor performers out of the organization. In their defense, most don’t have the tools in place to do what Mr. Studer proposes.

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Bryan Warren Bryan Warren is the President of J3 Personica, a consulting, assessment, training, and coaching firm, and a guest blogger for PSI. Bryan is an expert in progressive talent strategies, with a particular focus on leader and physician selection and development.