Having standards isn't enough

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James M. Berklan
James M. Berklan

There's a country music song that popularly declares, “You've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything.” Well, I'm here to tell you, having standards isn't the answer.

No, you can't just have standards. You have to expect them to be aspired to and adhered to. Otherwise, you just have a wish list.

There, I said it, and I'm glad. Actually, Chip Burns also said it, except he was trying to delineate the difference between providers who settle for chaos over attaining order. Order leads to efficiency and then profitability.

What about you — need some more chaos in your life? Didn't think so.

Burns, you may recall, is the technology guru who has deftly helped providers around the country right their ships and get their staffs on board with new initiatives. He detailed the five biggest technology challenges for providers at a special McKnight's webcast on May 12. (You can still see and hear it “On Demand,” by the way, for free here.)

Last week in this space, I recounted a handful of tips he gave on how to be more welcoming and more efficient when it comes to technology. But I didn't even get to the challenge he spent the most time on.

That would be “operational efficiency.” It's something you cannot avoid if you have anything to do with long-term care. When it comes technological matters, many organizations don't have foundational tech standards at all, Burns marveled.

A very common aspect of some of these operators? Job descriptions that do not mention anything specific or helpful about computer-user competencies needed. This is unbelievable in this day and age.

It's hard to screen job candidates for your department, you say? No, it's not. “It costs about $5 per test where you can get a good sense of new applicants' capabilities, and get a training plan to get them where they need to be,” Burns offers, referring to certain service providers.

“Typically, today interviewers ask job candidates, ‘Do you understand computers? Can you use email? Great, there's your desk. You can learn more from the person next to you,'” Burns recounts with chilling accuracy for many workplaces. Providers are not taking time to set standards for their employees, nor train them to meet the standards.

We need to give them time and a means to learn those standards, then enforce them,” Burns urges. And what do standards do? They make your staff more efficient and reliable, and also ensure that everybody on campus isn't talking with different computer and tech vocabularies. We've all been there.

More providers need to form an IT steering committee, Burns impresses. A chief information officer or tech department manager should NOT be the sole go-to person. For a steering committee, everything should revolve around the organization's strategic goals.

Some super-employee in the I.T. department should not be deciding all alone what type of server or platform the company uses, Burns says. “That's where a steering committee makes a difference,” he affirms.

And investing in technology also creates a healthy codependency, he explains. An employee can say, “Provide me with new resources.” Then, management can say, “Hey, we've given you training and resources, so let's get better utilization.”

Which brings us back to our original assertion: You get more out of users by having standards —  and then expecting them. Not enough operators complete that loop.

James M. Berklan is McKnight's Editor. Follow him @JimBerklan.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.