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Mentoring staff

With the ever changing rules and regulations related to healthcare systems, it is necessary to obtain and retain quality staff with up to date knowledge of all facets of healthcare, writes North American healthcare security man Kevin Mulcahy.

This article will focus on support staff, specifically security staff. Security staff are the eyes and ears of healthcare organisations. They watch over staff, patients, and visitors to provide a safe healing environment. Recent efforts have been made to elevate the status of security staff from the long held view of rough around the edges guards, to “kinder and gentler” security officers. To hire, train, and retain quality officers with the ability to remain calm and courteous under stressful situations there must be a system in place to ensure success for those willing to achieve it.

The institution of a formal mentoring program will provide a comprehensive, tailored approach to allow officers to meet their full potential. It is important to note that this will not be a “one size fits all”, but will provide a framework with objectives for officers to meet without defining how they are to reach their journey. Every journey begins with a first step. The first step to motivating employees to reach their full potential is to provide them with a roadmap for success. To get the most out of members of a department it is necessary to understand that, for the most part, each team is made up of individuals that want to succeed.

To succeed they must be allowed to be free to explore their role in the organization and be comfortable with overcoming challenges they may encounter along the way. As each individual sees the world from a unique perspective, it is essential to understand that different personality types have different strengths and weaknesses. In a healthcare security setting it is challenging to attract and retain quality employees that possess certain personality traits that are necessary for the safety and well-being of staff, patients, and visitors. Many times less experienced individuals are full of enthusiasm, while more seasoned individuals have already proven themselves in former careers and are looking to perform their duties at a “satisfactory” level. Understanding how to motivate a diverse workforce is important to have a strong and cohesive team. Once an employee has been brought on board it is important to begin the mentoring process as soon as possible. In the past, newly hired employees have been arbitrarily assigned to a mentor. Each mentor may be paired with one or two mentees at a time. Moving forward, I propose a change to this system by allowing the mentee to choose a mentor (or multiple mentors) they mesh well with. Chemistry between the senior and junior employee is critical to the success of the business relationship. If both people see eye to eye and are able to communicate effectively, they will both achieve positive results.

Kram and Higgins (2008) state “Typically, you choose a single senior colleague — or get assigned to one — who can show you the ropes and open the right doors. But the world of work has gotten too complicated for one person to provide all the guidance and opportunities you need to manage challenges and prepare for the future.”

To say that healthcare systems have become complicated is an understatement. It may take several years for a security officer to understand the ins-and-outs of rules, regulations, and policies as they relate to healthcare security. Even senior security members aren’t aware of every new rule or regulation that is enacted. A new employee will be at a distinct advantage if they are able to tap into multiple information streams offered by multiple mentors.

The current training system only requires a 90-day performance review for new employees followed by yearly reviews for all employees. I propose the creation of employee engagement surveys throughout the training period. Asking questions to demonstrate employee competency in various work-related topics as well as designing surveys to allow employees to record how strongly they feel the training they are receiving is adequate.

There will be no fixed time that a mentoring relationship should or must continue. Once a new employee chooses a mentor or multiple mentors, there is a certain amount of knowledge that must be passed along. Skills related to hospital security functions must also be taught. Once the 90 day probationary period is met, employees are able to continue the mentor-mentee relationship. The learning process should continue throughout the career of every individual.
The goal of this research is to understand and celebrate diversity in the workplace and harness the power of a high-functioning team to produce a service that is much greater than the sum of its parts. It is possible to have different thoughts and beliefs while pursuing the same goal of exceptional service. The key is to understand the unique traits of each team member and develop each individual in a way that they are able to contribute their maximum effort into each and every assignment. An old African proverb states “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. A successful team must be both nimble and team-oriented to succeed.

The healthcare industry has seen many drastic changes recently and the team I work with has adapted well. In this dynamic environment we must anticipate the needs of our customers as well as ever-changing rules and regulations related to the healthcare field. For these reasons I have chosen to implement the Employee Engagement Process as described in The Change Handbook. The Employee Engagement Process explains that positive results are achieved through effective communication throughout an organization.

A mentoring program for new employees must be designed completely around open and trusting relationships. I propose that each new hire progresses through the training process with several more seasoned employees. This will allow each new employee to see how each member of the team successfully performs their duties. Once the mandated training is complete (80 hours for the security department) a mentee will be able to choose their own mentor.

The Change Handbook explains the process of employee engagement in three parts. First, communication between management and employees must be open and transparent. Second, the model supports innovative and dynamic approaches to working in synergy. Third, the process emphasizes collaborative work between all levels of employees in an effort to achieve results in a more fluid manner, rather than a very structured model.

Gallo (2011) stated “Many people assume that they only need a mentor when they are first starting out in their careers. “We used to think it was people at early stages of their career who needed mentoring, those just out of MBA programs. Now we understand that people at every stage benefit from this kind of assistance.” I am fortunate to lead a hospital security team with many seasoned veterans with police, corrections, and military backgrounds. Many potential employees may have extensive security-related backgrounds, but may need a mentor more than someone with no security-related experience. It has been my experience that former sales and customer service professionals readily adapt to the customer focused nature of healthcare security. Former police officers may experience “hiccups” in their performance and when faced with a patient experiencing mental health issues, may revert to more aggressive police tactics. Mentoring these employees and helping them to “turn off” their police training will result in reduced liability for the hospital as well as happier patients, staff, and visitors to the hospital.

Swap (2001) states “The core capabilities of an organization include critical skills of employees, management systems, and norms and values. Core capabilities may be transferred formally and explicitly. However, much knowledge, particularly knowledge with rich tacit dimensions, is transferred informally through processes of socialization and internalization.”

Socialisation and internalisation, as Swap explains, are cornerstones of a successful mentoring program. New employees must feel free to ask tough questions and understand that every employee before them started with little to no knowledge of the complicated business system we are all a part of. Informal talks throughout the day as well as formal training sessions prove to be very beneficial to new employees. With the myriad of state, federal regulations, best practices and the ever looming reality of the litigation heavy society we live in, healthcare security officers must be well versed in the rules, regulations, and policies that govern the profession of healthcare security. This can only be achieved with the help of a well-developed group that trusts each other and management, actively participates in the decision making process, and understands that the amount of effort they exert is directly related to their career development.

The cornerstone of a high functioning team is a strong mentoring program.

A program that is structured enough to provide guidance, yet free enough to allow each individual to progress in a way that allows for full career enrichment is what every organisation should strive for. The small investment that an employer makes to develop new employees should provide exponential returns in the form of knowledgeable and enthusiastic employees.

Works cited

1. Gallo, Amy. “Demystifying Mentoring.” Harvard Business Review. Harvard Business Review, 01 Feb. 2011.
2. Holman, Peggy, Tom Devane, and Steven Cady. “Employee Engagement Process.” The Change Handbook: The Definitive Resource on Today’s Best Methods for Engaging Whole Systems. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2007.
3. Kram, Kathy E., and Monica C. Higgins. “A New Approach to Mentoring.” Wall Street Journal. Wall Street Journal, 22 Sept. 2008. .
4. Swap, Walter, Dorothy Leonard, Mimi Shields, and Lisa C. Abrams. “Using Mentoring and Storytelling to Transfer Knowledge in the Workplace.” Creating Value with Knowledge (2004): 181-200.


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