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Assessing organizational communication to sustain culture amid practice growth

Insight Article - March 17, 2022

Performance Management

Leadership Development

Culture & Engagement

Mary Cain Tripod MA, PMP
Muskegon Surgical Associates (MSA) — an independent multispecialty surgical practice owned by 12 surgeons — has entered a phase of extremely rapid growth. The practice has recently added an in-office endoscopy program and an in-office surgical suite for plastic, cosmetic and hand surgery. MSA also has newly acquired land near the local hospital where they practice and has developed plans for a 64,000-square-foot, multi-use medical facility.

Historically, the practice has been a small, tight-knit group of employees and doctors who know each other personally and socially. This family-oriented corporate culture, perceived by some employees as starting to lose the “family feel” amid growth and staff additions, is a top priority of the practice.

Additionally, the current instability in the job market makes turnover (and its impact on corporate culture) a threat, as MSA recognized the financial and cultural worth of its many long-standing employees during this time of growth. The organization directly competes with the local hospital and local surgery center for healthcare-related employment. The physician owners recognize that communication plays a substantial role in maintaining corporate culture and sanctioned an internal organizational communications assessment.

This communication audit aimed to evaluate the receipt of information from others; sending data to others; determining desired levels of communication; sources of information; timeliness of information received from key sources; organizational communication relationships; organizational outcomes; and channels of information.

Collecting data

An online survey, divided into two parts, was distributed to all employees through company email and the company social media page. Respondents were given one business week to complete both sections and were notified three times to complete the survey and informed to ask their supervisor if they couldn’t carve out time to complete it.

Summary of raw data

The raw data in this survey strived to answer eight specific questions that are key to organizational communication. They are, according to Adrian and Downs:1 
  1. Amount of information actively received about topics and amount of information desired about these topics
  2. Amount of information sent about topics and amount of information desired to be sent about these topics
  3. Amount of follow-up by people now and amount of follow-up needed
  4. Amount of information received from sources and amount of information desired from these sources
  5. Timeliness of information received from key sources
  6. Organizational communication relationships
  7. Satisfaction with organizational outcomes
  8. Amount of information received from channels now and amount of information desired from channels now
  9. Open-ended questions were added for more subjective information gathering.
 

Conclusions

Survey responses revealed that MSA employees shared a concern about the growth of the organization and the corporate culture, but there is still a strong bond with coworkers and a belief in the good of the organization. Key areas of opportunity, in order of importance, were:
  1. The frequency of information sent and received needs improvement.
  2. Timely receipt of information occurs only sometimes
  3. The methods of preferred information receipt vary widely
  4. Department meetings, email and all staff meetings are the primary way employees would prefer to receive information.
 
Almost half (45%) of survey respondents intend to spend the rest of their careers at MSA, and 35% intend to stay as long as they enjoy their work. This is an indication of greater staff stability than expected given labor market conditions.

Recommendations

The following improvements for MSA’s internal communication were recommended:
  • Create an internal communications plan and stick to the plan to prevent communication overload. Information should be divided into categories based upon who is impacted by it and disseminated accordingly.
  • Ensure consistency in communication with frequent and succinct communication to improve trust and internal stakeholder engagement.
  • Consider weekly communications with updates from all departments. Leaders should round to follow up and see if there are questions or comments. Answers to questions and comments should be shared with the organization the following week.
  • Create organizational and departmental goals and objectives. Share progress regularly based on data gathering parameters (e.g., monthly, annually).
  • Implement a mechanism for bi-directional information exchange. Make sure employees have a voice. Provide channels for feedback and ideas.
  • Hold daily huddles to keep teams working together and to provide real-time information and feedback.
  • Establish and record monthly departmental meetings. Assign tasks and report back progress and completion. Managers should share their department meeting outcomes with leaders from other departments at leadership meetings.
  • Create cross-departmental workgroups for new projects and planned changes within the organization.
  • Maintain transparency to the extent it is feasible.
  • Create a professional development program that shares new service line information, industry trends, and other learning opportunities with all staff. Offer leadership training programs for employees interested in promotion/advancement within the organization.
  • Recognize and praise employees in person and publicly. Regular acknowledgment and rewards for positive performance and achievement of goals should be established and shared organization wide.
  • Continue to consistently promote social employee engagement through outside group activities and philanthropic projects. Publish monthly calendars of events and post throughout practices.
  • Reinstate the monthly or quarterly organization newsletter.
  • Consider leader and doctor formalized rounding on staff. Be sure to share results, act and follow through. Failure to do so could damage relationships that are intended to be strengthened.
  • Benchmark year-over-year organizational communication surveys to continue to monitor employee perceptions.
Effective communication can improve employee experiences, help employees understand their jobs, and drive commitment and loyalty. Effective communication also decreases the likelihood of misunderstanding; drives employee engagement; enhances trust; and builds better relationships between employees, managers and owners. Continue to align your communication and growth with the organization’s mission, vision and core values.

In conclusion, MSA does a relatively good job of communicating with employees based on survey feedback. By implementing the proposed key improvement strategies, the organization will continue to uphold the corporate culture.

Key takeaways

  • Most respondents are satisfied with their jobs and work well with their colleagues.
  • Most respondents agree that the organization does good work and does so better than comparative organizations.
  • There was concern about the growth of the organization and the loss of corporate culture.
  • The frequency and timeliness of information dissemination need improvement.
  • Future use of the survey tool will provide insight into how successful outcomes were used to implement change.

Download the results (PDF)

Note:

  1. Adrian AD, Downs CW. Assessing Organizational Communication: Strategic Communication Audits. 2004. Guilford Press.

About the Author

Mary Cain Tripod
Mary Cain Tripod MA, PMP
Execut Muskegon Surgical Associates Muskegon, Mich.

mary@tripods.net
 

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