Why Partnership Is Good for Managers
Working together produces a wealth of problem-solving wisdom, but is not optional
Bernie Nadel is director of customer service and call center operations at Patient Financial Services in Southern California. He co-chairs the Regional Operations LMP Council, bringing together 27 business units, including the regional laboratory, central refill pharmacy and optical services.
None of us was born into a unit-based team. Partnership is learned. Teams and their leaders need guidance and a playbook.
I tell other managers partnership makes my job easier. I have 10 other people helping to come up with solutions. I know some managers are uncomfortable with that approach. They act as though they can opt out of the Labor Management Partnership. It’s as if they said, “I know we have KP HealthConnect™, but I want to use this other computer program.” I say, if you don’t want the LMP, don’t work at Kaiser Permanente. You don’t get to opt out of the company’s policy.
Owning the work
Recently, our UBT went through a list of issues to work on. Call volume is up 30 percent, and we’re figuring out how to deal with that. We are going to do several tests of change. UBT members are gung ho about it. If I were to try to make those changes myself, I’d miss things. I would not get the insights of the people who interact with our members every day. And the people doing the work wouldn’t have the ownership and energy that comes with having a voice. Employees know I believe in partnership—and I give them the time to do it. That is a challenge. But you can’t solve the problems if you don’t invest.
Not that long ago this call center was a toxic environment. There was low trust and low morale. All that has switched 180 degrees. A big step was my predecessor attending a sponsorship training class, which led her to involving UBTs more in day-to-day operations. I wanted to build on that.
Taking the first step
LMP is a dance between labor and management, and management has to take the first step. When labor sees that management is serious, that’s when it changes. We’ve shown that you can change the culture.
Recently, we had a meeting with top executives about improving the consumer financial experience. Our UBT representative group prepared a report, and it gave our executives insights they couldn’t get any other way. It was not slick, it was real. I’m grateful to the group for the experience, commitment and knowledge they bring to this work every day.