What's in this episode?
In Season 1 Episode 4, Al Gresch, Mike Zimmer and special guest Rob Bundick - Director HTM & Biomedical Engineering at ProHealth Care - discuss the how to build high performing teams.
Mike Zimmer: Morning Al, I hope you're having a good week. It's the year-end. Here at Accruent things are busy for both us as well as our customers. There's been lots of late nights. I currently have some rings under my eyes, but any hoot. Al, who are we talking with today?
Al Gresch: Yeah, sure. Thanks, Mike. This morning we are talking with Rob Bundick, the director of healthcare technology management at ProHealth in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Rob was a member of my team in one of my past lives, is a very innovative leader. And today we want to talk to Rob about how to build high performing teams. Rob, you want to give us a little bit of a deeper intro on who you are and what we're talking about today?
Rob Bundick: Sure. Again, Rob Bundick, I'm the director for healthcare technology management here at the ProHealth Care. Been doing biomed for... God, not as long as Al, but roughly-
Mike Zimmer: [crosstalk 00:01:21] as long as Al.
Rob Bundick: True, true. Roughly about 30 years, a combination of military third party service and now running a program for an in-house organization here at ProHealth Care. Been at ProHealth Care going on 12 years now, and we started developing the in-house program once I got here. Very heavy on service contracts, not a lot of technicians doing the service here. And we've taken that and developed a fully self-functioning in-house program. So, a key part of that is having the right people on board and having good techs doing the right job and servicing the right equipment. So, look forward to having conversations around that, sharing some information on what we've done.
Mike Zimmer: And so that leads into my first question, well, bullet item here, and it's a definition. So, looking back over what you've built over the past 12 years at ProHealth, how would you define what a great team, like a world class team looks like? What does that sound like, feel like, look like day in and day out from the people that you've surrounded yourself with?
Rob Bundick: For us, it starts off with selecting the right engineers to not only service the equipment, but to ensure that the departments are having the right information, ensuring that they're able to work together and help each other out. So, the key is finding the right fit. We do some things here at ProHealth Care with our HR department, the hiring process, building career path for engineers to find out that we have a young engineer that he's high performer, how do we get him engaged and get him promoted through the ranks to get him in a spot where he stays engaged and he wants to stay at ProHealth Care and help us. So, building the right team starts with selecting the right people to service equipment.
Mike Zimmer: Finding the people with the right skillset, the right technical skills is one piece of that puzzle. And it sounds as though you already have the structures in place with your HR team that once you get them in the door, and let's say that they are a high performer, they want to stick with your organization for the long-term, because they really see a future for themselves there. And that their proficiency is going to be celebrated. But how do you hire?
Mike Zimmer: Personally, I assume that you've sat across a desk from potential candidates a ton of different times. What are the kind of cues that you look for that 'will' component? So, a lot of this is skill versus will. And some of the softer skill aspects of a candidate, where, okay, they've got a solid technical foundation and they can do the job, but how are they going to interact with the rest of the team? And how are they going to interact with the people that you all are supporting; clinicians, staff, et cetera? How do you hire for that? What kind of questions do you ask during the interview process?
Rob Bundick: So, for us, there's… at ProHealth Care, there's a test called talent mind that we use. Anyone that we hire, actually will use this… they have to take this test, essentially. And it sort of gauges their personality, how their communication styles are, what their stress points are. What their positive engagements are. So, we look at that. And as we're going through the hiring process, we will key questions around that to see how they respond and how they act.
Rob Bundick: Also, looking at where that engineer is going to work also dictates some of the qualities that you're looking for. In a surgical environment that's typically a little bit higher stress level than, say, just a regular med surg floor. You look for an engineer in that capacity to work in a surgical environment that can remain calm, and quickly identify solutions or alternate plans. Someone that's maybe a little bit more self-guiding, self-managing of their time. Whereas, someone on a med surg floor, you're probably looking for someone that can communicate easier with RNs and managers. We tailor our questions based on the position that we're looking at to get the feedback, to see if they're the right fit in the job that we're looking to hire.
Al Gresch: Well, Mike, it's important to understand, too, that there's been a bit of an evolution in our business. And I think Rob can certainly attest to this; that there was a point in time where you could have technicians that just sat at the bench. And you'd have folks that would go out to the floors and deal with customers and bring things back to the shop and the guys that you shackled to a bench who perhaps didn't have as good communication skills, but could fix anything you put in front of them. There was a lot of that existed. Over time, at least in the departments that I ran, that changed. And we could no longer have people that didn't have the ability to service the customer as much as the equipment. That's become a much more prevalent part of what you need to look for.
Al Gresch: In fact, I put more emphasis in hiring on making sure that people had those good communication skills and soft skills in dealing directly with the customer. Because I felt that of the two, the technical was easier to teach. And it has to be something that's inherent in an individual. You can't teach or direct somebody to be compassionate and caring and listen to the customer. That has to be something that's built into them.
Mike Zimmer: Yeah, and there's a lot of parallels that can be drawn between the company that we work for and the situation that healthcare organizations find themselves in too. For whatever reason, there are requirements of people to be much more emotionally intelligent, which is kind of a buzzword right now. A follow-up on question to that, Al and Rob, and this is a little bit off-topic, but we'll steer it back into what we're looking at today.
Mike Zimmer: We went from this culture of, “I'm just going to sit at the bench and fix stuff all day long. And that's what I'm good at.” To one where techs, et cetera, have to interface more and more with RNs and with the other leaders up the chain. Was there like a single event or a collection of occurrences that caused that shift in what you needed to expect from the various technicians you have on your staff? What was that evolution like? When did that happen?
Al Gresch: I don't know that there was a specific event or timeframe were where that occurred. It happened over time. And Rob, you can weigh in on this from your perspective, but for me, I think it was more about the team turning more into a dispersed service business. In the latter years of my running departments, we had a lot more people that traveled from place to place, bringing stuff back to like a depot kind of a service thing, just wasn't feasible anymore. Because you had to go to where the people or you had to go to where the equipment was, and it just wasn't very efficient to bring stuff back and forth. So, Rob, what are your thoughts on that?
Rob Bundick: Yeah, I agree. It comes from an efficiency standpoint. As we look to utilize equipment more and have fewer devices with higher utilization rate, having access to equipment out on the floors where it was okay to take a piece of equipment away, have it sit on a shelf, wait for someone to repair it, then bring it back. Those days were gone. So, having a technician show up and repair the equipment was a much faster option than having that equipment, leave the department, get repaired and then show back up. And a lot of that was… that was the main driver for changing how the dynamic of an older Biomed shop would run.
Mike Zimmer: We've hired the right people; they see that they've got a future built out for them there within your organization. Now what? And so, I'm trying to make this turn towards like, how do you define the culture? Because that's an important part too. So, you have the right players on your team. What is the reason, the big hairy reason, that they are going to show up to work every day and be as efficient, productive as possible as they possibly can be?
Mike Zimmer: I think a lot of the time, a stellar team, that culture usually gets defined by the person at the top by their leader. So, if you agree with that, and if you don’t, we can talk about that too, Rob, but how do you define what the overall culture is for your team, what the end objective is for them? If there is an end objective and there probably isn't.
Al Gresch: No, I'll jump in, Mike. And, and from my perspective, it starts at day one… actually even before day one, when you're hiring that right individual. And there's a saying that I'm sure everyone's familiar with that your people are your most important asset. I've done a number of presentations where I've disputed that and said that the right people are your most important asset. You've gone through the efforts of finding the right people, those that fit your culture, and we'll get into that, how to create that culture.
Al Gresch: But step one is, it takes place in the onboarding and orientation process. Making those people feel as if they're extremely important members of your team. And that starts even before they walk in the door, reaching out to them ahead of time, making sure that they understand where to go, what that orientation process is going to look like. Making sure that they're set up appropriately when they walk in the door, that they don't come in and you park them at a bench somewhere and give them manuals to read as you're getting their computer and getting their login setup and all that.
Al Gresch: All of that should already be set up ahead of time, so that when they come in the door, they feel as if they're part of a team. Rob is very much familiar with this because he helped build that out in one of the organizations I was in. And I'm sure he just carried that through in his own organization; is assigning a person to be that new hires body, if you will, to show them the ropes and make sure that they're comfortable, and understand the systems that they need to interact with.
Al Gresch: Again, make them feel as an important part of the team. And that comes from the leader spending an adequate amount of time with them, and other staff members spending an appropriate amount of time with them. Rob, what are your thoughts on that?
Rob Bundick: I'm right there with you. For us, we're a small enough organization, we only have 17 engineers. I have actually taken additional step further. And part of our onboarding process is that the new engineer will spend one day with every engineer we have. It's a point of getting to know that person on an individual basis, spending the day with them, going with them on their calls, understanding what they work on.
Rob Bundick: It does several things for us. It gets them engaged, personal level with each staff member. It shows them the organization and where everything is. It helps build that team concept with us. But it also gives exposure to that new individual, because the people we hire are usually entry-level because we've set up a structure where we can promote people. So now you have someone coming in at an entry-level that gets exposure to all the different technology and puts it in their mindset of where do I want to go career-wise.
Rob Bundick: It's not only helping us build that strong team, but it's setting that foundation for that engineer to say, “All right, I have the ability to one day work on this equipment. I now know that specialist that works on that, and I can start interacting with them and building some relationships.” For us, we've taken that extra two and a half, three weeks to say, “This is what we're going to do. We're going to let that individual get exposure to every team member we have on an individual basis.”
Rob Bundick: We're small enough, we can do that. That may be impossible for larger organizations, but still, get creative and still allow that to happen in some manner. And it's been very successful for us. The last five people we've hired have been entry-level. And if you talk to those five individuals, they will tell you that was probably the best part of them starting their new job; it was getting to know the people and what they do in getting to understand the different opportunities for them.,
Mike Zimmer: The three weeks that you spent, or however long it is, taking your new hires through that process has got to pay dividends in a number of ways. I would imagine that your retention numbers are really, really good. They're very solid. And if you think back to when you were new, within a job, part of the inefficiency that that person's going to have or display is, “Now, who do I go to for this question? How do I do this here?”
Mike Zimmer: With them having that initial exposure to the rest of the team, I'm also going to assume that there isn't that inefficiency. There isn't that trepidation of like raising your hand and saying, “Hey, I don't know how to do this. Can somebody help me out?” Because they've already broken the ice with the rest of the group.
Rob Bundick: Absolutely. They have that personal connection now where they can go to that individual and be like, “All right, you work on this, you know about this. Can you help me understand this?” And because we've done a lot of promotions in our organization, an engineer that has been here for seven years has probably been promoted twice. So, he actually has experience in multiple areas. And so not only do we have just one person that knows an area, now we have two or three people that really know an area. So, it's really helped mold the team and make us better overall.
Al Gresch: Yeah, and the one thing I wanted to call out too, Mike, is, I love what Rob's done in making those connections within the department. But I think it's important to make connections outside the department as well to make sure that that individual is introduced and you create connections with the clinical staff that you're supporting, as well.
Al Gresch: I want to move to something that Rob touched on early, which was a career ladder. And you heard him say a couple of times that most of the people that he hires, if not all of the people that he hires now, are entry-level people. And that is the ideal situation to have in place, where you have a career ladder, where you've outlined the competencies that are required for each level position. You make as part of every individual's annual performance review, an understanding of what their goals are career-wise, and that they understand what they need to do in order to achieve that higher level.
Al Gresch: The key here, which is unlike what it is in a lot of organizations, it is absolutely not based on years of service. It is based on levels of competency and business need. And I know firsthand that Rob has built his team based on those two things. You understand what opportunities there are. And Rob said it early on that when he started there, he was very contract heavy. So, there were opportunities there. And what he did was he married that opportunity to what people's aspirations were, got them training, used a competency assessment to indicate where they were in their level of competency that would prepare them for that next level. And you set up a culture and processes that are very intentional about making that happen. Rob, you want to give us a little more detail on how you did that, and how you're currently set up?
Rob Bundick: Yeah. For us, it started probably about five years ago when we saw the need that we had five of our senior engineer techs that were going to be retiring in the next few years. I sat down with our HR team and said, “I'd like to build a career ladder and a career path for our engineers.” We had imaging engineers, we had Biomed engineers. And how do I build a path so that someone coming in the door, that's an entry level engineer, can see a career path for him all the way up to senior imaging if they chose to, or a path into the HTM side? Whether it's in device integration, cybersecurity, the analytics side that we also are responsible for here. How do I give them that path, even in the leadership, if they wanted to become a supervisor in our organization? How do we build that for our engineers?
Rob Bundick: We sat down; we rewrote all our job descriptions that actually could scale up. If you read one of our job descriptions now as from an entry-level all the way to a senior or to the HTM side, you can actually see the progression, where the skill set of requirements become incrementally higher. We've put that in place. We resubmitted it out to HR to go out and put it out to market, changed the pay scales, adjusted everything and then actually rolled that out to our engineers.
Rob Bundick: As part of that, that's what we then decided to start looking at specific placements of where the right people fit in the organization. I spoke earlier about using the talent mind test that is out in the industry that HR uses. All of our engineers took that talent mind test, we looked at how they performed, looked at how they are, perception of them, how they actually physically work in real life versus taking the test, and sort of married people to the right positions and established then our team-based off of that.
Rob Bundick: We've been very successful with that. We've had a low turnover rate, I think we've only had three people leave in the past five years, two was retirement and one was relocation. So, it's not that we've lost people to competitors, it's not that we lost people because they were unhappy.
Rob Bundick: For us, we look at that as a success that now we have the right model in place that allows engineers to grow and is a path for them to expand their knowledge and their capabilities. I've got people with the 7, 8, 9, 10 years of experience that are applying for an entry-level job because they've heard ProHealth Care is a good place to work for if you're a biomedical engineer, and you want to be in-house.
Rob Bundick: For us, it validates that, that when I hear people say, “Oh, we have so many people retiring, and we're struggling to fill positions.” We're quite the opposite. We have people not wanting to leave here. We have people wanting to come to work here. So, to me, it validates that the program we have in place, and how we treat our staff and how we've developed our team is the right thing. And we're doing what's right for our employees, which alludes to what you say, “Having the right people is your best asset in the organization.”
Al Gresch: Yes. Rob, one thing that we haven't touched on yet, which I think is important, is salary. A lot of people think that they have to hit a certain pay range in order to be able to recruit the right people. I'd like you to touch on that a little bit because I know you've done a lot of work with your HR group and making sure that your staff is fairly compensated.
Rob Bundick: Yeah, so part of what we did several years back when we looked at rebuilding these job descriptions, we actually sent that back out to the market. Because we're here in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where GE's headquarter is. We're also on the Western side of Milwaukee. We're an hour away from Chicago. We're an hour away from Madison, Wisconsin. When I got here, the pay scales are structured based on a not-for-profit, small community hospital. When I looked at that, we really couldn't keep engineers because of the pay scale were lower. I had that conversation with our HR staff.
Rob Bundick: We started investing heavily in our engineers. We started training them. We started getting them up to speed to be able to service equipment to eliminate those contracts. But what we did was make those engineers then, more marketable to the outside hospitals and manufacturers in the area. We were losing engineers for a couple of years. We would spend $70,000, $80,000 training an engineer, only to have them go to work for an OEM or be hired away by a larger hospital, in our area.
Rob Bundick: We had that conversation with HR, as we were doing these job descriptions was saying, “We have to be more aggressive in how we compensate these engineers. We're our own worst enemy right now. We're treating them right, we're training them, but now we've made them more marketable, yet we don't want to increase their pay to represent the value of their technical abilities.”
Rob Bundick: HR was very willing to listen to us. We showed them a couple of scenarios where we had lost people that we had spent a lot of time and money investing in. The only reason we had lost them was because of pay. HR came back to the table and actually readjusted pay scales to actually be more competitive in the market. And put us in the same pay scale as a Milwaukee and as a Chicago area, and actually did some pay equity studies and adjusted pays. I had engineers that got $4 or $5 an hour pay increases based on a pay equity study that gave them the pay that was equivalent to their value and their marketability based on their technical experience and ability.
Rob Bundick: That was a positive thing for us. It was a surprise to a lot of our engineers. It, again, validated that those engineers now wanted to stay here because they knew we were going to treat them right. We were going to recognize them for their ability, and actually compensate them accordingly. That was done as part of that process and has worked well for us.
Rob Bundick: Another thing we did a year and a half ago now, was there was a big change in our area where a larger organization was actually going from a third party back to in-house and there was going to be a lot of open positions. I sat down with our HR team and said, “There's going to be a threat that we could lose some of our engineers just purely based off of pay, and how do we do that? At the same time, we're building a new hospital, and our engineers are, actually, having to work extra to help us build a new hospital. Can we do something from a recognition standpoint that, one, we want to recognize them for the hard work that they're going to be doing in the 18 months that are coming up for building a new hospital. And two, we don't want them to leave to a competitor who may come after them and pursue them.”
Rob Bundick: So we targeted some key individuals and we offered them retention bonuses, to stay on with us as part of that recognition, and as part of the transparency of saying, “Hey, we know you may be approached in the next six to nine months to go to work elsewhere, we don't want you to leave.” When we had those conversations with those engineers, we were surprised that some of them… I mean, they were grateful for it, but they were also transparent with us saying, “It would take a lot for me to leave here.” We've heard that several times. But we did that. Again, it's recognition from a pay and equity standpoint.
Rob Bundick: We lost zero engineers in that capacity. I know of four individuals that were contacted by the hospital system, wanting them to come to work for them, they automatically declined. So, for us, it's validated that by compensating your engineers, you can actually take that off the table. It takes a lot to recover from $60,000 or $70,000 of training, that if you lose an engineer, you now have to not only find another good engineer, but you then have to reinvest that money back in them to train. So, it's much easier to compensate them, the few dollars an hour to retain them.
Al Gresch: I want to be clear on something. This isn't a bidding war to try and be the highest paying organization. But what it is, is making sure that your staff is paid fairly for what they're doing. Then all of the other things that we've talked about today in creating a culture of making sure that that A, you set the bar high and you're holding your people accountable. But you're giving them a sense of purpose and you're making them feel important, and part of the strong value and purpose that your department brings to the organization. They understand how they fit into that.
Al Gresch: I think about, Robert, back when we had to recruit a great number of imaging engineers, and we hired a lot of people from the OEMs. These are guys that had like three, four state regions that they had to cover. They had a ton of overtime. So, these guys made a lot of money.
Al Gresch: We couldn't compete on a dollar basis for what they were making. But what we did offer them was quality of life. So, we're going to have a number of people backing you up. You're not going to be on call 24/7 365. You're going to have the opportunity to have dinner with your wife and your family, like a normal person. You're going to have the ability to go see a movie with your wife without having to worry about getting called out every time to go on a service call. Once we got that in place and got a couple of guys on board and they experienced that tremendous quality of life, they started talking to other field service engineers that they knew within their company and other companies to say, “Hey, this is a great place to work. You should really think about coming to work here.” That's how we recruited.
Al Gresch: I think, Mike, to summarize the things that you should have in place to have an engaged and high performing staff are those things; pay them fairly, set the bar high and hold them accountable, help them to understand what it's going to take to achieve the next level, make them feel important that they are an important cog in the wheel of your department and the services that you provide. And you're going to have more than enough people to fill the positions, because you're going to be the employer of choice.
Mike Zimmer: Yeah, absolutely.
Al Gresch: Rob anything from your perspective to add to that?
Rob Bundick: One thing I'll add, and what we found is, as I talked to the engineers is, what is missing from our team? What do you guys think will help you stay engaged; help keep you engaged? One of the feedbacks I got, and this was several years ago was, recognition. You don't call Biomed unless something's going wrong.
Rob Bundick: What we've done ourselves is some internal recognition. We have a weekly department meeting. And what we've set aside is five minutes on the agenda, just to give some internal recognition to each other, as a group. If one engineer has helped someone out, if someone has covered for somebody, if someone was on call and needed help, they were able to call somebody. We actually take that time out during that weekly meeting, just to acknowledge that.
Rob Bundick: I put that in place and about six months after I reached back out to everyone to say, “Hey, it may sound a little cheesy to me, but do you guys see value in that?” What we have found out is that the engineers really do enjoy that small recognition for two reasons. One, we're recognizing them in a group. Both of our departments are roughly 24 people. The Majority of the time everyone in that meeting or on that call, they get that recognition that someone has gone out of their way to help someone else. But it also gives everybody an idea of what other people are facing and saying, “Okay, you had this problem now.” They start engaging technically about what they did to overcome it. What the solution was.
Rob Bundick: They're not only found it valuable from a recognition standpoint, but they're again, engaged in that team-building relationship of saying, “Oh, you had this problem, and this is how you solved it?” So, become popular in our department meetings just to have that quick little recognition once a week of what issues have happened, and how you overcame them.
Mike Zimmer: I think that's a really great natural place to wrap things up. Guys, thank you so much for your time. Rob thank you for taking an hour. But it is clear to me that you are an insanely innovative leader. And it's got to feel great knowing that even if a competitor is approaching members of your team, they're still saying, “You know what, now this is the place for me and you can't really throw any amount of money at me that's going to make me change my mind.” I'm sure there's a number, but terrific. So again, thank you, Rob-
Rob Bundick: Again, there's a number, but that number only buys that that happiness temporarily, right?
Mike Zimmer: Yeah, barely buying the happiness.
Rob Bundick: [crosstalk 00:33:38] Yeah. You could buy that happiness for a short time and then once you got there and you ran into the problems every day on a consistent basis, it would eventually wear off.
Mike Zimmer: Absolutely, awesome. Al, anything you wanted to say prior to us wrapping up.
Al Gresch: No, no, I think this has been great. Really appreciate your time, Rob. Clearly, you've created that culture… Again, what it comes down to is letting your staff know that they're important. And specifically recall one of the questions in our employee engagement survey, or one of the rating things, is that my manager cares about me. And that's an important thing too. All the things that Rob has done expresses to his team that they do matter and that he does genuinely care about them and you can't underestimate how important that is. So that's been a great discussion. Again, Rob, appreciate your time, and take it all, Mike.
Mike Zimmer: All right. I think you've done it; you've taken it home. So as usual, if there are any additional topics that anybody listening to this would want to suggest for us to cover in another show, feel free to reach out to us, and we'll make sure to make that happen.
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