Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What’s More Important? Your Job or Your Impact?

Business and government both spend millions of dollars, and huge amounts of human workforce hours, performing “impact studies”.   Whether it’s environmental impacts with highway construction, community impacts with light rail systems, human health impacts with cell phone use -- we study the human impact of almost everything -- except for how we impact each other on a day to day -- personal level.   Let me share two examples.

I practiced as an Emergency Room physician for over 20 years.  Medicine is a service industry, and customer satisfaction is just as important in medicine as it is in the restaurant business, the plumbing business, or a retail store like Home Depot.  Your satisfied customers are your best, and cheapest, source of advertising.  They generate your reputation.

In the ER, patients can be superficially divided into “horizontal” and “vertical”.    “Vertical” patients walk in, usually have a non life threatening problem, and sit in the waiting room the longest, watching the television that is suspended from the ceiling.  They have been triaged to wait because their needs were deemed to be less serious than other patients.    “Horizontal” patients, on the other hand, are frequently brought in by an ambulance on a stretcher, or walk in the ER and are immediately whisked back into the ER and instructed to lay down horizontally on an Emergency Room cart.  They are the true emergencies.

Probably 9 out of 10 ER patients fall into the category of the not-so-sick  “vertical”.  The remaining 10% of ER patients, that are “horizontal”, are frequently so sick that they rarely remember the entire ER experience—sometimes not regaining full consciousness until well after the ER visit.  The “vertical” patients usually remember everything about their visit – how long they waited, how much time they actually spent with the doctor, how painful were the blood tests, etc.  “Horizontal” patients rarely remember any of those things.

Doing your job well, is only a small part of the overall
you have on your customers.

In the ER my job was to treat the “horizontal” –the sickest of the sick, but my impact was on the true majority of patients – the “vertical” walk-in patients.  The “vertical” patients were much better advertising for our ER than the critically ill, “horizontal” patient.  The “vertical” patient majority remembered if they were treated kindly, and how long they had to wait to see the doctor. They remembered if the doctor was compassionate, and they remembered how quickly their pain was treated—and because they remember, they tell their friends and family about their ER experience.   They were our best advertising!   The ER team could easily see their main impact as taking care of the critical “horizontal” patients—but the ER team had to consciously realize that the “vertical” patients were, by far, the greatest number of patients they impacted –-  and it is that impact that the “vertical” patients tell their friends and family about.  The vertical patients generate the reputation of the ER.   

Our job was to care for the “horizontal” sick, but the impact and 
marketing was to the less sick, “vertical” group.

My second example of impact is one from the world of business that I hear at least a couple of times a week.   In this time of economic downturn, jobs are scarce and jobs postings frequently flood the Human Resource departments with applications.  Most applicants that I talk to complain that they NEVER get a response from the companies that they have applied to!   I am sure in this environment that it would be common to get 50 applications for one position.   So, the job of the HR department is to select from that pool of 50 applicants, the one person that is best suited for the position.  However, I doubt if they consider their impact on the remaining 49 applicants.    

The HR department has a great opportunity to present their company in a positive light, by responding to each applicant with a timely and appreciative response.  This might be the applicant’s first interaction with this company.   No response from the HR department might make the applicant think—“If this is how they treat people before they are hired, how will they treat people after they are hired?”   This economy will eventually shift, and in the future there might be a shortage of talented staff.   Has this HR department left a favorable impact on future applicants?   In this example, the HR department has successfully hired one person, but they have negatively impacted 49.   Have they considered that these 49 applicants could be potential future applicants, or even future customers?  The HR department has done their job, but are they aware of their impact?

Do your job well –-  but remember to be aware of your impacts!

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