Inspiration and great ideas for hospice management often come from surprising sources. For instance, what could we in hospice possibly learn from a top-flight New York restaurateur like Danny Meyer? As it turns out, plenty – especially if we’re looking for insight on how to find and keep great staff.
I shouldn’t have been surprised by how much similarity there is in our respective fields; after all, “hospice” and “hospitality” both spring from the same Latin root – and we’re both in the business of providing comfort and welcome to strangers. And, as is true in the kinds of high-end dining places Meyers has created – restaurants like Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke, The Modern, and even The Shake Shack, – our patients’ experiences hinge on the quality of their interactions with our front-line staff. Truly, staff members are the face and heart of our organizations – and as Meyer puts it, “The trick to delivering superior hospitality (is) to hire genuine, happy, optimistic people.”
In his New York Times bestseller, Setting the Table (HarperCollins, 2006), Meyer examines the power of hospitality in restaurants, business and life, and comes to a simple, yet profound conclusion: “The interests of our own employees must be placed directly ahead of those of our guests, because the only way we can consistently earn raves, win repeat business, and develop bonds of loyalty with our guests is first to ensure that our team members feel jazzed about coming to work.”
To keep them jazzed, Meyer puts his money where his mouth is, offering wages that are as competitive as possible, along with health and dental insurance. Why? Because he wants to attract and to keep the best in the business; people with intuition, imagination, and the ability to be creative under pressure or as he calls them “51%’ers”. As he says, “One of the core business lessons I have taken from the continued success of Union Square Cafe is that willingness to overcome difficult circumstances is a crucial character trait in my employees, partners, and restaurants.” How much more true that is in hospice, where an employee’s quick thinking and compassion can make all the difference between a disappointing or an extraordinary patient and family experience?
The trust and emotional bond your staff forges with patients and families are at the heart of what we do. The ability to be “thoughtful, caring, gracious and appropriate” in these delicate interactions is what your patient families will carry away with them long after their loved one dies – and what they’ll tell the world about how they were treated by your staff and organization. Make sure your staff is dedicated to giving patients and their loved ones what literally is a once in a lifetime experience.
Patti and Danny Meyer in NYC 2008