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Medical Records Leader Checks Its Pulse with Connect

MRO Corp. uses continuous employee feedback to minimize turnover and fuel growth

Fast-growing companies often struggle to hold on to the culture of connection that helped them take off. And when their workforces become dispersed through expansion, the challenges multiply. MRO Corp., a Pennsylvania-based company that manages movement of medical records, uses continuous feedback to keep that connection, improve employee engagement, and minimize turnover to help fuel continued growth.

“We’ve improved our connectivity with employees, especially remote employees,” says CEO Steve Hynes. “With Energage Connect, we have the ability to ask for their feedback, giving them a forum to not only answer a question, but also provide comments.”

Founded in 2002 as Medical Records Online, MRO Corp. has evolved and grown into the burgeoning business of helping manage and protect the torrential flow of electronic medical records passing constantly between physicians, hospitals, and insurers.

MRO provides disclosure management solutions to hospitals. The company helps hospitals release copies of medical records to authorized third parties from the local community and from various government agencies that need them.

Staffing at the company has been growing at a breakneck pace of 25 percent a year and has some 650 employees. More than 150 of them work at a National Service Center in Valley Forge, Pa. But nearly 500 MRO employees work remotely, at hospital systems in more than 40 states.

“Having a dispersed workforce definitely creates communication challenges,” Hynes said. “It’s tough for employees to feel engaged in that environment. They can feel as if they maybe work for the hospital as opposed to MRO. They can lose track of who really signs their paychecks.”

Shawn Powlick, MRO’s vice president for Human Resources and Organizational Development, added: “At headquarters, I can go downstairs, get a cup of coffee, say hi to somebody and walk around. But I can’t do that with the field. We have a group of field managers and they get out to some of the client locations where our employees are. But they’re not even there every day. Our biggest challenge is being able to truly communicate with those field employees on a regular basis, to make them feel welcome, to make them feel valued, to make them feel like their opinions are heard.”

“With Energage Connect, we have the ability to ask for their feedback, giving them a forum to not only answer a question, but also provide comments.”

Steve Hynes, CEO

Connection through conversation

An annual employee survey captures insights on what specific issues are arising as a result of the rapid growth. But companies like MRO need something year-round to keep up with the pace of business and maintain the connection among workers, managers, and the senior team. The ultimate goal is to know what their employees are thinking before they become disengaged, leave, or behave in a way that will hurt their customer experience.

Implementing Connect was the natural next step. The continuous feedback tool creates a moving picture through contact at a regular cadence. The result is an ongoing conversation between employees and managers that benefits everyone, from rank-and-file workers to senior management.

“Employee turnover is really important to us,” Hynes said. “Keeping it low requires a level of engagement that depends on conversation and connection, especially given the remote nature of much of our workforce,” he explained. “We’re hiring a lot of employees to begin with. If we have to hire to replace existing employees who don’t work out, that adds significant cost and stress on the management team. Keeping employee turnover down really helps us scale.”

For Hynes, this means placing a high priority on listening to what employees have to say and making sure they feel heard.

“Using Energage Connect, we use technology to engage directly with employees, affirming that they have a voice in the organization,” Hynes said. “I read every comment, so they know that if they have a concern, the right people are going to hear about it and that action can be taken.”

“There’s a flipside to that coin. One of the things I like most about the tool is that if someone takes the time to put a comment into Connect, I can learn how it was addressed. How the management team reacts to them gives me insight into how our managers engage with the employees. I think that’s really important. We can actually use Connect to better understand management performance.”

Testing the eyeball test

For HR managers, continuous employee feedback can help confirm problems that are sometimes only partially revealed through traditional channels, Powlick said.

“We were having some issues with one of our operational units,” he said. “The eyeball test – our gut – was telling us something was amiss and that there was some dissatisfaction. Employee comments were coming up through the HR channels: people stopping in to talk to our HR manager about things they didn’t like, or things that they thought were not going in the right direction.”

Powlick said MRO was able to use Connect to fashion a custom question that gathered the feedback needed to focus the issue and address it.

“When you have real data from employees coming up through our Connect channel and it matches with the HR conversations held with employees – and even some supervisors and managers – you very quickly find the resolve to say, ‘All right, let’s go attack this.’ I felt like we were able to head a problem off at the pass by having this tool in place.”

“For HR managers, continuous employee feedback can help confirm problems that are sometimes only partially revealed through traditional channels.”

Shawn Powlick, VP of Human Resources & Organizational Development

A window into managers’ effectiveness

MRO had one particular problem that made the need for Connect clear.

“When I first heard about Connect, we were going through a situation at a remote site where the employees were having issues with their local manager,” Hynes said, “But, instead of elevating those issues within MRO’s hierarchy, they went to the client.”

“Those complaints went up the client hierarchy, came over to me, and back down. Had we had Connect back then, we might have been able to identify that there was a management issue at that location and take action before it elevated to the customer. It’s important for our managers to engage appropriately with their staffs. Connect gives me a window into that in terms of how they react to the comments offered by their employees. That’s become one of the things we can use to look at management performance.”

How does MRO gather enough information from comments to take meaningful action on a problem while maintaining the anonymity of the commenters?

“People can choose to either remain anonymous or reveal their identity,” Hynes said. “But whether they’re putting their name on it, their department name, or remaining fully anonymous, the information they’re giving us usually is detailed enough that we can understand what part of the business they work in, what contributions they’re making, and what difficulties or successes they’re having. That’s being shared within the tool.”

With prospective clients and employees

Connect is also a tool in discussions with prospects, Hynes said.

“MRO is in the service business,” he explained. “Our ability to hire, train, and manage people, and then deploy them to our client locations, is critical to our success. When we’re talking to a prospective new customer, one of the things we can point to as a differentiator is how we go about doing that, engaging our employees and reducing our employee turnover rate. Connect is one of the tools that we use to highlight our competitive advantage. It’s definitely something we talk about with prospective customers.”

With prospective employees, he said, Connect demonstrates commitment.

“Our recruitment director mentions Connect in the interview process,” Hynes said. “We’re proud that we have this tool and that we have the ability to use it, so we definitely try to fold it into the interview.”

Handwriting on the wall can be good

Powlick made sure to mention that a continuous employee feedback tool can foster communication among employees. Connect has built-in capability for this, called the Culture Wall, and it helps MRO celebrate the best its culture has to offer.

“Through the Culture Wall, people can say thank you to other employees,” he said. “They can highlight success stories from their managers, about their managers, or from their front line employees. One of the things we love is the ability to put all that right up on the Culture Wall screen and share it throughout the company. People walk by and see other employees thanking co-workers, managers, trainers, and other leaders. People talk about it.”

Commonalities and themes

Powlick stands by the belief that the power of Connect is its breadth and depth.

“Communication, management effectiveness, training, leadership, development: All of those things are addressed,” he said. “With Energage Connect, we get real-time feedback on where we’re hitting the mark and maybe where we’re not. This gives us an opportunity to highlight what may be going on and look for commonalities and themes.

“It’s been effective. It really has.”