Motivation Improves When Supervisors Commit to Training

A Key to Success Is Finding Out What Workers Want and Need

By Tiffani Sherman
April 27, 2018

Data shows that support for workers’ career goals is vital for productivity. Leaders focused on retention and satisfaction should take notice. 

The primary goal of the Beach Cities Health District, a publicly funded agency in southern California, is to make available preventive health care services to citizens.

The best way to do that is to have motivated employees. Making a commitment to training and advancement can make that happen, says Megan Vixie, human resources director for the agency.


Megan Vixie

“We really wanted to look at who makes up our workforce,” Vixie says. “Once people are here, we want to help them.”

It makes sense, and now there is data showing supervisor support for training and career advancement makes a big difference to employees. For physician leaders who are focused on employee retention and satisfaction, it’s a concept they should pay attention to.

The 2017 Job Training and Career Development Survey from the  Center for Organizational Excellence at the American Psychological Association found that many employees who do not believe their supervisors support their career goals are not satisfied with the amount of training and development they receive.

Only 15 percent of those who did not believe their supervisor supported them say their employer provides ways to learn new technical skills necessary for future development. Only 20 percent said say employers provided training in skills like communication and teamwork.

“You hear it all the time. We didn’t anticipate how powerful it would be,” says David Ballard, PsyD, assistant executive director for organizational excellence at the APA. “We were interested in whether people felt supported or not.”

Without proper training and support, employees are not motivated to do their best work and often look for job opportunities elsewhere, according to the survey.

“Organizations spend a huge amount of money and time on training, but it might not be using those resources efficiently,” Ballard says. “They might not be meeting employee needs.”

That’s why the Beach Cities agency asks for employee input. And it’s one reason why the district won the APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award for small nonprofits in 2015.


Employees with the Beach Cities Health District in southern California take part in a team building activity during a recent strategic planning session. | Beach Cities Health District

“We try to get buy-in from everyone,” says Vixie, whose health district serves Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach. It’s one of 79 locally funded agencies created by the state to provide preventive health care services.

Each year, district employees set goals and look at the kinds of training and development they want. They share goals with supervisors, who then factor training costs into annual budgets.

“Anything that will help them grow and develop, we prioritize in our budget process,” Vixie says. “You want to have the best employees and have them be successful in their roles,” adding that it’s easier to train someone for a higher position than finding someone new.

Vixie understands what that means: She started at Beach Cities Health District as a volunteer coordinator and is now supervising three departments.

“We want to promote from within. We want to keep them here. We want to keep them happy,” Vixie says.

According to the survey, employees are concerned about how jobs are changing and whether they have the skills to succeed in the future. About 52 percent say they have enough time for career development activities.


Nicholas Petrelli

Finding the time for training is important to the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute at Christiana Care Health System in Delaware, the 2013 nonprofit winner of the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award.

“You have to think about the environment we work in. People come to the cancer center with high anxiety. You need an environment that allows the patient to lessen their anxiety and you need individuals who work in that cancer center who can help relieve that anxiety in patients,” says Nicholas J. Petrelli, MD, the facility’s medical director.

If employees are not happy, they will not be able to best help their patients, Petrelli says.

“You have to be able to develop an esprit de corps with the people you work with every day who come to work 85 to 90 percent happy every day and go home 85 to 90 percent happy every day,” he says.

Staff members at the center enjoy several group activities each year to stay engaged with each other and supervisory staff.

That supervisory staff is responsible for identifying people who don’t seem happy and helping them to get back on their feet, Petrelli says.

“Those individuals who work in centers who do not have support punch in and punch out. Your job just becomes a job. You keep it to pay bills. Those are not the type of people we want in the cancer center,” he says.

Petrelli says he meets often with each employee, and supervisors meet with their staff regularly, adding it’s important to maintain contact to best understand concerns and training needs. It’s something physician leaders can often overlook with all the focus on big-picture tasks.

“Never forget you were once on the other side of that desk,” he says.

That’s a key to success, as is understanding what employees really want and need, Ballard says.

 “You need to involve them and get their input about what their training needs are,” then align the training to the organization’s mission, he says.

It’s also important to allow employees to apply what they have learned into their day-to-day activities.

“If that doesn’t happen, transfer of learning doesn’t take place,” Ballard says. “Employers need to really make sure they get barriers out of the way.”

Topics: Management

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