This week, we caught up with Denise Goodman, On Time's Logistics & Retention Manager. We discussed the connection between scheduling and employee retention, the challenges of keeping track of crews and trucks, and the expectations for EMTs in terms of communication and availability.
Our conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.
What exactly does the Logistics Department do? Dispatch? Scheduling? Focusing on employees?
The Logistics team, or Employee Resource Department does several things. We ensure that new hires are scheduled after field training. We coordinate field training for new employees, as well as for current employees looking to grow into different roles, and process scheduling changes. That is just the employee resource side of it.
On the Logistics side, we work closely with Operations and Communications to make sure that each crew has a vehicle and there are trucks in place and that they’re the appropriate types. Often a particular vehicle and specific equipment are required for a particular job, and we are responsible for making sure that it is all taken care of prior to each crew’s arrival.
You also work on employee retention. How do you approach that?My official position is Logistics and Retention Manager. I’ve heard more than once that the two don’t really go together, but they are actually quite complementary. Industry research shows that an employee’s schedule is the number one factor that makes them leave a job. Being held over too long or not being able to work shifts that fit with their personal schedule are the two biggest complaints.
We pride ourselves in being able to offer flexible scheduling options. We don’t have a fixed schedule where every employee is working the same schedule all the time. You see that a lot in EMS; people have very rigid schedules for the next three months where they work 4 days on, 4 days off or everyone works 12-hour shifts.
Here at On Time, we continue to build a rapport with the field staff and keep a finger on the pulse of what our staff is looking for. Whether it’s earlier weekend shifts, 10- or 8-hour shift options, or being able to choose a partner for a specific shift, scheduling is a huge part of retention. The fact that On Time leadership had the insight to pair these two roles together makes perfect sense and is really working out well.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your work?Scheduling dynamically. It would be easy for us to fall in line with other EMS companies and take the position of “Everyone has the same schedule, whether it’s a holiday, spring break, your birthday, etc."
We could really put this thing on autopilot and not have to worry about our employee schedules. But we pride ourselves on the hard work that goes into supporting our employees through the scheduling and logistics piece. Life happens. Things come up. In these instances, we do not want to add to the growing list of concerns for our employees. I’m constantly telling our staff “If it doesn’t work for you, it won’t work for us.”
Of course, it is difficult to schedule dynamically, but it is also rewarding when you get a phone call thanking us for helping them be able make it to their daughter’s play, their son’s baseball game or a friend’s baby shower.
As the global workforce is changing, there is more of a focus on mental wellness and work-life balance. We want to be able to exist in that world where the pressures of work aren’t so demanding that you cannot have a very high quality of life. We all want to be there for our families while still being able to provide for them.
So, as I always say, we are going to try to make it work, within reason. We start each day with the goal of making things happen for our team. Not only because they work hard for us, but because they deserve it. Our employees work very hard for us and are a key component of our success as an organization. In order to continue being successful, we must continue to provide them with flexible scheduling options, and within reason, we have been able to.
The work we do is challenging but rewarding. Our department lives and dies by our ability to creatively schedule while keeping in line with the needs of the operation. I think we have been doing a great job and will continue to get better for our employees.
Is it hard to balance employee schedules with operational needs?It is certainly difficult on paper but knowing that our employees are more than just names on a schedule makes it easier.
We’re also having ongoing conversations and improved communication within the department, which has helped tremendously. So now when an issue arises where we need help, we can ask within the team, “Does anyone know of anyone who expressed interest in this shift?”
I have a sign at my desk that says "Denise is my manager. Now what?" that outlines my expectations for my team. It is also a good segue for them to let me know what their expectations are for me as a leader. The Logistics team takes a direct and open approach to communication. It’s not like we all communicate effectively for one day, and then we’re done. It’s an ongoing process that we continue to work on.
An uncommon expectation I have of my team is that I expect us to make mistakes. My team should expect that I will make mistakes as well. Because we are, in fact, human. Once you put that out there, people are less inclined to point fingers, pass the buck or hide any mistakes they make because they know that you’re not expecting perfection, but a best effort.
Another of my expectations that I remind my team of is that the best idea in the room wins. It doesn’t matter who had it. We make sure everyone is heard, we value all input and we close every loop.
We understand that there have been changes over there recently in terms of logistics and retention. What are those? What do they aim to achieve? And what’s still coming up on the horizon?
I get excited about small changes because they’re easy to implement and we often underestimate how big of a difference they can make. We’ve made small changes in our processes and have been able to average more than 6 additional crews out on the road each day as a direct result.
That may not sound like much, but in terms of how much more patient care we are providing, how many more trips we are able to complete and the additional revenue from those crews; that makes a big difference and helps us support ongoing company initiatives.
We’ve implemented a bring-your-own-partner-to-work incentive. Now people are calling up saying “I’ve got a friend to work with me, and I talked to another person to cover another shift.” Word is spreading and people are getting excited about working with a partner they like as well as getting a bonus.
Seasonal shifts will be rolling out in the next few weeks. We’re also in the planning stage for a wellness event, an attendance lottery and other employee engagement events scheduled throughout the year as well.
On the back-office end, we’ve updated our communication protocols, and we’ve made an employee resource email address. We announced the resource line, saying “Hey this is your direct line to the scheduling and logistics team, etc.” and the day that we posted it, we got an overwhelming response! We make sure that we respond to every single message. There were questions about schedules, processes and procedures and even questions about specific truck availability.
Everyone on the Logistics team will tell you that they are tired of hearing the word accountability. But it’s really the most important thing in this department. We are all accountable for our actions. We are all accountable for our work. But part of that is, someone is also accountable for supporting you. You will always receive support. I will never ask anyone on my team to do anything they don’t have the tools and the training to accomplish. Going into a task knowing you have been provided all the necessary tools, training and support, you can see that we’re setting you up for success.
You’re relatively new at On Time. What’s your feeling about the company culture?
I started at On Time in December, and when I came on board they said, “Oh we’re just like family.”
I’m always a little leery when a company says they’re like family. Because in families typically we’re mean to each other, but we have to love each other anyway because we’re family.
But when I said that, Joe Borer said, “Now Denise, give us a chance. You’re going to see that that’s not true of our team."
And you can add that to the growing list of things that Joe has been right about.
The environment here is one of inclusivity. The support is there. I wouldn’t be able to support my team if leadership wasn’t supporting me. Everyone has an opportunity to speak and be heard. And that’s really important but you don’t find that in a lot of places. Organizations often say, “We want to shift the culture and we want to make the changes, we want to put you first,” and it’s a lot of lip service. That is not the case here. I was blown away by the fact that everything On Time leadership has said to me about wanting to make positive changes has been true.
I thought to myself, "Wow, I could get used to this."
I’ve seen John Bush walk into a room of EMTs, or trainees, and he’s just having a conversation with everyone. Maybe they knew who he was, maybe they didn’t. And he just asks, “How are you liking everything?”
He comes back and reports to us that some people were having some issues with certain things, and he asks if we can look into that. Where else can you get that? Where else can you get those kinds of interactions and where everything you’re saying is being taken into consideration?
In my short time here I’ve seen more internal promotions in the past three months than I’ve seen in a five-year span with a previous employer. That all really struck a chord with me. And I said, “I think I’ve found my people.”
On Time is living their mission statement, and to see that in action is humbling. There are growth opportunities, opportunities to share feedback, and everyone is holding each other accountable. I love to see it.
What’s your advice for a young person just getting started in EMS?
Ask ALL the questions. Ask every question that comes to mind. Our trainees train with different people, and there's a method to that. Everyone has their strong suit as well as personal experience. Some employees are stronger at charting, others are stronger with patient interaction, etc.
There is not a single person that you cannot learn something from. Ask What did you think? How did you feel about this? What was difficult for you? Everyone has a story. Everyone’s experiences are different from the next. You will gain so much knowledge and understanding from asking questions.
Some people say, “I don’t want to ask questions, I don’t want to sound silly.” But people who are knowledgeable love answering questions.
Asking questions helps you learn, makes you stand out, and enables you to make your mark. Everyone has experiences and information that can help you. I’m always asking questions because that's one of the most underrated resources in your career that you can use.