Courtesy A.J. Heightman
Courtesy A.J. Heightman Courtesy A.J. Heightman
FEATURED IN PUBLIC SAFETY COMMUNICATIONS
Key performance indicators (KPIs), or key success indicators (KSI), can assist an organization in defining and measuring its progress toward productivity and quality goals. KPIs are quantifiable measurements -- determined beforehand -- that reflect an organization's critical success factors. The points measured will differ from organization to organization because they must reflect its goals, be in tune with its mission and be quantifiable for the organization.
KPIs are usually established for long-term monitoring, for the type of information being tracked and how that is measured is generally constant from year to year. However, the purpose of a particular indicator may change as an agency's goals change or as it gets closer to achieving a particular goal. Therefore, it's important to note that KPIs can be used for either on-going processes or project-based work.
Comm Center Specifics
Communications centers using the KPI method have focused on distinct operational goals, such as meeting response time parameters, as well as other quality improvement (QI) measures linked to the delivery of services. Notwithstanding the importance of these areas, a key component of every comm center is in danger of being overlooked: KPIs that are specific to administration or management must also be examined. Just as establishing and measuring operational goals are vital to an organization's success, so too can elements directly linked to the responsibilities of the comm center manager be as important for that entity's long-term survival.
To establish KPIs for comm center management is to examine the larger organizational issues, such as customer satisfaction, financial and marketplace performance, human resources, and supplier and partner performance. Does your agency track the type and frequency of employee injuries and critical equipment breakdowns, or trend the level of consumer and employee satisfaction? How well does your management team formulate and adhere to budgets? An efficient manager must have their finger on the pulse of those key data points that will show whether the organization is meeting important business management goals.
Start at the Beginning
To begin, go back to the center's goals. If a goal of your agency is improve employee satisfaction, then your management team must clearly identify key processes that define or support comm center management operations in relation to this goal. What are your practices in relation to hiring? How do you schedule your staff? Do you offer human resources development opportunities? KPIs to be followed for this goal could be employee turnover, work schedule stability and continuing education.
Although KPIs must be quantifiable to be monitored, not everything that can be measured should be used as an indicator. Keeping the overall number of indicators small ensures everyone is focusing on the same data. Also, the data elements should meet the needs of individuals using the information. Data and information must be reliable, rapidly accessible, standardized and timely. Automation of data collection wherever possible will assist in addressing these needs very effectively.
Go back to the goal of employee satisfaction again. For the KPI of employee turnover, a manager could take the total number of employees who resign for whatever reason, plus the number of employees terminated for performance reasons, divided by the number of employees at the beginning of the year. A computerized human resources database that tracked all employee records and recorded separations from service could be used to track these trends throughout the year for the administration.
After you’ve defined what KPI will be tracked and have established a baseline record, targets must be identified. What results will indicate you are moving toward the goals of your organization? Do you want to see a decrease of 3% in employee turnover in the next six months? 5% in 10 months? Set benchmarks that are easily recognized and share the results with your management team. (See "Striving for Excellence: Benchmarks Lead to Improved Service," June 2010 PSC. ) Make updates on KPI progress a regular part of your staff meetings to keep everyone focused on success.
In addition to the personnel examples above, other comm center management areas of responsibility for consideration include:
- Costs: As the administrator/manager, you need to have an excellent handle on where the money is coming from, whether it's enough to sustain the comm center and where it's going. One component of fiscal accountability is the establishment of cost centers for all elements of a comm center's operations, including insurance, payroll and benefits, equipment, supplies, training and education. One idea for an administrative KPI could be budget accountability: What is the comparison of your fixed vs. your variable budget? Continually evaluating the validity of your operating budget will allow you to know whether or not it needs to be retooled before you are in the red.
- Compliance: Every comm center needs a compliance plan. This plan must, at minimum, include:
- HIPAA elements, including the designation of a privacy officer (if your center is a covered entity);
- Billing and reimbursement, which includes compliance with all applicable Medicare and Medicaid regulations;
- Fraud and abuse;
- Personnel issues (e.g., hiring and employment practices); and
- Office of the Inspector General opinions and more.
Professional assistance in this regard, including an opinion from an attorney knowledgeable about emergency operations and comm centers on your agency’s compliance plan, must be considered.
QI & KPI
Analyzing your goals with an eye toward identifying management KPIs for your center may seem daunting. As stated previously, tracking operational and clinical key performance measures is second nature to most comm centers services, and these are often tied to well-established QI processes. However, the tie between management KPIs and QI can be made just as easily. For instance, the health-care criteria published for the Baldridge National Quality Program can offer a great deal of guidance in establishing KPIs. Structured to foster self-assessment by health organizations, one of the essential purposes of these criteria dovetails nicely into the KPI process for comm center management: to serve as a working tool for understanding and managing performance, and for guiding the organizational governance body for their actions and performance. Although using the complete outline will help you to assess your agency’s overall organizational performance management, the sections on Measurement, Analysis and Knowledge Management and Organizational Performance Results should assist in narrowing down the issues discussed above in clarifying the KPI for comm center managers.
Successful large comm centers have tracked key performance indicators for years to ensure that they're consistently meeting or exceeding customer service expectations for both 9-1-1 and non-emergency divisions. Unfortunately, in general, comm centers lack a standardized set of KPIs for managers and leaders. As a result, we lack a baseline for measuring performance criteria that are integral to assessing success or preventing failure in our field. By fostering the routine researching and reporting on key administrative measurements in the comm center, we’re one step closer to transforming comm center supervisors and managers into communications leaders.
Raphael M. Barishansky is the chief of public health emergency preparedness for the Prince George's County (Md.) Health Department and a frequent contributor to various publications. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Baldrige National Quality Program, National Institute of Standards and Technology: www.quality.nist.gov/index.html.