Learning from Cedar Sinai: Combining Motivation and Real-Time Insights

To keep sales reps productive, they must be motivated and be paid accurately. Here's how Cedar Sinai combined motivation and real-time metrics for their team.

6 min read

At Xactly, we talk a lot about how powerful motivation is for sales teams—especially when it’s combined with real-time insight. But the principles apply to almost any industry. Take the story of Cedar Sinai Medical Center back in 2006, which we heard someone mention last week. (You can read the full NY Times story here.)

The STORY It all started when Michael Langberg, CEO of Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, learned that only 65% of the facility’s doctors washed their hands. As you can imagine, given all the germs that float around a typical hospital, this was not acceptable.

On top of that, it failed to meet the industry’s 90% accreditation requirement. A team of hospital leaders headed up by Paul Silka, Cedar Sinai Chief of Staff, devised a plan of action.

Step #1. Tactical Approach

Their first step was to simply send out a request for improvement through fax, email and posters. When nothing changed, they got more strategic—adding the elements of motivation and rapid feedback to get a better response from the doctors.

Step #2. Dangle the Bait.

Next, Silka created the “Hand Hygiene Safety Posse.” This team navigated the hospital wards in search of doctors who were complying. Those “caught” washing their hands were rewarded with a $10 Starbucks gift card. This encouraged more to do it, improving the overall rate to 80%.

Step #3. Commune

The 15% increase was impressive, but still fell short of accreditation standards. So the hospital hosted a lunch meeting for the doctors, where roughly 20 members openly discussed the latest results and even expressed disappointment over not doing enough to meet compliance. After the meeting, Silka’s team unleashed their secret weapon – real-time feedback.

Step #4. Show and Prove

Each leader member was handed a petri dish and asked to make a handprint. The results revealed how much bacteria each doctor had on their hands after finishing the meal. Talk about appetizing. Still, the impact was effective. From that date on, 100% of the doctors starting washing their hands—and were still washing their hands 6 months later.

Of course, Cedar Sinai’s approach was obviously unique to the situation. But their strategies for success can be applied for similar results to incentive compensation programs and other sales goals. Here’s my summary of why Cedar Sinai’s approach worked: a valuable incentive was offered.

Offering $10 Starbucks purchases may not be the most elaborate of sales incentives, but it did hit a motivation sweet spot for the Cedar Sinai doctors. With SPIFs and compensation plans, offer an incentive that your employees will deem valuable enough to change their ways. Show them what’s in it for them, and if they see the value, they’ll be onboard.

The Importance of Change was Communicated Personally

Cedar Sinai made the biggest impact with its hand hygiene program during their lunch. At the meeting, senior staff members discussed the importance of cleanliness to top doctors. Sales leaders can use such personalized communication strategies to make themselves more approachable and their approach more effective. Reps will be more willing to listen and comply, and give feedback as well.

The Proof is in the Petri Pudding 

When it all was said and done, the doctors realized that keeping their hands cleaned at the appropriate times was more than a stiff corporate policy. They came to realize that not abiding by that policy could serve as a potential health hazard in their personal lives as well. Similarly, when you give your reps real-time feedback into how their sales progress impacts their rewards, you’ll get them on board.

Like we said a few weeks ago, communicating the importance of plan changes to reps can be challenging. But when sales leaders show the impact of behavior on the spot, it can be the difference maker that aligns individual goals with corporate objectives.