Efficiency and empathy

Efficiency and empathy
An unusual assignment: Employees from Allianz Deutschland AG tested out process optimization methods at a nursing home for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia – and discovered that numbers do not always reign supreme.

One Monday morning in Munich: Instead of heading for their desks at Allianz Deutschland AG, three employees from the insurance company made their way to a nursing home for the elderly. They were participating in a pilot project to test whether it is possible to transfer organizational principles from the world of business to other areas. “We wanted to find out how we could utilize our knowledge of process optimization and change management in the social sector,” explained Michael Fritz, one of the participants in this corporate volunteering initiative.
At the Evangelisches Pflegezentrum nursing home in Eichenau, southwest of the Bavarian capital, their visit was eagerly anticipated. The 30 staff members were primarily hoping that the office people would come up with new ways of saving time on routine tasks, allowing them to spend more quality time with their patients, who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The volunteers intended to use all the same process optimization tools they use at Allianz to develop ideas: audits, performance analyses, empirical observations, departmental visits, workshops and employee questionnaires.
Saving time – to invest elsewhere
“Our objective was to create added value. Employee numbers were to remain unchanged, with the time saved to be used purely to benefit the patients and employees,” emphasized manager Michael Fritz. The Allianz team discovered, for example, that the time required for the handover from the night shift to the morning shift could be reduced from 45 to 20 minutes if the employees restricted themselves to reporting only exceptional and unusual events rather than all the events that happened during the night.
The team also found that assigning one caregiver to deal with patient needs during the handover avoided constant interruptions. In addition, they designed a standard template for patient reports, which until then had been drafted individually by each caregiver and thus varied considerably in terms of layout.

Speed is not always a good thing
The human touch did not go unheeded during the week, however. When Fritz tackled the issue of which form of personal hygiene – bathing, sponge baths or showering – was the most efficient, he quickly learnt to look past the facts and figures. “According to our observations, the quickest method was to give the patients a shower,” he reported. “That took 17 minutes, while a sponge bath took an average of 23 minutes.” However, the caregivers prefer the more gentle method of sponge bathing, as for an 80 or 90-year-old patient a shower can be quite a shock to the system.
“We learnt that the most effective method is not always the best method. The ability to empathize is also important, and all too often we forget that in the world of business,” said Fritz, continuing that, “The atmosphere in the nursing home was fantastic – despite their stressful job the staff always had a smile for everyone. It was catching!”
Allianz’s social commitment
Allianz takes corporate responsibility seriously, supporting social projects both at home and abroad. In addition to making donations and sponsoring ventures, the company utilizes its knowledge to solve social problems, with Allianz employees and representatives becoming directly involved in a whole variety of different causes as part of corporate volunteering initiatives.

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