Not long ago, I was visiting a hospital for a new client meeting. Not being familiar with the facility, I walked up to a registration area to ask for directions. The person at the desk did not have a customer in front of her so I interpreted that as being available for a question, so I approached her desk. Without even looking up, she reached out and pointed to the sign on the desk which read; please wait to be called. And she continued typing. I spoke up then and asked for directions to administration. She again pointed at the overhead sign and told me to follow them.
That encounter was the first of a series, over the next few weeks, that spoke volumes about their culture and how they view the value of human interaction. It opened my eyes to what they view as communication. Their culture used posted signs to take the place of interaction. In the clinics, there were handmade posters and white boards with estimated wait times for various doctors. These were designed so staff would have to answer lots of pesky questions about wait times. Over and over again during our assessment we discovered one example after another of signs being posted so the staff wouldn’t have to be bothered.
Signs are great for providing basic information and directions, but do little to promote a strong, positive relationship with someone. It takes so little to make a human connection. Look around your organization. Are signs being used to replace interactions between staff and patients or visitors? If so, it might be time to re-evaluate.