Success Story: Tuning into Employees so They Don’t Tune Out

THE CHALLENGE

A healthcare system in the Northeast was undergoing a transformation. It had embarked upon a series of changes to improve quality of care throughout the region and to meet new demands in the market.

But their employees were apprehensive. Despite commitment to the organization, employee satisfaction scores were low, trust in leadership was low and engagement was not good. Only half felt informed about important issues or changes.

Seeking a better culture, the healthcare company’s leaders had even set a goal to meet the standards of being certified a “Great Place to Work.”

Why were they not connecting? It wasn’t for lack of trying — they were sending information out to employees. But they didn’t know what was working, what wasn’t and, most important, why.

THE SOLUTION

We were engaged to develop a comprehensive, strategic and sustainable two-way internal communications program that would create a positive culture and advance the healthcare company’s goals.

We started with an internal audit. That meant evaluating the tools being used to communicate, conducting interviews with caregivers and doing a broad survey. We also benchmarked the company’s internal communication practices against other progressive systems.

The combination of quantitative and qualitative information from the company’s employees, combined with an understanding of the unique working environment of healthcare providers, shed some light on what was going wrong.

Some of the findings were surprising. Despite everyone’s supposed preference for technology, it turned out they missed the printed newsletter that had been shelved in favor of electronic distribution. Some results showed the more critical gaps in how the healthcare company had been delivering news. Employees wanted face-to-face communication from their managers, especially when the news was sensitive. And two-way communication was essential. Fixing communication by shouting louder and sending more one-way messages worked against employee engagement and satisfaction.

Caregivers in the hospitals also wanted to see and hear from senior leadership. And they craved good news, too.

THE RESULTS

The commitment to dig deep allowed the healthcare system to strike out on a new strategy and program that incorporated better communication practices and more effective use of tools.

After elements of the strategy were implemented, the open rates for employee email news from the company jumped to 72 percent. More than 300 “Super Communicators” were coordinated to help spread information across the system, to answer questions and to bring back issues. A new monthly magazine was designed. And hospital-specific newsletter templates were developed and used by each hospital president.

Leaders and managers who were point people in communicating news were empowered with more information that they could share with employees. That led to more robust and satisfying sessions with the staff.

By transforming their approach to engaging with employees as they transformed their delivery of care, they improved the culture for both internal and external audiences.