High Stakes

Generating Value from Employee Engagement

A recent Harvard Business Review article reminds leaders of hospitals and healthcare organizations that if they want better outcomes – both financial and clinical – they have to invest in employee engagement.

This idea isn’t new. But what leaders often forget is that engagement is not as easy as you think – and it’s not all about you.

The article details a global workforce study by Towers Watson, which helps organizations with HR and risk management. The research shows that in an engaging work atmosphere, hospitals see improved patient satisfaction as well as quality outcomes – a must for hospitals to stay viable under value-based purchasing. Yet according to the study, only 44 percent of U.S. hospital employees said they felt highly engaged at work.

When thinking about engagement, remember what engagement is not: one-way, “I speak, you listen” communications. Engagement is dialogue where employees are allowed to have opinions, ask questions and express concerns.

This kind of open conversation more strongly links employees to the organization. It boosts company loyalty and improves employee satisfaction, which in turn affects the patient experience.

But traditionally it has not been done. Engagement is time-consuming. (It’s far easier to send an email than to hold a brown-bag lunch.) And historically, there has been a concern that dialogue equals loss of power.

In practice, though, engagement empowers an organization. When employees feel like they have a role in shaping the company’s performance and objectives, they are more connected to their jobs – and ultimately more productive.

But it’s not as simple as hosting an event to generate dialogue. Before tactics, you must build a culture of engagement – one where employees hold an expectation of openness with leadership.

Employees won’t engage in dialogue until they know that it’s culturally safe. People are naturally cautious when it comes to their jobs, and until they know they can open up without reprisal, efforts at engagement are just spinning your wheels.

And it’s not all about you. To build an engaged culture, the whole company must channel engagement: from the C-suite to directors, managers and throughout the entire organization.

What this article shows is that the people on the front lines have the best, most current, most relevant information about what’s happening in the organization. Waiting on a survey or HCAHPS data to see how you’re stacking up means you’re operating on old data. The best information is in real time from the people at the front – the ones you most desperately need to engage. Doing so allows you to strengthen the patient experience and improve clinical outcomes.


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