The Ladder of Employee Engagement: 5 Can't-Miss Steps for Hospital Leaders
1. Employee engagement should be factored in leadership evaluation forms. Many evaluation forms for hospital leaders do not include a category for employee engagement. Mr. Studer said turnover rates are not that reflective of leadership right now, since a shaky economy has left many people postponing job changes. A more telling sign of an organization's health is employee engagement. Also, hospitals should make sure this evaluation category carries enough weight to force leaders to improve if they receive critical feedback.
2. Train managers and supervisors to answer tough questions. If people aren't prepared for employee engagement, they won't do it, and a large part of that stems from the fear of being asked tough questions, according to Mr. Studer. An example of a tough question is: How are we cutting employee hours but acquiring more physician practices? "I've found most leaders aren't prepared to answer those questions," said Mr. Studer. "You have to be able to explain, or you end up in the 'we-they.'" The "we-they" refers to an organizational divide created between employees and hospital leadership when rationale for C-suite decisions is not disclosed.
3. Along with what and how, include why. In a rapidly-paced healthcare industry, hospital supervisors, managers and leaders can foster employee engagement simply by developing stronger understanding of why certain responsibilities are necessary, why a certain protocol matters or why a specific strategy was enacted. "We tell someone what to do and how to do it, but we don't tell them why," said Mr. Studer. "We're looking for compliance and consistency. As organizations need to cut costs, you've got to do it in a way where people understand why."
4. Conduct 30- and 90-day meetings. "We believe mentoring is just as important as formal training," said Mr. Studer. These meetings should be held after an employee's first 30 and 90 days with the organization.
Questions the supervisor should ask include:
• How do we compare with what we said?
• What's working well here?
• Have there been any individuals who have been helpful to you?
• Based on your prior work, what ideas for improvement do you have?
• What could we do differently?
• Is there any reason you feel this is not the right place for you?
Then, for the 90-day meeting, ask the same questions as above but also include these two:
• Do you know of anyone who would be a good fit for our organization? [If the hospital is recruiting.]
• As your supervisor, how can I help you?
5. Treat employee performance as a matter of values. There should not be any discrepancy between how a hospital ranks itself on two criteria: how value-driven it is and how it deals with performance issues. "Dealing with low-performers has to be a value-driven challenge. Healthcare people will make a tough decision if they know it's about values and being loyal to the people [in their organization] not causing problems," said Mr. Studer. Letting high-performing employees work with people who are not acting in the best interest of the organization is wrongful, and low-performers will not help a hospital's quality outcomes, patient experience or patient safety.
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