4 Tips for Hospital Leaders to Improve Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is an important issue for any organization as engagement directly impacts the organization's performance on a variety of indicators. For hospitals, engaged employees lead to less turnover, improved patient experience and reduces the likelihood of adverse events, says Brad Federman, president of Performancepoint LLC.

Although cultivating engaged employees can be difficult, Mr. Federman believes hospitals have an advantage in having a built-in mission and vision around helping patients — a mission that can be tapped to give employees purpose and connect them to the organization. Here, Mr. Federman shares four ways hospitals can drive employee engagement and enhance the organization's overall performance.

1. Be transparent. One of the simplest ways for hospitals to improve engagement is to be as transparent as possible, says Mr. Federman. "When decisions are made behind doors in secrecy, we lose engagement," he says. "The more you can share, the better."
Hospital leaders have a variety of data at their fingertips that can easily be shared, including quality and patient experience ratings, employee and physician satisfaction data and financial indicators. Hospital leaders should also make hospital goals and strategic plans available to all employees, if not the public. Mr. Federman suggests data should generally be shared in its original form rather than only offering a short summary. This data can be posted on an intranet or internal social networking sites or in hospital publications.
Mr. Federman contends transparency is becoming a cultural expectation. "People are living by old rules. It's no longer 1980 or 1990. With the internet and social networking, information is easy to get and verify."

If executives don't share information, Mr. Federman says employees will believe they are hiding something. "Often, they're afraid what will happen if they share negative information. However, it's better to be honest with employees and engage them in finding ways to improve the business," he says.

2. Start a conversation. CEOs should ask employees directly what a hospital can do to improve engagement. Although many hospitals already host town hall meetings, they often turn into an executive sharing session where once in a while a few brave employees will ask a question, says Mr. Federman. Instead, activities should be designed to encourage employee participation. For example, hospital leadership could use the events to present results of various performance indicators and announce plans to improve weak areas. The events could then be used to vet these ideas with the employees, encouraging them to provide feedback and other suggestions.

3. Balance business and patient care. While hospitals that don't focus on the bottom line cannot be successful, too much of a focus on financials will disengage employees, says Mr. Federman. "Hospitals are always struggling with efficiency and costs…too many times in hospitals it becomes more about what we can't do," he says. "Leaders need to balance values with financial concerns." Nearly all medical professionals pursued their line of work because of a desire to care for others, he says. Hospitals that fail to continually promote that ideal miss a great opportunity to help employees achieve their goals and feel rewarded.

4. Give employees choice. Finally, hospital leaders and managers should work to provide employees with choices. Choices might include allowing employees to shape how they do the work they do, soliciting suggestions for improvement and encouraging them to shape their career paths.

"While giving employees choices can be challenging for hospitals because of regulations in the hospital environment, leaders fail by using that as a vehicle to say 'we can't do that,'" says Mr. Federman. "Instead, leaders should ask 'how can we do this and still abide by the regulations?'"

Brad Federman, is president and founder of Performancepoint LLC, a leading performance improvement company best known for its work turning strategy into execution, improving sales and service achievements and driving stronger employee and customer commitment and engagement.  A featured speaker at various international conferences and business meetings, Mr. Federman has been interviewed for articles in numerous publications including Fortune Small Business, Los Angeles Times and HR Magazine. He is the author of the book Employee Engagement: A Roadmap for Creating Profits, Optimizing Performance, and Increasing Loyalty published in August 2009.  He is also the author of several articles and contributing author to a 101 Ways to Enhance Your Career due out in February 2011.

Learn more about Performancepoint LLC or Mr. Federman's book, "Employee Engagement: A Roadmap for Creating Profits, Optimizing Performance and Increasing Loyalty."

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