How health systems are using employee feedback to bounce back from pandemic

Feedback from employees has been crucial for health systems during the COVID-19 pandemic, and organizations have used it to shape strategy, create initiatives and address workers' concerns, CEOs said. 

Becker's Hospital Review asked health system CEOs how they are soliciting feedback from employees and how that feedback is being used. Below are their answers:  

David Callender, MD. President and CEO of Memorial Hermann Health System (Houston): In March 2020, we began hosting biweekly virtual town hall meetings for all employees, where we present the latest updates about our system's capacity, COVID-19 cases and volume trends, vaccine updates and other timely topics of interest. We dedicate time at each town hall to address employees' questions, which are submitted ahead of time as well as during the event. Given the unprecedented challenges our employees have faced during the pandemic both personally and professionally, we felt it was important to continue hosting our annual employee engagement survey and also launched two additional surveys that collected feedback specifically around the COVID-19 vaccine and employee benefits. Each of these tools will help us ensure we are continuing to meet the needs of our employees in this ever-changing environment. In addition, employees are always invited to share their feedback through our internal communications channels — including our mobile-friendly employee app — as well as with local leadership at their facilities.

Throughout the pandemic, employee feedback has guided our internal communication strategy, allowing us to truly focus on sharing information that is timely, helpful and meaningful to our workforce. Teams across our organization are constantly evaluating the feedback we receive to adjust current solutions and develop new solutions to address our employees' needs, while also thinking about how those needs will change in the future. As an example, early on in the pandemic we received feedback from our employees — and particularly our leaders — who were concerned about stress levels and burnout among our workforce. A project team was developed to create Well Together, an initiative that proactively shares physical, financial and emotional health resources — from urgent help to long-term assistance —  with our employees to help them navigate our current environment. Well Together continues to evolve and expand as the needs of our workforce change with a focus on resilience to help employees successfully navigate the next — and hopefully final — phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Alan Kaplan, MD. CEO of UW Health (Madison, Wis.): The most important way we ensure two-way communication is through regular, often daily, team huddles and manager/leader rounding with employees. This is done in person and virtually, depending on the team. The feedback we receive informs not just local operations, but regularly informs organizational operations and priorities.  

Understanding the need for more constant communication during the pandemic, we launched a series of two-way communications channels to ensure that we have regular, often real-time employee engagement. 

We created a weekly leadership update which is a 30-minute WebEx presentation on current topics with a Q&A. The call is attended by managers and above, but the recording is available to all staff the next day. 

We created "Ask A Leader" in which staff send questions on any topic to be answered by a senior leader in a weekly video series. In the first six months of Ask A Leader, we've answered more than 200 staff questions, ranging from PPE use and vaccine eligibility to facility design and organizational finances. In recent months, leaders in our nursing shared-governance system expanded this series to include "Ask the Nursing Coordinating Council" where nurses can raise questions or concerns.

We started a quarterly town hall series with specific events focusing on each of our Madison-area hospitals. Our hospital leaders present on a broad range of topics and take questions from employees.

Leaders participate in these two-way communication channels to ensure that not only are staff members heard, but they also see leaders addressing their questions and acting on their concerns, which keeps us accountable. These questions and this dialogue get employees at every level involved in communication and policy. They are the catalyst for discussions about safety, innovation and care. While many of these channels were launched during the pandemic, we are committed to continuing them as we move to a new normal post-COVID-19.

Mark Laney, MD. CEO of Mosaic Life Care (St. Joseph, Mo.): Mosaic leadership has been very intentional about visiting caregivers in their units, especially during the toughest times of the pandemic, so they could give us feedback about what we could do as a team to make their jobs easier — whether that was providing counseling, creating cool zone spaces near them to relax for a few moments during their shifts, or updating procedures to help alleviate stress. We wanted to overcommunicate with them on all levels. It created an open, honest and ongoing dialogue that has been beneficial. We also hope to announce a tool to help caregivers navigate back to a new normal very soon that we can't wait to share with others, including caregiver stories of triumph and sacred moments from the pandemic.

Sean Williams. President and CEO of Mercy Iowa City (Iowa): We have made every effort to remain transparent throughout the pandemic to provide timely information to our healthcare colleagues during this very difficult year. Our weekly CEO update is an organizationwide message to all colleagues that provides an outlet for systemwide status communication as well as an opportunity to solicit questions that will be discussed in upcoming town hall meetings. Town halls are typically prerecorded using questions submitted by colleagues and are addressed by a panel, including myself and medical experts from within our system. These videos are made available to watch at colleagues' convenience and serve to encourage open dialogue with individuals or small groups at departmental huddles or during management team meetings. These meetings serve as strong opportunities for dialogue so we can continue to promote the incredibly positive work that is done daily, as well as address any concerns.

Anytime we receive feedback, we take the time to carefully consider what we can do to address all questions. We applaud and celebrate positive achievements to showcase the hard work and dedication of our teams in their goal of providing the highest quality of patient care while serving our mission to care for those in need in our community. We also encourage constructive feedback as an opportunity to innovate, improve and move forward in this challenging healthcare environment. Throughout the pandemic, the phrase "we're all in this together" has been used frequently; in our organization, we believe we are a unit and family that needs to work together to succeed. Receiving and using feedback effectively is imperative to the success of our mission and Mercy Iowa City.


More articles on leadership and management:
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How Avera Health CEO overcomes distractions to connecting with employees
Boston has more hospital chiefs on corporate boards than other cities, investigation finds

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