Patients Come Second, Employees Come First

At the Becker's Hospital Review Annual Meeting in Chicago on May 18, Paul Spiegelman, CEO of The Beryl Companies, and Britt Berrett, CEO of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, discussed the topic of their upcoming book — how prioritizing high employee engagement and satisfaction will naturally lead to high patient engagement and satisfaction.

"There is so much talk in the healthcare industry about patient-centric care and the patient experience, but we believe you can't change that without focusing internally on the employees and building a culture of engagement," Mr. Spiegelman said.

According to Mr. Spiegelman and Mr. Berrett, there are nine ways to obtain and maintain a culture of employee engagement and satisfaction:

1. Establish a defined mission, vision and values. Every healthcare organization must have a mission statement that is well ingrained into the organization's culture and decision making. "If your team doesn't have a purpose and a meaning, organizationally and personally, the white waters of change will destroy them," Mr. Berrett said.

2. Inject fun into the employee culture. Mr. Berrett and Mr. Spiegelman both believe in making the working culture at The Beryl Companies and Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital a fun one. Mr. Berrett, for instance, occasionally participates in silly videos for employees' viewing. In addition, Texas Health holds mandatory but fun and energetic employee forums. For both companies, employee engagement increased dramatically. Patient satisfaction at Texas Health consequently improved.

3. Prioritize employees' well-being and the totality of their lives. Healthcare organizations must work to show and institutionalize that the leadership cares about each individual employee. In order to make employee recognition meaningful, leadership must determine what is special and unique to the employees.

4. Connect employees to the community. Actively connecting the organization with the community is a terrific way to increase employee engagement. Every year, Texas Health leadership and employees participate in one community event each year, including non-profit runs and fundraisers.

"What message does it send when you take time away from your business to help the community and local businesses?," Mr. Spiegelman asked.

5. Don't tolerate employees who don't fit the culture. Healthcare leadership should work to trim "whiners, losers and jerks" out of their organizations, Mr. Spiegelman said. Negativity can spread like a wildfire, and all it takes is for one negative person to cast a dark cloud over the entire staff.

6. Allow ongoing dialogue between leadership and staff. The seven most important words during an exchange between staff and leadership is "I don't know, what do you think?" Leadership must stop and let ideas come freely from employees.

7. Have a robust system of reward and recognition. Employees want to feel valued and appreciated. However, leadership can take the extra step and strategize meaningful ways to make employees feel special. For instance, some employees may appreciate private praise more than public praise.

8. Invest heavily in the personal growth and development of employees. Healthcare organizations must show employees their enterprises are a place to learn and grow. Book clubs, for instance, have proven to be extremely popular at The Beryl Company and Texas Health.

9. Instill purpose. "Sometimes the best plans won't come to fruition," Mr. Berrett said. As such, healthcare leadership must continuously work to find tactics to improve employee engagement and satisfaction.

Related Articles on Management:

Physician-Hospital Joint Ventures: How to Prevent Failure

Building a Co-Management Agreement: Legal and Valuation Issues

Keys to Successful Implementation of Physician Alignment Initiatives

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