What’s your “pickle?”

Why nurse leaders should focus on employee happiness

Does the thought that any one particular person or group can have “employee happiness” as a job feel a bit foreign? It did to me, too, the first time I was introduced to the concept!

But the reality is that some companies have an employee (or even a department) whose soul focus is employee happiness. Have you ever ordered something from Zappos? If you had an issue, you likely called or emailed the customer service line and it was resolved without hesitation or escalation. As nurse leaders, what have we done to ensure our employees are in a good place so that they can create exceptional experiences for patients and their families? How are we creating a culture that embodies happiness?

Research shows that clinician satisfaction is directly linked with patient satisfaction – and patient satisfaction is a common goal that we all share. In today’s healthcare landscape, vacancy is a real problem, turnover is painful and the way things have “always been done” just won’t cut it.

There are companies who have mastered the art of employee retention. What exactly are they doing? I’ve come to find that it’s something unique and — frankly — easy. It doesn’t require a huge strategic shift or goal in your organization to become effective. You can immediately start impacting employee happiness.

Mr. Bob Farrell is the founder of Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour. He’s not a nurse or healthcare leader, but he is an expert in customer happiness and loyalty. When a long-term customer complained that an employee insisted on charging for extra pickles, Bob realized that the employee didn’t understand the future value of the customer and wasn’t empowered to serve the customer first. Bob’s advice to the employee was simple: give ‘em the pickle!

When giving away an 8-cent pickle keeps a long-term customer’s repeat business, it just makes sense. Because of this experience, Bob changed both his leadership style and customer service philosophy. Bob empowered employees to put customers first, reminded them that they must choose their attitude when coming into work and encouraged them to build one another up. In return, the employees are happy, they serve with pride and they stick with Bob.

Do you know your “pickle?” Figuring this out is the first step in increasing employee happiness! I challenge each of you to start thinking differently about what keeps your employees happy. You may be surprised to learn that many of the barriers to employee happiness in your organization are self-imposed.

Rigid PTO policies, rules-upon-rules for just about everything and impossible access to the necessities of life – like hydration, food and rest while on shift – are really, really important to your employees. Death by policy and regulation doesn’t work in today’s workforce. For instance, when is the last time you reviewed your PTO policy? Do you know if your employees have taken advantage of their banked time off? Keeping employees happy requires a relentless focus on creating an amazing culture and environment for employees first. I urge you to dedicate time to finding your pickle— maybe even revamp at least one outdated policy and introduce more flexibility for staff this quarter. Your nurses will thank you!

April Hansen, RN, MSN, is the Vice President of Clinical Services with Aya Healthcare. April has an extensive background in critical care nursing, education and leadership in healthcare systems, the ed-tech industry and the staffing industry. April is the co-founder of a clinical management technology as well a nurse engagement mobile application and has dedicated her professional career to solving real-life workforce challenges through innovative solutions.

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