3 steps to drive employee engagement

Healthcare organizations looking to improve patient experience must first look inward.

Creating a positive environment for patients to receive care begins with a culture of engagement. In fact, studies show an engaged workforce produces higher-quality results, lower turnover and fewer medical errors.

One of the biggest problems facing practices today is physician burnout, and disengaged employees can be a major contributor. High turnover rates and continuously onboarding new employees add stress to an already full physician workload. This negatively impacts clinical outcomes, patient safety, physician productivity, and the fiscal health of the entire organization.

Ensuring all members of the care team feel valued and are engaged in their work is critical to the success of the organization’s goals, especially those pertaining to patient experience. So what can medical practice leaders do to drive employee engagement and decrease the prevalence of physician burnout? Here are three actions physician leaders and practice leaders can take:

1. Set measurable goals.
Connect your employees’ performance goals to the overarching goals of the organization. This shows their ability to execute directly impacts the success of the practice. For example, correlate individual performance metrics around abandoned phone calls to patient experience and CG CAHPS Access Composites. And goals for standard clinical visit summaries show an employee their contribution to the patient continuum of care.

2. Invest in professional development.
Set your employees and your organization up for success. You can’t set goals for employees and fail to give them the necessary tools and resources to achieve them. Professional development plans can be customized to fit specific roles or be based on the goals and objectives of the medical practice. Regardless of the type of plan, employees feel valued when they are given the opportunity to grow and develop their skill sets.

3. Reward and recognize high performance.
Rewards do not have to be monetary. A handwritten thank you note or another small token of gratitude can make an employee feel appreciated and motivated to repeat rewarded behavior.

The first step in improving employee engagement is understanding your baseline level of engagement – how your employees currently feel. This can be identified through internal surveys or one-on-one meetings. Or you can simply start by rounding on employees to ask questions like, “Do you have the tools and resources you feel you need to do your job?” and “Is there anything else I can do as a leader to support you?” Any of these tactics will create an open forum for feedback, discussion and, eventually, change.

Whatever means you use to gather insight from employees, it is important to continuously monitor change and track improvement. Regularly inform employees of any trends you find when conducting these check-ins and explain why changes are being made – let them know their voices are being heard and you’re doing things to enhance their work environment.

Use these steps to create an engaged, collaborative care team accountable to the shared objectives and goals of your practice, invest in their growth and reward them for achieving goals. Success often leads to continued success. When teams see positive results and feel valued for their contributions to achieving those results, engagement deepens and results continue to improve.

Matthew Bates, MPH, is an author, national speaker and a member of the executive team at Studer Group where he leads Medical Group Transformation. He is responsible for product strategy, development and management including leading cross-functional go-to-market teams.

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