How to take employee engagement to the next level: Talent activation


Among the many resources healthcare organizations depend on to succeed, employees are perhaps the most important. Engaged and happy employees can affect a domino-like change within an organization, leading to improved clinical quality and enhanced bottom-lines.

Human resources, or talent managers, have three key responsibilities: talent acquisition, talent management and talent activation. Activation focuses on taking the talent you have and ensuring each team member is doing their best, unique work, said Amy Leschke-Kahle in a webinar sponsored by The Marcus Buckingham Company, an ADP Company and hosted by Becker's Hospital Review. Ms. Leschke-Kahle is vice president of performance acceleration at The Marcus Buckingham Company, an ADP Company. She joined Taylor Foss, senior vice president of organizational transformation at Asheville, N.C.-based Mission Health, as a presenter for the webinar.

Today, conventional, one-size-fits-all talent development approaches do not work. Complex, infrequent surveys don't reflect the continuous nature of our work. And organizations are making talent decisions based upon retrospective and often unreliable data..

Without a talent activation system, talent management systems are put in the challenging position of being expected to do engagement work that they are simply not designed to do. "A lot of our performance review systems are conventional, no one likes them, are arduous and they've got bad data, which often then leads into compensation rewards programs, where no one really cares if they get a 2.75 percent increase or a 2.8," said Ms. Leschke-Kahle.

The Marcus Buckingham Company, an ADP Company focuses its research on why conventional approaches — such as combining the activation and measurement of talent into a single method — don't work. Instead, organizations must separate these concepts and approach them differently.

Ms. Leschke-Kahle pointed out a fundamental flaw in conventional measurement strategies: the idiosyncratic rater effect. This is the idea that when one person rates another, the rating is more about the rater than who they are rating. This has created a plethora of unreliable data, which has affected talent decisions.

With regard to activation, the question is "how do we help people do more of their best work in the real world," noted Ms. Leschke-Kahle. The important thing to realize is there is no perfect model for activation, and the team leader has the most direct impact on engagement among employees.

Thus, it is the direct team leader who has a pulse on employees and their level of engagement. The best team leaders know the following three things:

• The strengths of their people
• The most important work each team member has to get done
• How team members are feeling

"The best team leaders have really frequent conversations with team members about near-term future work through a strengths-based lens," said Ms. Leschke-Kahle. "We keep hearing about feedback, but we really need to be talking about coaching."

Data shows that when team leaders have weekly conversations with employees about near-term future work, engagement goes up.

"And [organizations need to] redefine engagement as the emotional precursor to performance," Ms. Leschke-Kahle said.

How Mission Health activated its talent
From 2009 to 2015, employee satisfaction scores at Mission Health stayed flat, despite the fact quality scores and patient satisfaction improved, said Ms. Foss. Her team at Mission Health joined forces with The Marcus Buckingham Company, an ADP Company to implement a strengths- and evidence-based approach to talent activation.

"We really wanted to increase engagement, we wanted to bring joy back," said Ms. Foss. "We wanted to create a conversation culture where there was more two-way dialogue. We wanted to improve retention."

Ms. Foss first ensured the CEO and executive leadership team were fully on board with the new approach, which included implementing StandOut, powered by ADP.

"Once they approved it, I went to the HR team," she said. "I'd like to say my HR team was very innovative. But I was talking about something that was quite outside their comfort zone. I had people dedicated to things like those employee surveys and reviewing those performance management processes …. so I had to really get them all excited about something that we hadn't talked about yet. I was very fortunate that it resonated for them."

The implementation plan included a short-term pilot with 1,000 team members, including clinicians, IT staff, executive members and a standalone regional hospital with 400 people. The Mission Health HR team then established baseline metrics and certified seven internal team leader facilitators. The pilot was particularly helpful because it created informal champions of the new approach throughout the system, Ms. Foss said.

The team completed the pilot in two months. They examined the results and decided to go ahead with a full system rollout. In all, Mission Health trained 900-plus leaders at all levels of the organization. Since then, Mission Health has incorporated StandOut into standard team leader training. The health system continues to support leaders through ongoing processes allowing the HR team to go into the field to give additional help to any team leader who needs it.

The new talent activation approach changed numerous health system processes, including the elimination of a 100-item annual employee survey. Now, team leaders conduct an eight-item engagement pulse.

Additionally, team members complete weekly check-ins through the StandOut platform, which involves answering a series of questions, including 'what do you need from your team leader next week?'

Mission Health made becoming a great place to work and practice its No. 1 strategic priority. Prior to 2016, the health system's baseline employee engagement percentage was lower than the national average, with only 17.5 percent of employees fully engaged. Twelve months after implementing StandOut, powered by ADP, the system saw engaged employees more than double to reach 39 percent, a dramatic increase of more than 120 percent.

Ms. Foss advised healthcare organizations not wait for a calm period to implement a talent activation strategy.

"This really works during times of change and challenges because you're staying on top of the issues of your team members," she said. "So we really can't wait until there is calm because there is no calm in healthcare.

To learn more about The Marcus Buckingham Company, an ADP Company, click here, and view the full webinar here.



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