Engagement Matters, But It Is REALLY Critical in Health Care

Employee engagement is critical to customer satisfaction.

This has been proven by study after study. And engagement is critical in any industry from retail to manufacturing to high-tech to pharmaceuticals.

But personally, if I had to pick an industry in which I’d want employee engagement to be particularly high due to its impact on me as a customer, that industry would be health care.

Engagement also drives patient loyalty

I want the nurses, doctors and support staff who care for my physical well-being to be fully invested in my “customer satisfaction,” because that means they are fully invested in my health. That’s why I was pleased to see this article that included interviews with executives from two large health services systems in the U.S.

Both executives express commitment to the factors that drive employee engagement to ensure patient safety and satisfaction. Both also offer powerful guidance for leaders in any industry.

From Kevin Gwin, vice president of patient experience and communications for Ardent Health Services:

Nurse and staff loyalty and engagement play the most important role in generating patient loyalty — it’s where we begin. I cannot ask our employees to change, if our relationship with them is not in the right place.

I must ensure we’re staffed appropriately, they have the tools and equipment they need, they have trust in administration and their supervisor, they receive consistent, accurate communication and they feel recognized and valued before I ask more of them on the patient side.”

Recognizing champion nurses, technicians and physicians

Kevin points to three critical factors, two of which are:

  1. Resources – Don’t expect people to do the job if you’re unwilling or unable to give them the tools necessary to do so.
  2. Trust and communications – Give people the guidance and context they need to understand the “bigger picture” and commit with you to achieving it.

From Vic Buzachero, corporate senior vice president, innovation/HR/performance management for Scripps Health:

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Three areas stand out as key to creating a patient-centered culture. First is leadership that provides clear direction and ‘walks the talk.’ Second is the alignment of work and human resource systems and practices that focus, reinforce, and reward behaviors that support the patient experience… Third is finding ways to isolate those efforts by service line. Pin-pointing the data by service line or room number or physician or a small group of nurses revolutionizes how leaders transform the culture…

This changes the whole game. Instead of focusing on the whole house, you can target educate, target coach and target recognize. You can identify your hospital’s champion physicians, nurses, and staff and use them to educate and coach the others.”

Recognition reinforces behaviors and outcomes

Vic calls out two additional scenarios, while also referencing recognition:

  1. Leadership – Similar to Kevin’s “trust and communication,” leaders set the tone. That responsibility cannot be abdicated.
  2. Reporting and Intervention – This is fundamental. If your goal is to improve processes, services, delivery, etc., across all units, then you need to target your efforts based on those who need intervention, using those who are already getting it right to assist in making those improvements.

All four of those efforts are made easier with the common critical element called out by both executives – Recognition.

Frequent, timely and specific recognition helps people see the deeper meaning of their work and reinforces in the moment the behaviors, outcomes and efforts you desire in all employees. But it also gives you far more data – the information you need on areas for success and areas for improvement.

How are you gathering data you need to make better decisions as leaders and communicate with staff?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.

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