The Power of Employee Energy in the Health Care Industry

HR Blog on TLNT: From the Energy Files
HR Blog on TLNT: From the Energy Files

You have to applaud the dedication and hard work of people who are in health care. They work hard, long hours, save lives and seem to be constantly facing new challenges from insurance, government, and more.

In the midst of a very serious situation, I hope you do not mind my interjecting one small humorous story.

We were doing short energy pulse surveys every two weeks at a hospital, and most of the internal marketing used the “pulse” word. Signs were posted with words such as “don’t forget to take your pulse” or “we care; do the pulse.”

Two nurses called the eePulse office and wanted to know where to record their numbers.The help desk team wondered why they could not understand the instructions. After discussion, they all realized the two nurses were physically taking their body pulse and wanted to know how to record the medical reading and where to send it.

Energy Pulse at work

The energy pulse question uses the color-coded energy scale (below), and employees are asked to rate their current energy level, the energy level where they are most productive, and  answer open-ended comment questions. Summarized data are provided for regular business reporting, quarterly reports and annual reports.

Figure 1: Energy Pulse Scale
Figure 1: Energy Pulse Scale

Below (in Figure 2) are examples of energy trends for two teams. It includes employee ratings of their own energy at work, their estimate of the energy of others on their teams and the productivity zones for the teams.

It is obvious by glancing quickly at the data which group is doing well and which is not.

Team comparisons

 

Team 1 is not doing so well. The team’s overall personal energy level is below the productivity zone, with scores ranging from 4.3 to 6.4 over this period.  The red line is never in the zone. Patient satisfaction scores and job satisfaction scores are significantly low for this team.

Figure 2: Energy trends from two teams within a hospital
Figure 2: Energy trends from two teams within a hospital

Team 2 is a high performing group. Their scores on all counts are at the top of those in the organization. Their red (self-energy) line is consistently in the zone, and note the red line is higher than the teal one.

The energy research indicates that teams are performing well when their own personal energy level, as a group, is higher than their ratings of their team overall.

The key to success in changing team one is for the manager in charge to engage the team in dialogue and work on making improvements.

The manager was reluctant to face up to the fact that the team needed help.  Single, point-in-time data was being dismissed as a function of the “event of the day.” When confronted with the trend data, it was extremely difficult for the manager to deny what was happening. With the help of the HR team, these data eventually led to dialogue and the types of improvements that led to improved morale, higher scores and cost savings. 

 

Patient satisfaction outcomes

Two numbers were collected: (1) employee’s current energy level and (2) number where the employee is most productive. Both numbers are used to customize a productivity zone (seen in Figure 2) for each group receiving reports.  Being “in the zone” is a good thing, and being “out of the zone” is bad.   An employee can be out of the zone by being below where most productive or equally by being above where most productive. At very high energy levels, employees start to approach burnout.

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The energy data tell the story.  In a 6-month period, research showed the following:

In groups that had energy scores “in the zone” 70 percent or more of the time, patient satisfaction scores increased. In other groups, where their scores were in the zone only 30 percent or less of the time, patient satisfaction scores decreased dramatically. In the two units described in Table 1, the group with 70 percent of their weeks in the productivity zone also had significantly higher job satisfaction scores, 10 percent higher than those in the lower group.

Cost savings and boosting morale

 

As part of the research, staff were asked open-ended comment questions soliciting ideas for saving money. Feedback resulted in numerous ideas that the hospital was able to implement. The ideas range from small wins (e.g. recycling paper, buying less expensive equipment, saving time by changing process) to larger scale items that can have significant savings (e.g. changes in how a software program is working, reallocating resources to improve efficiency).

 

While doing frequent energy taking work, morale improved because the “act” of data collection, engaging in dialogue about the data and then sharing results of actions created a large-scale intervention.  Employees reported they were more valued because they had new opportunities for voice, and they appreciated being heard.

Secret to success in health care

 

The secret to success was not magic interventions. The act of measuring led to the habit of listening and making employee data and dialogue part of the everyday business of managing a hospital. Here is how it works:

  • Collect data from employees every 2 weeks or monthly.
  • Merge this employee data into other data that are shared at hospital leadership staff meetings and employee staff meetings.
  • Post the data on walls where other hospital data are posted.
  • Get everyone involved in taking action from the data.
  • Teach managers to have quick, short conversations about the data and the outcomes of the data with their employees – as part of the regular staff meetings they hold.
  • Celebrate the wins, the cost savings and the ideas that are implemented.

Winning in health care or any business that employs people is blending the data and data collection process into the rhythm of the institution and the way the organization does business. Do not make it an event like an annual employee survey. Merging in the employee energy data with the mix of other data serves to demonstrate to employees that they are as important as all the other assets tracked by the leadership group.

Editor’s Note: What are the Energy Files? Over 1 million data points on employee energy at work and open-ended comment data on what is making energy increase and decrease. The raw data, the research studies, and case studies make up the Energy Files. To learn more, keep reading From the Energy Files or go to www.leadershippulse.com or www.eepulse.com.

Theresa M. Welbourne, PhD, is the FirsTier Banks Distinguished Professor of Business and Director of the Center of Entrepreneurship at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. She is also the founder, President, and CEO of EEPulse Inc., a human capital technology and consulting firm in the energy business -- optimizing and directing human energy for growth and innovation. She also is an adjunct professor with the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California. Theresa was awarded the 2012 Academy of Management Distinguished HR Executive Award (for contributions in research, teaching and practice). Contact her at theresa@eepulse.com .

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