Creating a staff engagement ‘game’: Everyone wins

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Kathleen Farr has a dilemma.

The registered nurse at Barrie’s Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) has just been assigned to an extremely anxious elderly patient who does not speak English.

Needing a little assistance with the situation, she immediately turns to the co-worker to her right, shares what she thinks she should do to help the patient and then asks for her colleague’s opinion.

Except Farr is not actually caring for the patient. She is participating in a staff-engagement activity known at RVH as Mission Possible.

For over a year the health centre has used gamification to embed its mission, vision and values and advance its patient-focused strategy, enabling staff to discuss how they can live the corporation’s values despite challenging work and personal situations.

Mission Possible was developed in-house by RVH’s Corporate Communications team and designed as a colourful and interactive board game to sustain the health centre’s MY CARE philosophy, particularly the values of Work Together, Respect All, Think Big, Own It and Care.

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“This unique activity engages staff in an innovative and fun way, prompting thoughtful, frank conversations and brainstorming solutions,” says Suzanne Legue, vice-president, Strategy, Communications and Stakeholder Relations. “The tool enables participants to connect the dots between our values, employees’ behaviour and RVH’s strategy in a way that sitting in a meeting never could. Significant research shows that when your employees and physicians are engaged, the patient experience and outcomes improve. Simply put – higher engagement means better patient care.”

Mission Possible, which resembles a typical board game, guides participants through a series of real-life professional and personal challenges. Clear instructions and an intuitive design means the 20-minute activity can be completed without a facilitator, although ideally, a department leader is on-hand to promote team-building. The goal is a lively and robust discussion about how values can be applied to real-life situations and challenges.

“It is a great game. There are good scenarios which inspired great discussions. All the scenarios we selected during play have all happened to me in a workplace,” Kathleen Farr, RN, Dialysis.

A 2014 report by Technology Advice found that 54 per cent of employees would be much more likely to perform a task if it had game elements. In fact, gamification is quickly becoming a highly effective training tool; applying gaming designs and concepts to learning scenarios in order to make them more engaging and entertaining for the learner.

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All new RVH hires participate in the activity during orientation while existing staff participate in a team Mission Possible session annually. The results have been remarkable. In a 2014 employee survey, 68 per cent of staff said they remember the health centre’s vision and apply it to their work day. Within six months of launching Mission Possible, another survey revealed that number had jumped to 83 per cent.

“Mission Possible is extremely fun and a great team building exercise,” says Kim Roberts, administrative assistant, RVH cancer centre. “The game is excellent and it covers all the RVH values.” RVH president and CEO Janice Skot notes, RVH’s values were developed through significant staff consultation and reflect the personal values the health centre’s employees hold most dear.

“We know that in the busy, challenging world of healthcare, if employee’s day-to-day behaviours default to their values – their True North – we can consistently put patients first and successfully execute our strategy.  That is why using innovative strategies, such as Mission Possible, to hardwire these values into the day-to-day work habits of staff is so very important. It’s important for them and ultimately to the patients who will benefit.”