Employee engagement an essential step towards better healthcare

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Group Of Happy Doctors

In every hospital, each manager believes they lead in a manner that engages employees.  No one goes to work thinking they want to manage poorly.  Yet, we all know a manager that acts in a way that makes us – and their employees – cringe.

But this article isn’t about the manager that could be the source of a brutal newspaper article.  This article is about good managers.  These people already do a good job relating to their employees yet they know they could do better.

Hospitals have mission statements that are often inspirational and help to guide the actions and efforts of the employees.  But in the everyday grind of the real world, delivering on that strategy day in and day out in a manner that will serve patients and their families, along with all other stakeholders in the hospital, is one of the most difficult and enduring problems faced by leaders.

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Research shows that regardless of the economic circumstances, having an engaged workforce – one that is enthusiastically willing to give more than just what is required to hold onto their jobs – contributes to better organizational performance. Consistent, flawless execution requires a dedicated and committed workforce that is passionately focused on achieving the aims and aspirations contained in the hospital’s mission statement. Conceptually, this all makes sense. But practically, it can be very difficult to do. Why? Because, according to a survey by The Conference Board, 55 percent of employees stated that they are dissatisfied with their jobs. Yet there is clear evidence that a significant relationship exists between the level of personal commitment (or “engagement”) an employee has towards their employer and organizational performance.

Why are there such dramatically better results for firms with engaged employees?  It’s because engaged employees are both passionate about their jobs and emotionally bonded to their organizations. They are willing to give that elusive ‘discretionary effort’ that drives a more intense strategic focus, higher efficiency and better productivity. Accordingly, eliminating workplace alienation and creating an engaged workforce have become the new mantras for building progressive companies.  And it doesn’t need to be complicated.  Concentrate on the following three actions.

Act 1: Make sure they REALLY know What to do – and Why

Be extremely clear about organizational goals embedded in the mission and vision statements and obsessively communicate to employees how their work – both collectively and individually – specifically contributes to them.  Everyone wants to feel important and to feel that what they do matters. Those feelings are not always so easy to obtain, however, especially for persons performing those boring, routine and repetitive front line jobs. But it is the responsibility of the ‘nearest leader’ (i.e., the immediate supervisor) to help those individuals see the ‘higher purpose’ in their work and that an organization is measured – through the eyes of both the patient and other stakeholders – on every single activity regardless how big or small.  Everyone, therefore, is depending upon them to do their job with excellence or else the whole organization could fail. This needs to be very explicitly stated.

Act 2: Say “Thank You” – and mean it!

At the top of the list of practices that increase an organization’s level of employee engagement is expressing appreciation through the simple acts of regularly and sincerely thanking employees and praising them for their work. Publicly acknowledging exceptional work is considered especially important, though rewarding the routine and commonplace is also encouraged, such as for good attendance. In the world of high engagement, kindness matters….A LOT!

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Act 3: Development and Training – the rewards THEY value

Finally, most employees want to know that they have avenues for advancement in their organizations – if they want them.  This means there must be career development and training opportunities at every level in the hospital and supervisors should be required to regularly discuss ways to help interested employees achieve them.  Nowhere is this more important than for employees at the bottom of the ladder. They especially need to know that someone is looking out for them and wanting to help them succeed.

Great organizations search for ways to get the competitive edge.   Many are overlooking an effective strategic weapon that is standing right in front of them – their fellow workers. Creating an inspired and engaged workplace will not occur by happenstance.  It requires a leadership team – at every single level of the organization – who understands and values its importance. And when you create this culture of engagement, it won’t be long before your hospital will be the envy of every health care organization.