Engaging heads, hearts and hands

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Would your employees recommend your hospital as a great place to work, learn and grow? Would they say that they trust your organization?

Bluewater Health is the largest public sector employer in Sarnia-Lambton. Our hospitals bring together the collective talents of over 2,500 staff, physicians and volunteers dedicated to a mission of exemplary care. Inspired People is one of our five strategic goals, compelling us to ignite passion and pride as an organization of choice in which to work, practice, volunteer and learn.

Why is this important? A high level of employee engagement has a positive impact on patient satisfaction and patient outcomes. Teams perform at their best when employees are engaged and feel supported and valued in their roles. Innovation comes from individuals who feel safe bringing forth new ideas to challenge the status quo. As the healthcare talent pool is diminished, we must nurture a healthy, happy and engaged workplace culture to attract and retain tomorrow’s healthcare professionals.

No workplace is without challenge and opportunity, and an engaged workforce can move through those challenges in a culture of collaboration, teamwork, support and possibility thinking. Engaged staff go above and beyond with their heads (using knowledge, skills and resources), hearts (care, caring and compassion) and hands (performing meaningful work).

When I meet our organization’s newest recruits at orientation, I’m delighted to hear, “My friend who works at Bluewater Health recommended the job to me…I hear this is a great place to work!” This is important to hear and I want to hear it often, as it galvnizes our commitment to make it so.

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To evaluate if we’re meeting our Inspired People priority, we invite staff and physicians to tell us how to improve upon our work environment. Our engagement survey, facilitated every two years by National Research Corporation Canada, assesses such work-environment factors as teamwork, an employee’s relationship with their manager, health and safety, training and development and overall job satisfaction. The tool looks at how these environmental factors influence engagement and trust.

Our journey with this particular survey tool began in 2009, and we are in our third wave of using the responses to guide continuous improvements. Each year, there are more voices reflected in the anonymous survey. The 67 per cent response rate in 2013 is our highest yet – up more than 25 per cent since 2009. Our overall engagement score is six per cent higher than the community hospital average reported in the 2013 NRCC survey results.

Through multiple reports, we can assess the responses through different lenses – by department, by job classification or employment status – to determine improvements that will lead to meaningful change. The most recent survey highlighted significant gains on each of our top three engagement priorities:

Quality care as a goal – up 16 per cent

Involvement in decisions – up 19 per cent

Positive work environment – up 20 per cent

Creating a healthy environment where engagement flourishes isn’t anyone’s job…it’s everyone’s job. Each department – its leader and its staff – contribute to our success. From Human Resources and Organization Development’s employee development process, executives’ purposeful rounding, Occupational Health and Safety’s wellness initiatives, to the commitment of our Healthy Workplace Team — strategies and activities are aligned and embedded to focus on our people’s health, wellness, job satisfaction and work-life balance.

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The Healthy Workplace Team of front-line staff and volunteers helps to guide our employee-focused initiatives. These forty-four energetic ambassadors form dyads with their department manager and are dedicated to inspiring and implementing interdepartmental employee engagement activities. At a recent workshop, they reviewed the most recent engagement survey results, shared insights, set priorities for the coming two years, and celebrated engagement successes within their department. It was a great day full of enthusiasm, creativity and laughter, resulting in a list of possibilities.

They confirmed that communicating early, honestly and clearly contributes to employee trust, as does delivering on our promises through timely follow-up, and asking for staff input early on issues that affect them. Ambassadors also have ideas to help grow and sustain our positive results. They tell us to keep going with Lean tools and techniques, RNAO Best Practice Guidelines, and volunteer Patient Experience Partners, while maintaining patient and family-centred care at the core of all that we do. They recommend continued involvement and engagement of staff in decisions that affect their work, and everyday methods of providing employee feedback, reward and recognition.

Today, Bluewater Health is committed to empowering our people to be the best they can be. To operationalize this aim, we are:

  • Launching a Talent Development System including an Employee Development process
  • Developing a plan to enable our people to work to their full scope of practice
  • Developing our leaders through the Bluewater Health Innovative Management Program and partnering with Lambton College on a new Board of Governors certificate program, Healthcare Management & Leadership Development
  • Educating and engaging our people in patient and family-centred care principles and care strategies
  • Continuing to formally recognize and acknowledge our people
  • Educating and engaging our people in Lean principles and tools, including daily huddle boards where staff generates improvement ideas.

These initiatives represent our corporate response to the collective voice of the organization, heard through the engagement survey.

To create a workplace where employees want to invest themselves, we need to shape a workplace culture that meets the employee’s desire for a career that fulfills their hearts, challenges their minds and is a balanced part of their lives. Engagement, and the continual improvement that it requires, is not for the faint of heart. Sustaining results becomes tougher year after year. As system challenges put new demands on organizations and their people, our role is to be watchful of the pulse of the organization and to engage staff in identifying the most – their most – important priorities.