Engaging housekeeping staff in performance improvement and service excellence at St. Michael’s Hospital

Everyday, the 350 environmental services (EVS) staff at St. Michael’s Hospital provide essential cleaning and sanitation of high risk areas, patient and specimen transport, facility maintenance, as well as general housekeeping services. While these services support the busy research and patient care activities at the hospital, a survey of EVS indicated these staff felt significantly less engaged in corporate decision-making and events, when compared with the rest of SMH staff.Furthermore, when some EVS customers (nurses for example) were surveyed, similar results were found. Respondents were asked: “Where do you think EVS needs the most improvement?” One nurse’s response was, “There are some EVS individuals who do not understand how important their role is in the overall care of our patients.” To address these issues, EVS leadership and frontline staff developed a collaborative strategy including the development of a department vision, focus groups to engage workers, creation of a meaningful performance measurement tool, and recognition for excellent performance and customer service.The first step was to develop a department vision that would provide direction to all of the EVS services. Through surveys and a series of focus groups, staff identified key aspects they wanted to see in a strong department: Respect, improved team work, clear and consistent communication, better organization and professionalism. They also identified what patients and clinical staff should say about EVS services (the hospital is clean, high-quality and efficient work, caring and reliable for example), as well as what EVS staff should experience in a strong department (a happy work environment, feeling appreciated, collaborative work, fairness). These ideas came together through a joint management and staff brainstorming session in which over 25 participants came together to craft the finalized vision statement: To provide consistently excellent service through effective communication, teamwork and mutual respect.During the focus groups and a follow up brainstorming session, staff was given the opportunity to indicate the current state of the department, the priority issues for management to address, and some proposed solutions for the problems staff identified. Included on this list was that “quality work should be rewarded, and poor performance should result in discipline.” This led the team to develop a quality scorecard which spoke to areas most important to both EVS and non-EVS staff: Patient flow, patient experience, patient safety, staff partnerships & teamwork, staff education & training, and departmental efficiency. The scorecard was developed to be easy to understand and to measure the specific work being done by both frontline staff and management. This was done to ensure that staff feels their work clearly translates to better performance. Although the results of the scorecard are not yet tied to a formal staff recognition program, the team launched the first ever EVS Week to let frontline staff know just how much they are appreciated. The week included a breakfast served by hospital leadership, a day where staff were treated to massages in their staff lounge and a wall of recognition where more than 175 compliment cards from administrative and clinical areas across the hospital were posted for EVS staff. The trauma neurosurgery in-patient unit really got into the spirit and created its own heart-shaped card. “EVS Week was a good start. It’s exhilarating and refreshing,” said Diane Francis, who received five cards from the CVICU. The team is excited to continue its work to engage frontline staff and improve the services provided by EVS. Next steps include integrating the scorecard into staff meetings, developing an ongoing customer feedback tool on EVS services and tracking the department’s performance to ensure progress is being made towards achieving the vision.