12 Best Practices for Making Hospitals Great Places to Work

Written by Leigh Page

It is time to re-engage hospital staff. According to a 2010 report by Press Ganey Associates, 45 percent of hospital employees consider themselves “distanced from or discontent with their current work.” Here are 12 best practices to turn that sad statistic around and nurture a fully engaged workforce.

1. Culture eats strategy. Vincent McCorkle, president and CEO of Akron (Ohio) General Health System, is fond of saying that “culture eats strategy.” He means that while strategy is key for a successful organization, it can only produce short-term compliance if there is no strong employee culture. All the strategic planning, launching of new initiatives and use of sophisticated metrics in the world won’t be successful without a fully engaged workforce.

2. Draw from a ‘well of credibility.’ Any effort to engage employees should be treated as a valuable investment, says Kevin Haeberle, senior vice president and senior advisor at Integrated Healthcare Strategies in Kansas City, Mo. “Whenever you are engaging in mutual trust, you are putting water into the well,” he says. “How deep that well is begins to matter when you need to take water out.” For example, you have to postpone annual pay increases, cut back on benefits or make some other unusual demand that is going to be trying on your staff. “If you hit hard times and your well is shallow,” he says, “you’ll be in for a major negative reaction.”

3. Be available. “When the hospital starts losing money, do all the top executives hide in their offices, no longer to be seen by anyone?” asks Brad Federman, president of Performancepoint in Memphis, Tenn. This is poisonous for employee morale, he says. Left without any information, employees start getting fearful, invent scenarios and are distracted from their work. To keep in touch, Mr. McCorkle holds regular “town hall meetings” for all shifts at his hospital. “We talk about aspirations and achievement in there,” he says.

Availability is crucial up and down the chain of command, says Vicki Hess, RN, an employee engagement expert in Owings Mills, Md., and author of “The Nurse Manager’s Guide to Hiring, Firing & Inspiring.” A common complaint from employees is, “My boss is in meetings all the time,” Ms. Hess says. She advises managers to maintain an open-door policy and spend time with the staff. When the manager cannot always be personally available, there should be other ways to keep in touch with the staff, such as calling in or stopping by between meetings, she says.

4. Provide achievable goals. “People respond to goals,” Mr. McCorkle says. For example, orthopedic surgeons are famous for ignoring requests to consider less expensive implants, but if they were told, “Saving x-amount of money on implants means we would be able to fund these specific projects,” they would more likely respond. Having something to work toward “narrows the gap between itch and scratch,” Mr. McCorkle says. He wants all goals to be ambitious, adding: “If we don’t set high goals we will never achieve them.” For example, the proper policy for dealing with patient falls is to set a goal of absolutely no falls with injuries.

5. Be transparent. Mr. Haeberle says the traditional approach is for management to be secretive. “If you were going to lay off people, you would announce it just before it happened,” he says. The reasoning was people would stop working hard if they knew, but in fact, most people will continue to do their jobs well, he says. Indeed, Mr. Federman found that hospitals in financial straits during the recession fared better if they were very open about it.

When Mr. McCorkle meets with employees at Akron General, he gives them “total amnesty” to talk about anything they want, even if they don’t like his policies. “Transparency is essential,” Ms. Hess says, adding that when staff know and understand management’s objectives, they will be more likely to share them. For example, a nurse who is tempted to give away medical supplies to patients when they go home might not do so if she knew her department was struggling to balance its budget. “Shared knowledge can be a powerful tool,” Ms. Hess says.

6. Nurture mutual respect. Under an older management style, the CEO says, “I expect you to respect me,” Mr. Haeberle says. But if workers are treated as equals, they are more likely to be engaged, he says. “When I respect who you are, I try to understand why you think the way you do,” he says. At Akron General, Mr. McCorkle insists that employees call him “Vince.” He thinks they are more likely to be frank and open that way. “If someone can say, ‘Hey, Vince,’ they are going to tell you what’s on their mind,” he says.

7. Be supportive. A big part of nurturing respect is being supportive. Ms. Hess says managers should assume employees are doing the right thing until proven otherwise. For example, when a patient complains about an employee, assume the employee is innocent until proven otherwise, but all the while seriously check into what was going on. “You have got to ask questions and find out what happened,” she says.

8. Link employees to the mission. “Employees need to feel that what they do connects to the overall goals of the organization,” Ms. Hess says. “If the manager tells me, ‘You have to do this because it’s our new rule,’ that doesn’t make me feel good about it,” she says. She advises using the vision and values of the organization as a roadmap to guide employees.

Mr. McCorkle tells this story about the power of the mission: A janitor sweeping the floor at Cape Canaveral at night is asked what he is doing. “I’m helping to put a man on the moon,” he says. “Healthcare is a calling. It means embracing something bigger than yourself,” McCorkle says. “There needs to be a passion and an energy for all the things that the mission is about.”

9. Create an effective team. Healthcare relies on relationships within a team, Ms. Hess says. The manager’s guidance can make the team more productive. “Managing an effective team means promoting a high level of trust and comfort with conflict,” she says. To be effective, team members need to speak up, identify their differences and work through them without hostility.

10. Let employees do their work. Ms. Hess says the hospital’s goal should be helping each employee find his or her “professional paradise,” where they are satisfied, energized and productive. Mr. Haeberle says managers who respect employees’ opinions recognize there can be a variety of ways to accomplish a task. He advises management to get out of the way and let employees do their work. “When I ask you to do something, I’m going to assume it’s going to get done,” he says. If the employee doesn’t do what he said he’d do, the pact is damaged. “The mutual trust has declined,” he says.

11. Give employees choices. Employees who are given choices are going to be more invested in the work they do. It’s not always possible to do this in a hospital environment where work is often based on prescribed protocols, but there are still many opportunities, Mr. Federman says. Rather than saying, “We can’t do that,” leaders should be saying, “How can we do this and still follow the regulations?”

“If there is a way to meet employees’ pressing concerns, use it, even if it’s a little unconventional,” Ms. Hess says. For example, employees may prefer to work extra hours rather use locum tenens nurses, but taking over one eight-hour shift may be too daunting for a full-time employee. One solution might be to cut the shift into two four-hour blocks, which full-timers would be more likely to accommodate.

12. Lead by example. Every two weeks, Mr. McCorkle has a meeting with his top-level managers. “We talk about barriers and roadblocks,” he says. “People commit to a goal by signing a pledge.” When his staff meets with more people down the organizational chain, they apply the same principles. He says top management’s example is like a wave going through the whole organization.

See original article at Becker’s Hospital Review

3 Core Fundamentals for Employee Engagement at Your Hospital

Written by Lindsey Dunn

Employee engagement is an important driver of organizational success in any organization, and hospitals are no different. Engaged employees are less likely to leave an organization and more likely to work harder without feeling like they’ve sacrificed for the organization — both of which benefit the organization.

Despite its importance, engagement is often underemphasized by many organizations because improving it can be a challenging endeavor, says Brad Federman, president, Performancepoint LLC. However, he believes focusing on three key areas of engagement can significantly improve the level of engagement employees have within your organization.

1. Trust. A culture of trust breeds engaged employees. Mr. Federman believes leaders can develop a culture of trust by taking an interest in others and encouraging employees to do the same. “Am I self focused versus interested in others?” he asks. “In a meeting am I focused on my own needs or those of my employees?” Leaders who show an interest in others allow employees to comfortably share ideas to improve the organization and are open to opportunities to advance the employee — both of which increase engagement. The employees can trust that their ideas are considered and taken into account and that they will not be reprimanded for offering them.

Leaders who show they trust employees also help to develop these employees’ self-efficacy. “If people believe their culture builds them up, they’ll give you more and more to continue to be successful,” says Mr. Federman.

2. Focused on opportunity, not risk. Leaders should approach employee suggestions and ideas as opportunities, not liabilities. “Many managers, when approached with an idea [from an employee], start from a place of risk. The first thing they do is think of all the ways this won’t work,” says Mr. Federman. Instead, managers should learn to see employee suggestions as opportunities and work to move the idea forward within the organization. “Leaders need to be receptive to creative ideas,” he says.

3. Building connections. The primary reason employees stay with an organization is because of the number of connections they have with that organization, says Mr. Federman. As such, hospitals should work to develop as many mutually beneficial bonds between employees and other aspects of the organization — managers, co-workers, the organization’s mission, etc. — as possible.

Mr. Federman likens this idea to an individual considering a move to a new community. The ties that an individual has to the community and the strength of those ties — a job, family, church, etc. — play a large role in whether or not the person moves. It’s similar for a hospital: if an employee has strong connections to his or her co-workers, supervisor, senior leadership and organizational mission, it’s much less likely the employee will go work elsewhere. “If my only connection to my work is my boss, and she leaves, then it’s likely I’ll leave soon after,” he says.

Hospitals, he says, have a built in advantage in that their missions and visions are focused on helping others and saving lives. “Employees want so badly to connect to a mission and values,” he says. “Organizations that can tap into that passion, demonstrate it in action and put a face to it — what they can get from employees is amazing.”

To see the original article go to Beckers Hospital Review

4 Tips for Hospital Leaders to Improve Employee Engagement

Written by Lindsey Dunn

Employee engagement is an important issue for any organization as engagement directly impacts the organization’s performance on a variety of indicators. For hospitals, engaged employees lead to less turnover, improved patient experience and reduces the likelihood of adverse events, says Brad Federman, president of Performancepoint LLC.

Although cultivating engaged employees can be difficult, Mr. Federman believes hospitals have an advantage in having a built-in mission and vision around helping patients — a mission that can be tapped to give employees purpose and connect them to the organization. Here, Mr. Federman shares four ways hospitals can drive employee engagement and enhance the organization’s overall performance.

1. Be transparent. One of the simplest ways for hospitals to improve engagement is to be as transparent as possible, says Mr. Federman. “When decisions are made behind doors in secrecy, we lose engagement,” he says. “The more you can share, the better.”
Hospital leaders have a variety of data at their fingertips that can easily be shared, including quality and patient experience ratings, employee and physician satisfaction data and financial indicators. Hospital leaders should also make hospital goals and strategic plans available to all employees, if not the public. Mr. Federman suggests data should generally be shared in its original form rather than only offering a short summary. This data can be posted on an intranet or internal social networking sites or in hospital publications.
Mr. Federman contends transparency is becoming a cultural expectation. “People are living by old rules. It’s no longer 1980 or 1990. With the internet and social networking, information is easy to get and verify.”

If executives don’t share information, Mr. Federman says employees will believe they are hiding something. “Often, they’re afraid what will happen if they share negative information. However, it’s better to be honest with employees and engage them in finding ways to improve the business,” he says.

2. Start a conversation. CEOs should ask employees directly what a hospital can do to improve engagement. Although many hospitals already host town hall meetings, they often turn into an executive sharing session where once in a while a few brave employees will ask a question, says Mr. Federman. Instead, activities should be designed to encourage employee participation. For example, hospital leadership could use the events to present results of various performance indicators and announce plans to improve weak areas. The events could then be used to vet these ideas with the employees, encouraging them to provide feedback and other suggestions.

3. Balance business and patient care. While hospitals that don’t focus on the bottom line cannot be successful, too much of a focus on financials will disengage employees, says Mr. Federman. “Hospitals are always struggling with efficiency and costs…too many times in hospitals it becomes more about what we can’t do,” he says. “Leaders need to balance values with financial concerns.” Nearly all medical professionals pursued their line of work because of a desire to care for others, he says. Hospitals that fail to continually promote that ideal miss a great opportunity to help employees achieve their goals and feel rewarded.

4. Give employees choice. Finally, hospital leaders and managers should work to provide employees with choices. Choices might include allowing employees to shape how they do the work they do, soliciting suggestions for improvement and encouraging them to shape their career paths.

“While giving employees choices can be challenging for hospitals because of regulations in the hospital environment, leaders fail by using that as a vehicle to say ‘we can’t do that,'” says Mr. Federman. “Instead, leaders should ask ‘how can we do this and still abide by the regulations?'”

To see the original article go to Becker’s Hospital Review