The phrase, “happy staff, happy patients,” seems like good common sense and has been proven in research dating as far back as 1996. But it doesn’t explain the critical element: how to ensure your hospital staff is happy and engaged in their work.
It’s a problem that affects all workplaces, not just healthcare facilities. Deloitte’s 2015 Global Human Capital Trends found that 87 percent of organizations around the world rate culture and engagement as their top challenges.
But healthcare has specific challenges and needs that other organizations simply don’t – achieving clinical and operational excellence while competing for funding dollars, managing staff that work a variety of shifts at a variety of locations, and an ongoing nursing shortage to name but a few.
So can the same engagement practices that other workplaces use still work in healthcare organizations? And what about the buzz around shifting from traditional performance processes to continuous feedback?
A recent conversation with Alicia Hannah of Hospital Sisters Health System provided me with an answer, and that answer was yes. Continuous feedback is a great way to boost engagement among hospital staff, reduce turnover and improve patient care.
Feedback, recognition and engagement
First of all, what are we really talking about when we talk “feedback”?
Continuous feedback is more than just a once-a-week meeting
between employees and managers. For starters, it doesn’t have to happen once a
week, and it isn’t limited to managers and employees. Employees and managers
should meet as often as feels right to them, whether it’s in person, over the
phone or online. Feedback can be as simple as a quick recognition of a job
well-done, or a more detailed explanation of what the employee did well in a
particular situation, or what could be done better next time. There are some
things to consider when giving feedback:
- It should be done in real-time, not weeks or months after the fact
- Positive feedback can be given in public; constructive feedback should always be given in private
- All feedback should be recorded for use in formal performance reviews, and to provide tangible data to reflect employee progress
- Everyone should be encouraged to give feedback, including co-workers, other managers and patients
Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS), where Hannah is a Senior Technical Analyst, is an example of an organization that’s using ongoing feedback to its advantage. To do so, HSHS leverages multiple types of feedback to improve employee engagement and launch succession planning conversations.
Hospital Sisters Health System
Now, let’s look a little deeper into how HSHS managed to make ongoing feedback a reality. With more than 15,000 full-time employees that are spread out over 200 locations in Wisconsin and Illinois, it’s not some small success
But in 2010, the organization knew that to improve patient satisfaction scores, it needed to make changes. At the time, it was using 5 different vendors for employee engagement, and there was no common performance review process.
The first step was to implement one system for feedback and engagement that could be accessed by all employees across the organization. They chose to use Halogen’s Feedback Central , a feature available in Halogen Performance™ for Healthcare, because it allowed staff to create multiple types of feedback. Employees could write a journal note to themselves, recognize their coworkers or receive coaching tips from their managers. There were no limitations on feedback: nurses could leave feedback for someone in the finance or legal departments or vice-versa.
All of this feedback is captured in Halogen TalentSpace, so managers and employees can reference it in 1:1 meetings or performance appraisals. Because the feedback is from multiple sources, managers have a better view of employee performance, and can make more informed suggestions for learning and development.
HSHS also set up a weekly email that summarized an employee’s feedback, and encouraged them to leave feedback for a colleague, ensuring that feedback was given in a timely manner, and not left (and likely forgotten) for the annual performance review.
The impact of continuous feedback
What struck me the most from speaking with Hannah was the dramatic change in engagement scores at HSHS. Over a period of four years, HSHS saw its engagement scores move from 31.6 percent to 44.7 percent. The number of disengaged and ambivalent employees also fell from 23.8 percent to 16.8 percent.
The hospital system’s efforts earned several awards, but more importantly, it was able to proactively retain its top talent while inspiring high employee performance – and improve patient care.