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11 ways to invest in employee engagement without damaging your bottom line.

You don’t have to compromise your bottom line to create employee engagement

You can create change in your healthcare organization when your employees have disengaged. It takes persistent effort, but it’s possible. And the time and energy you invest in employee engagement won’t negatively impact your bottom line. Not if you focus your resources on the right things.

Is it possible to re-engage your employees without collapsing your bottom line? Absolutely. Listen to my conversation with Michele Thomson, who has a powerful story about how this is possible. She turned a struggling organization around and transformed employee outcomes on a budget, and you can too.

Watch a snippet here:

And listen to the full conversation here:

Bio: Michelle Thomson is an RN specializing in palliative and end-of-life care. Michele is also a workplace culture consultant and the founder of Curis Consulting. In her consulting role, she works with leaders to promote healthy leadership development and transform unhealthy workplaces into positive cultural spaces.

Michele Thomson, Founder of Curis Consulting. Photo credit Mending Health Systems, 2023.

But first, what is employee engagement?

From a technical perspective, employee engagement measures your employees’ high motivation to invest in your organization and perform their tasks at the highest possible level to achieve the outcomes that matter to you.

In healthcare, this might look like a scheduler willing to stay on the phone with a grumpy patient until the situation is resolved without losing his cool. It also looks like the physician who brings her full humanity and willingness to emotionally invest in her patient relationships while maintaining appropriate boundaries and running on time.

Your best employees are highly engaged.

So, what does employee disengagement look like?

Disengaged employees often behave in ways that get under their skin. Their actions corrode the culture of their clinical team by creating friction in the environment.

Disengaged employees are more likely to be late regularly, call in sick frequently, take excessive breaks, sloppily perform tasks, and recruit their colleagues to lower the quality of their work too.

Disengaged employees are a problem.

They are more likely to endorse burnout and quit. They are more likely to cause harm to patients inadvertently. They are more likely to file workplace complaints. And they are likely a headache for you already.

Take a moment to consider the time and money you spent addressing challenges related to disengaged employees in your healthcare system over the past week.

Maybe you buy fancy snacks to placate complaints. Or maybe you’re involved in weekly “coaching” sessions for a provider who is never on time and has innumerable patient experience complaints.

If you’re like most committed healthcare leaders, you’re already invested in addressing employee burnout.

But you may feel like you’re in a game of whack-a-mole where nothing you do is ever enough to address the problem. Like many skilled and well-intentioned leaders, you may be caught in the common challenge of looking at the problem from the wrong angle.

Employee disengagement is an organizational problem. It is not an individual employee problem.

Say what? You may be thinking, “she just described several irritating employee behaviors, and now she’s saying it’s an organizational problem, not an employee problem?”

Yes. Firing or disciplining your employees will not fix the problem of employee disengagement. Of course, those tools may be appropriate or necessary in certain circumstances, so please use your judgment.

But if you are experiencing an employee disengagement problem, the most effective way to respond is by working to re-engage your employees at the organization and team levels.

Re-engaging your employees involves persistent efforts and small actions demonstrating that you value your people, are willing to listen to their concerns, and are committed to taking responsive action to create a healthy environment that allows employees and patients to thrive.

Where do you start rebuilding a culture of engagement, where employees feel good about coming to work and are willing to invest their whole selves in achieving the mission of your healthcare system?

1. Identify the hot spots with the most disengaged and lowest power employees.
2. Engage these hot spots and invest your time in being present, asking questions, listening to concerns, and acknowledging what’s not working.
3. Practice radical transparency and take responsive action to address employees’ concerns by investing in healthy organizational practices.

These investments don’t have to break the bank or bust your bottom line.

Even small investments in employee engagement impact your healthcare system’s bottom line and quality of care metrics. Harvard Business Review recently found that a 1% improvement in employee engagement contributed to a 7% decrease in hospital readmissions.

When healthcare employees are happy, healthy, and engaged, patient care quality and safety increase in measurable ways.

Because when employees are fully engaged, they provide extraordinary care, without being coerced to show up on time. They are internally motivated to show up and provide the highest level of service and highest quality of care to each patient. And they arrive at work with an attitude of collaboration and respect toward their colleagues.

Over time as you persistently work to change the environment and address disengagement hot spots, your people will re-engage.

Investing in employee engagement will not compromise your bottom line. It will secure the future of your healthcare organization.

Me (Nicola De Paul), Photo credit Mending Health Systems, 2023

11 simple things you and your management team can do to boost employee engagement.

1. Provide clear expectations for what you need your people to do.
2. Provide the tools and resources your people need to do their work while prioritizing patient safety.
3. Give your people the opportunity to shine and recognize them when they do an excellent job.
4. Prioritize a few minutes of every team meeting or supervisory interaction to check in with your people and demonstrate that you care about who they are as whole people – not just the tasks they perform.
5. Ask your people what they want to do next and how you can support them in getting there.
6. Ask your people what they think about organizational challenges and goals. Take the time to listen. And demonstrate you value their perspective.
7. Share your healthcare organization’s mission or “why” regularly and invite your people to join you in this shared mission.
8. Hold people accountable to perform at the highest level. Don’t micromanage, but don’t reward or reinforce low-quality performance.
9. Promote relationship building, and community, and provide downtime or shared spaces that encourage employees to spend time together in a casual and friendly environment.
10. Check in with your people about how they are doing. Talk about their dreams, goals, and how they are doing at work in a regularly scheduled way. At least every 6 months.
11. Provide opportunities for your people to learn, grow, and develop themselves meaningfully.
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