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Tips on engaging your team in healthcare

Texas' Uvalde Memorial Hospital may have a small HR team, but they're helping to rack up some big achievements, including placing on Modern Hospital’s “100 Best Places to Work” three years running and scoring in the 90th percentile on employee engagement surveys. How do they do it?

We’ve got the answers in this interview with Charla Garcia, the CHRO at UMHRO. It’s a condensed and edited version of our very entertaining webinar featuring Charla in conversation with Tom Short of Kudos. Read on to Charla's tips on creating a better workplace and keeping teams happy and engaged in their work — even when problematic situations arise.

 

How were you able to raise your employee engagement score from the 67th percentile nationwide to the upper 90th percentile?

First, a new CEO was brought in who had a completely different philosophy than the previous executive. He came from a nursing family so he was very relationship-oriented, which led us to start asking our staff, "Do you have the tools and equipment to do your job?"

When we received 'No' responses, we worked hard to remove the barriers our staff were facing so that they could better serve our patients. Everything became easier after that.

Our staff began to open up more because we were having frequent conversations, they began to ask for the things they needed because they knew they could, and they brought up process issues so that we could become more efficient.

Once our employees were taken care of and felt safe expressing their ideas, our hospital's level of patient care went up as well.

Tip: Engage your staff in meaningful conversations and ensure they feel safe giving you honest answers about their work experiences.

What goals and/or metrics have you put in place to measure employee engagement?

Patient satisfaction is our ultimate measure. We have a saying, "Happy employees equal happy patients." Because we focus on supporting our staff, they are free to support our patients. The local community then does an amazing job of supporting us in return.

In fact, the community has supported us so well, we were able to raise five million dollars to build a new cancer center in our area!

But it's important to remember that there's a difference between employee engagement and employee satisfaction. When employees already like what they do, HR just has to remove barriers. I can streamline communication and invest in better tools for my staff. But I can't make them love their jobs.

Tip: Always measure patient (or customer) satisfaction as this is the best way to gauge the effectiveness of your employees.

Have the “top 100” rankings and other accolades you've received helped in recruiting or provided any other benefits to your team?

It has! We actually just hired a very experienced OR tech from San Antonio. These kinds of professionals are very hard to find in our small town and we usually have to train up our own OR techs, (AKA scrub techs).

During the orientation process, I showed this professional the accolades our hospital has received and examples of our staff's teamwork and camaraderie. At the end, he asked for a copy of the presentation so that he could show his wife why he wanted to move away from the big city and work at Uvalde Memorial Hospital.

It's so important to be aligned with the values of the organization you're employed by. When you believe in the mission of your company and know that you'll be treated with respect by management and your colleagues, engagement is much more natural.

Tip: Working to create amazing employee experiences can actually help your organization recruit top talent. So, don't be afraid to promote your successes in this area!

How do you build community and what have been some of your most successful employee engagement initiatives?

We do a lot of community activities that involve our whole families. We also do Hospital Week where we invite the community into the hospital to teach them about what we do. We try to make it really fun and let them see our air ambulance transportation and EMR bus.

This helps the community realize how advanced our hospital equipment is and how talented our staff and physicians are — even though we're a very small town.

Of course, we also do the dunk tank! We ran a contest to see who would get put in the dunk tank – our hospital's CEO, CFO, COO, or me, the CHRO. The whole hospital got really into it and couldn't wait to see who would get dunked.

It can be very beneficial to host events and activities that are fun and not necessarily business related. It allows people to get to know each other better. 

Tip: Employee engagement initiatives that involve family members can be advantageous and help build community within your organization.

Was it difficult to get leadership buy-in for all of the employee engagement initiatives you've implemented?

In 2004, a new CEO took over who was the catalyst for all of these initiatives. In 2015, our current CEO took control of the organization and just wanted to support what we were already doing. So, for the most part, it hasn't been difficult to get leadership buy-in.

But I will say that leadership first opposed us using Kudos, just because they thought we were fine doing everything by hand. We were eventually able to convince them to give the software a try by highlighting the announcement feature in Kudos, which allows us to get important information to each of our employees in a timely manner.

Kudos has been a tremendous tool for us! It's so easy to use and it's a lot of fun watching our staff tag each other, make jokes, wish each other happy birthday, and recognize their colleagues in a public forum for exceptional work.

Tip: An employee engagement tool like Kudos can help you create a winning company culture that your staff is excited to be a part of.

What's been your experience like when measuring employee engagement versus satisfaction and how do you demonstrate success in these areas?

The questions on our employee surveys speak to both engagement and satisfaction. For example, we ask questions like:

  • How is your relationship with your team?
  • How much do you like what you do?
  • Do you have the tools and equipment that you need?
  • Do you receive timely communication?
  • Do you know your senior leader's vision?
  • Do you feel like senior leadership can be straightforward and honest?

We always ask our employees to be completely honest in the surveys because that's the only way that we can improve our organization.

Tip: Survey your employees on a regular basis and empower them to answer your questions as honestly as possible. Then use their feedback to improve.

Do you have specific advice for someone just starting their journey to a more engaged and satisfied workforce?

First I would say, listen to the people doing the work. If you're in a management position, you need to be open to hearing their voices and acting on their input. Clear communication is the foundation of employee engagement and satisfaction.

The worst thing you can do is say you'll do something, and then fail to do so. When this happens, your team will stop giving you their opinions, communication will come to a standstill, and engagement and satisfaction levels will plummet.

Second, reward and recognize the successes your team has. It's the little acts of kindness that show everyone else how important your staff is to your organization.

Tip: The little things matter! Simply listening to your employees and recognizing them for their hard work can go a long way.

In Conclusion

Crafting excellent employee experiences that both engage staffers and leave them feeling satisfied is crucial. Fortunately, doing so isn't rocket science. By listening to your team and recognizing them for their contributions, you'll be able to build a winning organizational culture that people are excited to be a part of.

Looking for a tool to help you enhance the employee experience? Give Kudos a try! Our award-winning platform is used by organizations in 80 different countries around the world.

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