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The Beryl Institute invites members and guests to submit posts on patient experience related topics. For guidelines and information on submitting a post for consideration, contact michelle.garrison@theberylinstitute.org.

 

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The Importance of Culture Building

Posted By Magali Tranié, Thursday, June 1, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, May 30, 2017

I graduated college with the unbridled optimism and sense of invincibility of youth, only caring about completing tasks and my salary. I never considered a company’s culture or my “engagement” level.

Until I was wrong.

Sometime after graduation, feeling underappreciated, I took an “exciting” opportunity with a great salary that was too good to be true – and it was. Thus began a very rough few months: cultures clashed, and I became highly disengaged. The overachiever that I am turned into a low performer. My friendly personality turned sullen.

Yes, culture matters. Much more than completing tasks, and certainly more than a salary.

So it was not surprising to me that recent patient experience research unveiled the growing focus of employee engagement in a comprehensive approach to patient experience improvements efforts. Not that it’s a new concept; many industries – including healthcare – have been struggling to define and embrace employee engagement initiatives for years.

No industry can benefit from employee engagement more than healthcare. In fact, a Gallup study of 200 hospitals found that nurse engagement was the number one variable correlating to mortality, beating out number of nurses per patient per day! 1

So, where do you begin?

Tackling employee engagement starts with a strong foundation: a well-defined culture. Writing down who you are, how you want to behave, and what your goals are the first steps.

Who you are starts by going deep to the core of why your organization exists. When we developed my company’s purpose, the question “Why do we go to work each day?” guided us. We knew that our associates – which is what we call our employees – were instrumental.

Our purpose reads: “To build a great company by positively impacting the lives of our associates, our communities, our customers, and their patients.” We intentionally selected words like “positively” and “impacting,” (indicating action vs. being passive). Note that associates are listed first – that was not accidental!  And we include patients – because they are ultimately the ones we impact.

Next, we wanted to provide a roadmap for the behaviors we expect from our associates; the “how we do our work”. So we developed our Values, which are “Be respectful. Be Remarkable. Be safe. Be honest.”

We then determined our goals: Associates, Customers, Growth and Profits. If you’re wondering why a business would put associates first and profits last, well, it’s deliberate! After all, how can you expect profits (a.k.a. business viability) without great people? Notice what else comes before profits? Customers, of course!

And these aren’t just words on paper, we made these public, including posting them on our website: www.imagefirst.com/Our-Values.

Once you have your culture defined and communicated, the second step is bringing it to life. And that’s not a once and done thing; this is something you do every day, week, month, quarter – methodically and intentionally. We hold daily or weekly huddles during which we discuss our purpose, values and goals – and how it ties back to our customers or their patients. Our leaders put associates first: whether it’s through one of the many established recognition programs, providing community giving opportunities for associates, celebrating birthdays every month, or the many fun team building activities.

It’s the mix of formalized ongoing programs and recognition as well as the regular fun activities that work. Providing flexibility to customize these events (we have numerous offices throughout the country) empowers associates at each office to “make it their own.”

Ultimately, great cultures and staff engagement do not happen by accident. But the good news is that with discipline and intent, any organization can drive improvements!

1. http://www.gallup.com/poll/20629/nurse-engagement-key-reducing-medical-errors.aspx

Magali Tranié is the Director of Marketing for ImageFIRST Healthcare Laundry Specialists. She has 19 years of experience working primarily in business-to-business in various marketing disciplines, leading teams and driving or contributing to employee engagement activities.

Tags:  culture  employee engagement  goals  values 

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How Much Does Culture Matter in Today’s Healthcare Environment?

Posted By Katie Owens, Monday, April 17, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What is culture? Culture can consist of many different elements in healthcare. From the way things are done in the organization. The shared relationships among people which dictate how they behave. To a set of shared beliefs and values. Each belief (while uniquely described by many) universally acknowledges that culture is an important part of the fabric of their organization.

Despite the fact that many people have conviction that organizational culture will either enable an organization’s success or serve as a barrier to achieving outcomes, sometimes broaching the subject of Culture can cause leaders or front line team members to shy away. Culture can feel messy, hard and inconvenient. We may be proud of some aspects of our culture but disappointed in others. Our team sought to find evidence outside of anecdote and theory to help leaders understand the role culture plays in creating excellence. That query led us to conduct our recent study demonstrated that culture does impact outcomes. The two big learnings we had conducting our study published in the Journal of Healthcare Leadership is that:

First, high performing cultures are more likely to do better than low performing cultures on key balanced scorecard metrics: Employee and Physician Engagement, Patient Experience, Value-Based Purchasing and Turnover. These cultures did not outperform by a small margin but a margin of magnitude and statistical significance (see Video on Culture Imperative). In other words, our team found that culture is not “nice to have” but critical to create demonstrable outcomes.

Second, engaging your employees in your culture is the most powerful step to create positive results. Your workforce is the lifeblood of your organizational culture: their engagement, relationships with leadership and each other and commitment to your mission. We found four key levers that are more likely to support achievement of outcomes:

  • The extent to which patients are treated as valued customers.
  • You find that your values are very similar to the values of this organization.
  • You feel that being a member of this organization is very rewarding.
  • You are proud to be a part of this organization.

There is no question healthcare leaders, staff and physicians are perservering day in and day out to provide the very best care to patients despite a myriad of challenges. Our teams are craving cultures that give them a sense of purpose and joy. As we work to create a “new normal” that equips our organization to provide person-centered excellence across the continuum of care, our findings indicate that leaders should pay attention to culture and actively steer workforce engagement to create employee pride, a focus on the customer and shared values.

Katie Owens, MHA is Vice President of HealthStream Engagement Institute, a HealthStream Company. Katie is a highly regarded thought leader in the healthcare industry who is a national speaker, executive coach and facilitator of leadership. Katie is founder of Lumen, a monthly podcast dedicated to shining a light on the bright spots where excellence happens in healthcare. KatieOwens.org

Tags:  culture  employee engagement  improving patient experience  metrics  physician engagement 

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“I don’t do direct patient care.”

Posted By Ahmanielle Hall, Monday, August 15, 2016
Updated: Monday, August 15, 2016

“I don’t do direct patient care.”

Every time this phrase comes up in conversations I get the tiniest cringe at the emphasis of “do.” As healthcare administrators, we are responsible for sharing the narrative of how great our patient care is and how many services we provide, yet to say one does not “do” direct patient care implies that there is no connection to what takes place on the floors daily.

Of course, not every role in healthcare physically touches the patient, but it is important that all support roles in healthcare organizations understand the impact of their contributions to the patient experience.

Correction: If you work in healthcare in any capacity, you do participate in direct patient care. Maybe it’s the use of the word direct, perhaps that should be eliminated so that there isn’t a scale of responsibility that implies there are two groups in healthcare—those employees in the trenches doing everything they possibly can to provide for the actual care of the patient and others doing everything they can without having what can be perceived as a direct stake in the patient experience.

There appears to be a divide in healthcare into clinical and administrative silos. Two different approaches to healthcare, but both are supposed to have one clear objective: make patients and their families the number one priority. There has to be a way to tie the two functions together to see not only how each group not only takes part in creating the patient experience, but also how both roles need to be symbiotic in creating value for the patient.

Everything we do as healthcare administrators has an impact on care. Whether it’s engaging employees around major strategic initiatives or doing a media story that connects our community to the services we provide, yes—we touch the patient experience. Every piece of collateral, every project, every report in some way has an effect on someone else and their ability to take care of those who trust us with their health.

Clinical teams are able to make this connection easily; however, making the patient experience real for administrative roles in an organization takes more time and effort. It is often said that it takes a special kind of person to be a physician or nurse, but it also takes special people in IT, finance, communications, human resources, parking—all of these areas need special people who see the value in what it is they contribute to healthcare organizations to make patient care effective and meaningful.

Dear healthcare provider, clinical or administrative—you provide direct patient care. You are important and you have a role that connects you in some way to the quality and delivery of patient care. What you do daily has the power to impact or detract from someone else’s experience. We all have a responsibility to provide the best interactions between colleagues, patients and families to create value. Encourage those around you to contribute their very best. Smile, be courteous, help motivate teams to see how providing their best efforts and being strategic about their work can make all the difference in patient care.

Ahmanielle Hall, MSPR serves as a Senior Communications Specialist at Cedars-Sinai. Her experience in public relations, social media marketing and internal communications has provided insight into the importance of building and strengthening relationships not only across healthcare organizations but also in the communities they serve.

Tags:  employee engagement  leadership  patient and family engagement  patient care  quality of care 

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Five Key Lessons on Employee Engagement from "The Boys in the Boat"

Posted By Kevin Sheridan, Thursday, December 4, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, December 2, 2014

I just finished reading The Boys in the Boat, a fantastic underdog story about the University of Washington’s Crew Team and their quest to win Gold at Nazi Germany’s 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. Written from interviews, diary entries and memories of the crew members, Daniel James Brown captured what it was like to beat the odds through trust and teamwork. While I read this powerful story of nine young men embarking on a personal and spiritual journey, it amazed me how often I was jolted by the similarities of what these young men faced and what most organizations face on their journey to reach best-in-class status on Employee Engagement, both in and out of the healthcare environment. 

Here are five of the key takeaways that should prove helpful to your spirited glide up the river of engagement:

1. Employee Engagement is the Toughest of Management Sports
"Rowing is the toughest of sports,” said George Pocock, the man who built the crew team’s skulls. Just like rowing, reaching the finish line of employee engagement and winning gold is not easy. It’s truly an endurance sport.

Your call to action: Make sure you have the right coach/manager to inspire your employees’ minds, hearts and bodies so that they are able to endure the patient experience journey – both the pain and win.

2. Many Companies and Employees "Come from Nothing”
The majority of this book takes place during one of the darkest chapters in American history, beginning in 1933 and through the Great Depression. This remarkable crew team had a wildly different upbringing than their heralded counterparts on the east coast at Harvard, Yale and Princeton. They were the sons of loggers, dairy farmers and ship and mine workers. They knew how hard they would need to work to come out ahead, but they were deeply motivated, largely because of their coach. He regularly reminded his team of how meaningful their journey was, and how they could achieve anything through determination.

Your call to action: Focus on meaning and purpose as key ways of engaging your team. Make sure they know how they are contributing to the success of the organization as a whole and the impact they have on the overall patient experience.

3. Persevere – Don’t Give Up
All of the most engaged companies with whom I worked during my twenty-six year consulting career were as deliberate in their strokes as The Boys in the Boat. They realized that the journey to the finish line would not be easy and that their goal was to get better and better in anticipation of the next finish line. They were fervent believers in continuous improvement. None expected to achieve excellence overnight. When faced with myriad obstacles along the way, they hunkered down and either rowed through it or used their engagement to create new workarounds.

Your call to action: Keep moving! In hard times, momentum is a manager’s best friend.

4. Teamwork and Trust
Cultures of great employee engagement are ones in which team members trust one another and aim for the best teamwork possible. There were two unforgettable passages about teamwork and trust. One is where the crew member Shorty Hunt, who sat directly behind the book’s main character Joe Rantz in the skull, says "I got your back, Joe.” That kind of reassurance, especially from peers, is extremely strong, and adds core strength to the team, as it did for Joe Rantz in nearly every race. The second was where Joe Rantz realized that he would never achieve his full potential unless he trusted the other men in the skull. It was only after Joe proffered his full trust to all of them that he realized his full potential as the anchor of strength in the skull.

Your call to action: Support employee comradery and teamwork. An "every man for himself” culture won’t enable your organization to perform better than the competition. Employee collaboration is vital in improving the patient experience among team members and their patients.

5. Synchronicity and Rhythm
"By and large, every rower in an eight-oared shell does the same thing… But there are subtle differences in what is expected of individual rowers dependent upon which seat they occupy . . . . When working well, the entire boat operates like a well-lubricated machine, with every rower serving as a vital link in a chain that powers that machine forward.” The same can be said for a well-run company with highly engaged employees. To win gold in crew, you need to have the right person in the right seat of the skull.

Your call to action: Hire the right people for the right seat, move the people who are in the wrong seat and remove anyone who is rowing in the wrong direction.

When I began reading The Boys in the Boat, I thought I was reading a story about a crew team. By the end, I realized the book is about something much more personal and meaningful. Hard work, engaged behaviors, mutual respect, trust, teamwork, perseverance and consistency of rhythm not only work well in a skull, but work equally as well in a workplace.

Kevin Sheridan has spent thirty years as a high-level Human Capital Management consultant. He has helped some of the world’s largest corporations break down detrimental processes and rebuild a culture that fosters productive engagement, earning him several distinctive awards and honors in the process. Kevin’s newest product, PEER®, is consistently recognized as a long overdue, industry-changing innovation in the field of Employee Engagement, and his most recent book, "Building a Magnetic Culture,” made the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today best-seller lists. 

Tags:  employee engagement  leadership  patient experience  teamwork 

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You Can’t “Policy” People’s Hearts

Posted By Kristin Baird, Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013

Staff texting at work? There needs to be a policy. Employees parking in prime patient areas? Make a policy. People walking past trash? Create a policy. The problem is, policies are only as effective as their enforcement and do nothing to engage the heart.

I was recently talking with a group of senior leaders about their current culture. They were clearly frustrated and felt they had come to a standstill. Things were not where they needed to be with regards to both patient satisfaction and employee engagement. They all agreed that accountability was their biggest issue. 

The group talked openly about specific behaviors that were problematic. As I probed into their frustrations, a clear picture began to emerge. Each time one of them would identify a problem, someone would declare the need for a policy. And each time, the rest of the group would agree that a policy was the way to go. I observed this happen five times during the first hour. I was curious to see if the suggestion of a policy was an isolated incident or a pattern. It was clearly a pattern.

Indeed, accountability was a problem, but the leaders’ accepted solution was always to create a policy rather than address the behaviors directly when proved to be misaligned with values or standards.

Let me be clear. There is a place for policies. Without them, we would have havoc. But when striving for a culture of excellence, leaders need more than policies. You can’t "policy” people’s hearts. I, personally, would rather foster a culture where people take ownership and do things because it’s the right thing to do rather than because it’s the policy. 

Transformational leadership is a style that engages people’s hearts and helps them feel part of the cause. To me, this is what is often missing in the quest for service excellence. A lot of time is put into establishing policies and executing tactics from a checklist of best practices, but not enough effort is put into engaging people’s hearts.

Healthcare is a service industry. The work that happens each and every day is perfect for cultivating a link to the heart. People working in healthcare are typically caring individuals with a desire to make a difference. The leader’s role is to harness this passion and help make the connection between the "job” and the individual’s sense of purpose. Tell stories. Review the history of the organization and the vision. Talk regularly about the mission, vision, and values, and help leaders at all levels learn to speak the language of these mission, vision, and values.

When the leader’s focus is on doing the right things for the right reasons, the heart of the organization swells with pride and purpose. It’s not the policies that will resonate with people’s hearts, it’s the passion. Remember that creating and sustaining a culture of excellence takes vision, structure, and, above all, a heart for service.

Kristin BairdKristin Baird is President/CEO of the Baird Group, a healthcare consulting and mystery shopping firm. The Baird Group works to improve healthcare organizations’ patient experiences from start to finish, providing a thorough assessment, qualitative and quantitative data analysis, training, and strategies to help bridge the gap between brand promise and the current reality. For more information on today’s guest blogger, visit baird-group.com

Tags:  accountability  culture  employee engagement  leadership  patient experience  policy  service 

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