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!
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.