The Medical Group Management Association’s most recent MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders: “Have you done anything in the past year to boost employee morale?” The majority (88%) answered “yes,” while 12% responded “no.”
Respondents who answered “yes” were then asked to elaborate on their answer. Here are a few steps healthcare leaders took to boost employee morale:
- Engaging staff in identifying pain points in their work and implementing solutions to reduce or eliminate them. Hung up staff feedback boards to recognize employee efforts, employee of the month, enhanced job training/advancements.
- We started posting employee photos with recognition cards that patients turned in praising them on the bulletin board. We are holding a March Meatless Monday challenge to get staff engaged and all who complete will be entered in prize drawing.
- Started sending personal cards of thanks from the VP when I am told of something great they do. Started a monthly (or so) blog to communicate updates and general news. Bringing in a food truck gratis every few months. Purchased personalized name plates with their name and title/job description for everyone.
- Companywide meetings for feedback from employees’ perspective, days celebrating them.
The poll was conducted on March 3, 2020, with 1,045 applicable responses.
A key to keeping employee morale up is providing opportunities for them to ask questions and provide input. As an aspect of building a positive culture, open and transparent communication helps employees understand the rationale behind decisions made, including the expected benefits.
For practice leaders, their behaviors and attitudes are key to providing employees an environment in which they feel safe enough to express their ideas. Leaders should be humble, asking employees questions to tap their wisdom. Showing interest in the insight of others leads to better outcomes and more realistic expectations for all employees.
Case study: UCHealth
UCHealth is an academic healthcare system with more than 23,000 employees, 12 hospitals and more than 100 clinics.
Matthew Gosney, EdD, vice president of organizational development at UCHealth, and his team knew that higher levels of employee satisfaction typically lead to better performance and better patient outcomes. With the goal of increasing employee satisfaction, they decided to evolve the employee voice process at UCHealth.
When choosing an employee feedback platform, the UCHealth team needed a solution that could help a large organization navigate various locations and communities, as well as multiple types of employees. They wanted to be able to ask and interpret open-ended questions. They also wanted their already busy staff to be able to take the assessments quickly and easily, with the ability to compare responses from various teams and business units.
After evaluating vendors, UCHealth decided on a crowdsourced employee voice platform and partnered to come up with what they call the “Employee Voice Model,” with the following desired outcomes:
- Engagement: A workforce excited about working for UCHealth who give their best efforts.
- Trust and transparency: Employees should know and trust that someone listens to their input.
- Immediacy: Employees should know that their suggestions or comments are acted on.
- Alignment: Maintaining communication and alignment throughout the organization is critical.
Crowdsourcing enabled UCHealth to reduce the number of questions on their employee survey from 45 to just six. “We chose six questions that were highly actionable and gave us a quick opportunity to engage our employees and get feedback fast,” Gosney said. “The pulse was open for two weeks and then we moved into the next phase, which we called the engagement summit. We brought leaders together in a forum led by the chief executive officer (CEO) in their region for a root cause analysis and best practice conversation.”
With a CEO-led conversation, employees knew their feedback was important and the problems that needed to be addressed. It also modeled for organizational leaders how to have similar follow-up conversations with their staff.
Gosney explained, “A month after that first crowdsourced Employee Voice pulse, leaders went back to employees and asked, ‘Has anyone talked to you about your Employee Voice results?’ This created transparency and accountability. Then we repeated the process all over again. The second check-in we asked, ‘Have any changes been implemented, and what impact has it had on your team?’”
The entire process of the UCHealth pilot ran in a very abbreviated time frame. “We had very little expectation that we were going to drive engagement noticeably; really, we were looking at an action check-in,” Gosney said. “We were, frankly, astounded to see that we did improve employee engagement by a notable amount, and we improved across the board. Across all of our questions, we saw improvement between 2% and 4%. That includes ‘enthusiasm,’ which is actually the engagement question: ‘Are you enthusiastic about working for UCHealth?’ There we saw 4% improvement.” Employee Voice improved engagement throughout the organization in a very short amount of time. UCHealth also saw an increase in patient satisfaction scores as engagement increased.
Over the past two years, UCHealth’s Employee Voice process delivered an 8% increase in overall engagement, a 13% increase in connection to the organization’s mission and a 15% increase in leader trust. “What these results demonstrate is that engagement truly is a function of a leader’s willingness and commitment to engage in transparent, authentic conversations with their team,” Gosney said. “And when those conversations lead to tangible action, the results can be extraordinary.”
Tips for healthcare leaders to boost morale
The more relevant and actionable the employee input, the more valuable it is to the organization and the more likely leaders will respond positively, which reinforces the continued expression of employee voice. Here are some actions healthcare leaders can take to create a virtuous cycle of actionable insight:
- Be transparent: Employee voice will be more relevant the better an employee understands his/her position in the organization and big picture items such as key performance drivers and indicators, customers’ expectations, and the organization’s competitors.
- Create purpose: Employees need to understand the top organizational priorities and appreciate how the work they do contributes to achieving those priorities. When employees have a “line of sight” their inputs can be more on target.
- Develop employees: When employees are equipped with the proper training and resources to analyze performance, generate and test improvement ideas, their inputs are more likely to be based upon data and good forethought.
- Encourage communication: Organizational leaders demonstrate genuine interest in employees by providing opportunities for them to openly share their actionable insights about business activities and goals. Actionable insights include facts and evidence, a clear context for application, and specific actions that should be taken.
- Recognize contributions: Employees are encouraged to offer ideas when they observe the organization demonstrating appreciation for those ideas. This recognition can also reinforce the kind of ideas that provide organizational value.
- “Factors of a positive culture: Behavior modeling, communication, engagement, & empowerment” (MGMA Research & Analysis report)
- “To keep top talent, talk to employees about their workplace needs” (MGMA insight article)
- “Time for a culture check” (MGMA insight article)
Would you like to join our polling panel to voice your opinion on important practice management topics? MGMA Stat is a national poll that addresses practice management issues, the impact of new legislation and related topics. Participation is open to all healthcare leaders. Results of other polls and information on how to participate in MGMA Stat are available at: mgma.com/stat
Have questions about organizational culture? MGMA Consulting can help.