When people enter an MBA in healthcare program, it is usually with the assumption that they will eventually help provider organizations become fiscally stronger through improving strategy and operations. What they may not realize is that they can have a deep influence on patient treatment and outcomes, as Gallup consultant Chris Groscurth points out.
Managers in any business affect the performance of the organization’s employees. Good managers can drive improvement, nurture higher morale, and encourage better results. Bad managers can leave workers feeling disaffected and unwilling or even unable to give their positions the energy and dedication necessary for success. A main difference between the two is a focus on employee engagement. According to Groscurth, managing for engagement is as necessary in healthcare as in any other industry:
For healthcare managers in acute and non-acute care settings, actively managing for engagement means using insights from employee engagement surveys to have meaningful conversations with employees. It also means setting strong goals that encourage positive change and foster individual and team engagement. To succeed at these tasks, managers must make engagement a priority and continue learning new tactics to engage and strengthen their team.
The need for engagement in a healthcare setting makes sense. Workers remain people no matter what the industry and there is still an employer-employee relationship that needs attention. Groscurth suggests a number of steps that can boil down to the following:
- Understand what you’re trying to achieve and be ready to regularly communicate with employees. Part of the communications process should be emphasizing the purpose of what you ask people to do, otherwise things can seem arbitrary to staff, and they may not pay heed. Let people know what a given action offers to them, to the patients, and to the organization as a whole.
- Set realistic goals to improve clinical practices. Any goal should be concrete and something that lends itself to measurement, such as improving patient satisfaction or reducing readmissions or in-hospital infection rates. Involve the staff in deciding how best to address the issue and achieve the desired result. Consider, too, asking what they think the biggest problems are for patients. Employees dealing with patients on a daily basis might hear concerns that won’t be obvious from analyzing data.
- Once the goal and approach are set, keep communications open with employees. Ask whether they have the equipment, supplies, and support they need and whether what you expect is clear to them.
Managing employee engagement is a process, not an action. Communication is constant, as must be respect for staff members. Help them know that they have the backing and recognition to do outstanding work and you’ll be amazed at what is possible.