Want to Improve Morale? Try Getting Around

We at Press Ganey get a lot of questions from critical access hospital executives wanting to know what they can do to improve employee relations. It’s a key concern, especially because poor staff morale has a proven link with lower patient satisfaction scores, employee retention and recruitment. It also affects a hospital’s reputation in smaller communities, where people tend to know others who work in the facility.

I usually tell executives to focus on these two things: Active listening to employees and recognizing jobs well done.

On the first solution, establish and keep up places where you can go to hear employees’ suggestions, requests, concerns and ideas – a listening post such as a coffee club or a leadership round. One of the key drivers of morale in health care organizations is satisfying staffers’ need to have influence on things that affect their jobs and feeling as though leaders listen to them. If a leader does nothing else, he or she should sit down and develop five key listening posts that cover all aspects of their employee base regularly – and make sure to attend these events rigorously. So, if each week one of the leaders hosts a “coffee club” with employees, make sure it is held no matter what, even if the department of health is at the front door.

Of course, you also need to respond to employee input. Have a regular means of follow-up communication, either through a newsletter, a manager or in person, describing the action taken based on employee concerns.

Then there is genuine recognition. I don’t mean sending out an email that says “thank you for what you do.” I mean leaders and managers genuinely reaching out to individuals and acknowledging that what they are doing is making a difference. If you notice an employee holding the door open for a visitor, go out of your way to mention that at a department meeting.

Both of these steps require that leaders and managers do two things: Get out of the offices and walk around and look and listen. Keep your eyes wide open and ears even more so, and close the loop by making sure employees know they have been heard.

You don’t need always need survey data to help you decide what to do.