Boost Engagement by Finding the Right People and Focusing on the Right Things

Added on Jun 22, 2017

A Winning Game Plan: Boost Engagement by Finding the Right People and Focusing on the Right Things
By Diana Mahoney
Industry Edge June 2017

When Fortune magazine named Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein to its 2017 list of World’s Greatest Leaders, Martin Wright, senior manager of Strategic Consulting for Press Ganey, was over the moon, and not just because he’s a Cubs fan.

As the engine behind the turnaround that led the long-beleaguered Cubs to their first World Series win in 108 years, Epstein developed a recipe for cultural transformation using ingredients that can—and should—be adopted and adapted by health care executives to improve the safety, quality, experience and value of the care their organizations deliver.

“Epstein is a data-driven guy, so he uses data to identify the best players based on talent. But statistics are not enough to create a sustainable culture; for that, he focuses on character, discipline and chemistry,” Wright explained during a keynote address at the 2017 Press Ganey Regional Education Symposium in San Francisco.

To determine whether a talented player will be a good match for the organization, Epstein directs his scouts to explore each player’s character and report back with answers to certain questions, including
the following.
  • Give three examples of how the player handled adversity on the field.
  • How does he treat people when no one's looking?
  • How does he treat people he doesn't necessarily have to treat well, perhaps people who have been unfair to him?
  • What motivates him—is he mostly externally motivated?
“If the scouts come back with answers that don’t match the organizational culture, it doesn’t matter how much talent the player has; he won’t be chosen,” Wright explained. “This is exactly how it should be in health care. We need to get the right people on board before we can get to the ultimate goal of reducing suffering.”

How do you know whether your workforce is made up of the “right” people? Look around, Wright said. “There are ways to measure and assess engagement,” he explained. “Engaged employees have a strong emotional bond with the organization, they are willing to put in additional discretionary effort to meet patients’ needs, they co-own their own engagement and they demonstrate commitment to improve.”

When the workforce demonstrates these traits, “they are in the best position to help the organization deliver on the promise of safe, high-quality care that meets patients’ needs and reduces their suffering,” Wright said.

When caregivers are not committed to the organization and its mission, or if they are emotionally “checked out,” they are a drain on the organization, they can destroy the culture of the team and performance across outcomes suffers, Wright said.

Not only does this make sense intuitively—engaged, committed employees do better work—but the data prove it, Wright said, pointing to recent research described in Press Ganey’s 2017 Strategic Insights report demonstrating the links between physician, nurse and employee engagement and measures of health care safety, quality, experience and cost.

And if your workforce is not engaged, or if there are pockets of engagement but not consistent engagement across the organization, take corrective action.

“Leaders should look to their organizational culture and focus on building the foundation necessary to drive engagement,” Wright said, noting that the building blocks of this cultural foundation include the following.
  • Mutual respect, which can be demonstrated through trust and empowerment

"The goal is to have an environment in which service and behavior standards are clearly set, but each individual has the freedom to work within the standards in a way that makes sense," Wright said. "It's important to trust people to do the jobs you hired them to do. When you create this type of empowerment in an organization, that's when mutual respect takes hold and that's when you build an engaged culture."

  • Meaningful work

“The data show that putting patients first drives engagement and improves the patient experience. That tells us that when we connect people, or reconnect them, to the reason they were drawn to work in health care, it improves the well-being of the employees and patients’ perceptions about the care being delivered,” said Wright. One way to nurture this connection is to continually talk about the “why” as it relates to the patient, he said.

  • Open communication

Communication is critical to developing an organization-wide understanding of and commitment to the organization’s mission, and when leaders communicate openly and honestly, employees are more confident that the organization is being steered in the right direction, Wright explained. Also, two-way communication between employees and managers builds trust and mutual respect.

  • Effective processes

“Focus on things that make it more challenging for people to do their work—and eliminate them,” Wright said. “I use a quote from Muhammad Ali to explain this: ‘It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.’ Think about it. If a nurse has to walk 300 yards to get a blanket for a patient, and they get there only to realize the blanket warmer is empty, that’s an example of a pebble that can grate on culture, and it’s avoidable by putting processes in place to make sure it doesn't happen again."

By focusing on the workforce and building an engaged, supportive organizational culture, health care leaders can help ensure that all the members of their team are ready to bring their “best selves” to work every day to reduce patient suffering, which is the health care equivalent of winning the World Series.