Improving Patient Satisfaction Through Employee Engagement
If Mama Ain’t Happy
Here in Tennessee, we have a saying: “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Let’s turn a blind eye towards the horrendous grammar, and focus on the point of the southern adage. It’s a common stereotype of southern homes – the mother of the house sets the tone for all of those who walk through the door. If mama is unhappy, all those in the house are going to be unhappy, too. Likewise, if “mama” is happy, everyone else in the house will be, too. The same principle can be applied to healthcare facilities – if the employees that make up a healthcare facility aren’t happy, chances are high nobody is happy, including the patients. The industry of healthcare is unique in that the consumers (patients) interact with several different points of contact during a single visit. It’s crucial for healthcare leaders and employers to ensure each and every one of those points of contact lead to an overall satisfactory patient experience.
Higher Patient Satisfaction Levels
Sara Heath highlights the connection between employer engagement and patient satisfaction in her blog, “Employee Engagement Tied to Higher Patient Satisfaction Levels.” (1) She writes in regards to research performed by the Partnership for Public Service and Boston Consulting Group, “The analysis, which looked at patient experience data from over 150 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers between 2016 and 2018, found that improving the employee experience results in increases in patient satisfaction, improvements in call center efficiency, and reductions in nurse turnover. Improvements in these three areas tie together for an overall better patient experience.” (1) Her article is targeted towards hospitals, however it translates well to all healthcare facilities. In summary she writes, “It is the right thing to do for hospitals to make their employees happier and create good will. However, it will also have implications for the patient experience, helping organizations to deliver on patient-centered and value-based care goals.” (1) The research indicates a half-point improvement in patient satisfaction scores for every one-point increase in employee engagement. If the goal is for your patients to have a satisfactory experience, the starting point is with your employees’ work experience.
It’s About People:
Viji George and Laura Massey define staff engagement as improved trust, communication, and satisfaction in their article, “Proactive Strategy to Improve Staff Engagement.” (2) They highlight problematic points such as leader availability and visibility, communication, and staff recognition. Within their article, George and Massey quote Dr. Patricia Hickey, “The health of the work environment includes authentic leadership, true collaboration, meaningful recognition, and effective decision-making.” (2) Despite the meticulous and extensive task list that comes with the job, healthcare is about people at its core. Investing in your employees as humans and prioritizing their well-being will pay off in more ways than one.
Three Basic Needs
In her blog, “Three Ways to Increase Employee Engagement in a Remote Workplace,” Amy Anderson walks her readers through three basic needs all employees possess, according to Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Truth About Employee Engagement. (3)
- To be known by their manager.
She writes, “Lencioni states that an employee’s relationship with their direct manager is the most important determinant to employee satisfaction, more than pay, benefits, perks, and work-life balance.” That’s worth reading again.
- To know that their job matters to someone, in some way.
Anderson explains that it’s the leader’s job to cast vision and connect the dots for their employees regarding the work they do and who it impacts. Even the seemingly most meaningless tasks have meaning and make an impact.
- To know whether they are doing their job well.
Anderson writes, “Setting clear and specific goals, measuring progress, and providing feedback keeps employees engaged and energized.”
Seek to Understand
In his E-briefing article, “Scientific Considerations of Employee Engagement during COVID-19,” Nolan Miller writes, “Leaders who seek to understand exactly what their employees need and take subsequent action will reap the short- and long-term benefits of more engaged employees and higher-quality patient care.” (4) There’s no doubt the COVID-19 pandemic caused a massive shift in employees’ needs and well-being. Miller’s solution is for job resources, in turn, to also increase. It’s more crucial than ever that employers prioritize understanding what their employees need in order to optimize engagement. Miller defines employee engagement as, “[T]he simultaneous employment of a person’s ‘preferred self’ through physical, cognitive, and emotional means. When an employee commits their preferred self to their role, not only does the organization benefit from their high-quality work, but the employee’s well-being is fostered through emotional and cognitive health.” (4) The difficult challenges presented by COVID-19 also provide unique opportunities to engage, equip, and empower employees. Miller states that some of the ways that healthcare organizations are helping employees during COVID-19 include:
- Providing staff with a pantry of groceries available at wholesale cost.
- Offering free meals to staff during the work day.
- Holding meetings to express appreciation and allow employees to ask questions.
- Providing resources for mental and/or spiritual care.
- Encouraging employees to engage in stress-reducing exercises.
- Budget a sum of money for appreciation bonuses.
- Extending allotted staff break periods.
- Meet with your leaders frequently to discuss how to better support the staff.
In conclusion, I’ll leave you with two questions Miller encourages healthcare employers to ask themselves:
“Do we fully understand the unique demands our staff are facing?”
“Do we have a strategy to counter each demand with resources?”
Investing in your staff’s wellbeing and wholeness will equip them to be able to do the same for your patients. We’ve all been on the receiving end of a tired, sarcastic, or overwhelmed employee whether it be a nurse in a physician’s office or the cashier at the grocery store. Whether right or wrong, people bring their experiences into their jobs on a daily basis and the consumers often receive the brunt of misplaced stress or frustration. It’s more crucial than ever to know where your employees are coming from. Become aware of their needs and implement strategies to help meet those needs. Your patients will take notice and your healthcare facility will reap the long- and short-term benefits.
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Jerry L. Stone