Industry benchmarks show that employee engagement in healthcare is challenging under normal circumstances, and the ongoing pandemic has only made things tougher for workforces with a high risk of burnout, compassion fatigue, staff shortages and more.
Yet, some clinical settings still maintain high employee favorability, retention and morale. During a companywide employee engagement survey conducted in November 2021, one Encompass Health hospital scored a 96.3% overall favorability rating. Aside from its close proximity to the sparkling Tampa Bay, what makes this hospital such a great place to work?
Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of North Tampa in Lutz, Florida, opened to patients in April 2021. Hospital CEO Jeffrey Alexander had the unique opportunity to assemble a rock-star leadership team, who he credits with fostering a culture of trust, accountability and teamwork. Below, Jeff shares his tips for building and maintaining a happy workplace.
Set a Good First Impression, Beginning with Candidate Interviews
In healthcare, patients touring the facility have their eyes and ears wide open. They’re watching the teamwork in place, the mood of the environment and the way things are done. Employees arriving for an interview are doing the same thing. What message are you sending during the first visit, the first phone call or even the first email?
A strong first impression can lead to loyalty, which Alexander likens to engagement. Patient engagement is when someone says, “I have experienced great care here and they have an excellent reputation, so I’ll wait for a bed if I have to, because Encompass Health is the only place I want to go.” Employee engagement is when someone says, “I like the culture here; this is the only place I want to work, and I’m staying so I can be part of making it even better.”
According to survey data, Encompass Health North Tampa scored highest (98%) on the prompts “I am proud to work for this company” and “I would recommend Encompass Health to someone I care about.”
Assemble a Leadership Team that Sets the Standard
Alexander sees company values in action every day through his leadership team, but he says that isn’t an exceptional thing—it’s a base requirement. At the end of the day, your managers should be leaders that you would be comfortable having your spouse or child to work for.
“They embody our value system, which is what gets you through the door, but beyond that, these leaders are caring individuals,” Alexander said. “They take an interest in employees’ emotional wellbeing. They are making rounds every day, being a cheerleader for the patients and the staff. They want to be approachable and they aren’t simply checking a box.”
If there are discipline or performance issues among your leaders, they shouldn’t slip by the wayside. Instead, address those issues quickly. Staff are looking to leaders to set the example. What type of behavior is tolerated? What standard of care is achievable?
Acknowledge Employee Concerns and Requests
If staff don’t see action in response to their feedback, they may stop participating in feedback loops altogether. Neglecting the seemingly small issues can affect staff member’s willingness to bring up larger problems, which keeps you in the dark and leaves employees with festering concerns.
“For example, we had a beverage machine with a broken hot water dispenser. Staff told us they couldn’t make hot tea for themselves or patients without having to microwave water or walk to another kitchen area,” Alexander said. “We fixed it. And that might seem like a no-brainer, but there are workplaces out there where things don’t get fixed. And those employees probably don’t feel heard. Imagine thinking, ‘Am I important enough for you to fix this?'”
Prioritize DEI—and Make It Meaningful
Encompass Health North Tampa’s employee-led diversity committee is about fostering community and a sense of belonging, not just education about different cultures. The leadership team wants employees to feel valued and accepted so they can bring their best self to work. They also aim to address social and interpersonal obstacles that may affect some team members more than others.
“During LGBTQ Pride Month in June, there were employees who privately expressed how they felt seen and embraced because we acknowledged this observance as a hospital,” Alexander said. “It’s good to see it clicking. We want them to know that we really value everyone for who they are and what they bring to our table.”
Empower Employees to Lead the Charge
Give staff ample opportunities to be involved in initiatives beyond the scope of their daily work. This may involve creating or reviving employee-led committees and projects. At Encompass Health North Tampa, a designated committee plans philanthropic activities in addition to “fun days” where employees can wear jeans, rock their favorite collegiate T-shirts or participate in a fun activity to support a cause.
“They’ve done many things, from organizing our hospital’s presence at a local Heart Walk to running a food drive around the holiday season,” Alexander said of the committee. “Employees are invited to join these various committees during their orientation, so there’s no waiting period for jumping right into the action and becoming a stakeholder.”
Is It Time to Step up Your Engagement Efforts?
Take a hard look at your workplace’s latest employee survey data or feedback loops. What are the responses telling you? Among many other factors, engaged employees are those who feel connected to their work, supported by their managers and colleagues, and satisfied with the company’s benefits and recognition programs. Make sure you’re leveraging your company’s offerings, listening to staff and leading by example.