WHAT'S ALLTHE BUZZ ABOUT "EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT?"
Ever noticed the difference between a visit to a veterinarian's office and a doctor's office? The smiling girl or guy behind the vet counter (usually wearing a smock or shirt with the practice logo) greets you and your pet with enthusiasm, calling your dog by name or reaching out to pet your cat.
Contrast that with the reception you get at your doctor's office. It's not uncommon that the individual looks up and greets you with, "Name?" or "Who are you here to see?"
Why the big difference? It's a matter of employee engagement. Folks who work in a vet's office usually love animals. It's obvious that they enjoy being around dogs, cats, birds, turtles, and snakes (although that may be going a bit too far!) On the other hand, employees who work in physician offices are there often primarily for the paycheck not because they love people.
It's been documented by the Gallup Organization in a poll conducted in 2005 that only 29% of employees are energized and committed at work, in other words, "engaged." (You may have already noticed!) More distressing is that the data showed 54% are effectively "neutral" - they show up and do what's expected, but little more. That leaves 17% who are "disengaged." They've quit - but not left. They've quit and stayed! (You've probably noticed this too.)
Why is this an issue? Because it's only the 29% who are engaged and committed to making the patient encounter a positive experience. These folks also contribute to the positive word-of-mouth referrals and patient loyalty your practice relies on for future growth and revenue.
So what's the answer to creating more employee engagement in your practice? It's a two part process. First ask, then fix.
Step one: Conduct a simple Staff Member Survey to identify who's pulling with you and who's just not on board at all.
The neutrals and disengaged folks aren't lost souls. Many times they've tuned out because they have the impression that no one cares about them, their opinions or their contributions. A Staff Member Survey tells them management is interested after all. Your employee survey can assess their perceptions of what's working well and what's not working at all. Further, when all members of the practice, including managers and providers are polled, disparities in perceptions come through loud and clear.
In addition to typical questions regarding working conditions, the SullivanLuallin Staff Member Survey asks unique "mirror" questions to compare perceptions among physicians, managers and employees. "Mirror" questions pinpoint specific areas where impressions differ. For example, typical "agree-disagree" statements are phrased like this:
Physicians: I praise employees for good performance
Managers/Staff: Physicians praise employees for good performance
Needless to say, when there is a major difference of opinion between physicians and staff members, it can lead directly to a concerted effort by providers to be more appreciative of staff efforts.
To view a sample of SullivanLuallin's Staff Member Survey, click here.
Step two: Develop a work plan that includes employees in finding solutions.
At the University of Florida, Jacksonville, Tim O'Connor, Training and Development Manager, has a system in which department managers enlist their employees in finding cooperative ways to improve "engagement."
"We give each of our 54 managers summary reports on how their employees responded to the survey," Tim says. "Then we ask them to select a survey item each quarter and involve their staff members in a team process to analyze what's behind the scores, and build an action plan for raising them."
The team approach transforms what used to be a solitary managerial process into a consensus-building activity which makes staff members part-authors of the action plan. "There's lots of research to support the team strategy," says Tim. "People who are involved in the plan are more likely to support it - and that raises the likelihood of its success."