Last week, we had an educational Webinar on achieving a culture of employee accountability in healthcare. Our panelists included Lisa Brock, VP of HR at Overlake Hospital Medical Center, and Dr. Frederick Morgeson, Ph.D., Michigan State University. Lisa spoke about the journey Overlake took, starting in 2002, to achieve greater accountability. In 2002, they ranked below average for patient safety and satisfaction and employee engagement. Lisa knew things had to change and that the process of positive change had to start with hiring the right people for Overlake. Naturally, when you think about accountability you think about what you can do for your existing employees to increase the sense of personal responsibility and ensure you’re achieving your organizational goals. But at Overlake, the process of achieving accountability now begins before a candidate is even hired.

Overlake uses the Staff Assessment to hire employees who match and demonstrate behaviors that feed into this mission. After using it for years, Hiring Managers at Overlake have become big believers in using a behavioral assessment interview guide. To make the process easier for managers, the HSI tool automatically generates behavioral interviewing questions. Lisa and her team have also provided training and created a library on their Intranet of structured behavioral interview questions to follow, which helps ensure consistency and accuracy for the managers.

According to Dr. Morgeson, positive employee behavior should come from an organization’s culture. If employees don’t have a clear sense of their mission, it becomes hard to articulate what those behaviors are and then an organization has less clarity about who to hire. “You need to think about the behaviors that match the job and your organization’s culture,” said Dr. Morgeson. For Overlake, this means potential employees need to demonstrate behaviors that will allow them to live up to the Overlake mission. They also gave accountability a specific definition as it relates to their organization. Overlake defines employee accountability as, “A personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving results.” Defining accountability for your organization and making it part of your orientation is a good practice for achieving greater accountability. You can always refer to this definition to gauge how and if employees are living up to this agreement. In addition, as I mentioned in our previous blog post on creating a culture of employee accountability, Lisa and her team created the ICARE acronym in 2002 when they set out to change and improve employee accountability at Overlake. ICARE stands for Integrity, Compassion, Accountability, Respect and Excellence.”Hiring for fit” at Overlake means employees have the right competencies to fulfill their position, the kind of work they do makes sense for their background and personality and they understand their goals, specifically how those goals relate to the overall mission of the organization. Dr. Morgeson noted that, “This makes employees aware of the significance of the work that they do and helps improve accountability.” Overlake’s “Fit Test” (HSI) gives clear indicators as to how candidates have (or have not) demonstrated integrity, compassion, accountability, respect and excellence in past roles. This matches Dr. Morgeson’s theory on hiring for behaviors.

Happy Employees in Healthcare HR

If you struggle with things like turnover, what Dr. Morgeson has found is that people tend to quit their social environment at work not the actual job that they do. So from a work-design standpoint, giving employees the opportunity to engage in positive behaviors and making sure that you create a motivating work environment is key to achieving employee accountability and improving retention. Another strategy that Overlake Hospital Medical Center employs to achieve greater accountability is by framing their mission on a regular basis through storytelling. As Dr. Morgeson said, “The story is the thing that people remember.” This principle reminds me of creating a mnemonic in math class to help you remember something numerical, like a formula, through a story. The mnemonic provides context and that’s how you’re able to remember it. The same principle applies to creating an acronym that sums up your organization’s mission, like ICARE. The stories that employees share at Overlake demonstrate how their work matches the organization’s definition of accountability and their ICARE mission, like how they saw a colleague do something that made a patient happy.

There are plenty of ways to improve employee accountability within your organization. However, if your measurement for accountability is judged according to your organization’s mission and values, hiring the right people to begin with is critical. Where does Overlake Hospital Medical Center stand today? They are in the top quartile for patient safety, patient satisfaction and employee engagement.


About The Editorial Staff

The Editorial Staff is a team of writers with a passion for helping healthcare organizations manage their biggest and most important investment: their employees.