We recently had an opportunity to speak withemployeeengagement Vicki Hess, RN, MS, CSP who is a leading expert on employee engagement in the healthcare sector. In this two-part blog series, we’ll learn more about ways that HR and learning and development can build a culture of engagement within their organizations.

Employee engagement is a popular topic in healthcare, but HR teams can’t just decide one day that they are going to create a culture of engagement. According to Vicki Hess, “Employee engagement shouldn’t be promoted as the ‘flavor of the month.’ Instead, it’s more effective to integrate techniques that will boost employee engagement into the organization’s existing processes, technologies, and systems.”

One way to achieve this objective is by linking employees’ work with the organization’s broader mission and goals. Healthcare HR and learning and development staff are in a unique position where they can bridge the gap between departments and teams and the organization’s “bigger picture” aspirations. Hess illustrated this with two examples.

“I was recently working with telemetry nursing unit to define team behaviors. I happened to mention my meeting with the learning and development director. She mentioned that the hospital had defined organization-wide behaviors and one aspect of performance appraisals is evaluating how team behaviors reinforce those organizational behaviors. Yet, in all the discussions I’d had with the nursing unit, no one brought up the organizational behaviors,” said Hess. Since the frontline managers are so focused on patient care, they are often not as enmeshed with the organizational behaviors as they should be. Yet, a strong source of employee engagement is feeling that’s one’s work contributes to the organization’s success. Learning and development, as well as HR can play a vital role in educating managers about organizational goals and the value of linking those to team behaviors and employee performance.

Another way that HR and learning and development can build employee engagement is in the area of compliance training. “All too often, we assign healthcare employees mandatory training, but we don’t explain why this training is necessary or how it will benefit the employees,” said Hess. It’s important to connect mandatory training with patient care and safety and to explain how this training will help employees do their jobs better. “One hospital created a nursing strategic plan that connected each strategic initiative with patient stories. Why can’t we do the same thing in HR and discuss the positive patient impact that results from training,” asked Hess.

It’s possible for HR teams to create moments that reinforce employee engagement throughout the entire employee lifecycle, from recruiting all the way through performance evaluations. In the next blog post, we’ll learn how interview techniques can be used to identify candidates who will contribute to a culture of engagement.

To hear more insights from Vicki Hess, register for HealthcareSource’s 2014 Talent Symposium. Vicki will be a keynote speaker, along with many other inspiring presenters.

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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.