Last week, I wrote about a session at the ACHE 2012 Congress in Chicago where Beryl Companies CEO Paul Spiegelman and Britt Berrett, president of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, argued that employee satisfaction should be a primary institutional focus for hospitals, and can be a powerful driver clinical, financial and patient-related goals. The blog got quite a bit of response from readers, which I'm sharing today.

Bob Allen, vice president of communications and government affairs at Crouse Hospital in Syracuse, N.Y., wrote to tell me his hospital has focused on employee engagement as a key strategic goal since 2003:

"Our CEO, Dr. Paul Kronenberg, has a very simple mantra: if we do the right thing for our employees (as well as our patients and physicians), operational and financial success will follow.

Crouse's commitment to being an 'employer of choice' is reflected in our vision [statement] which states that we will build a work environment where all are valued, respected and provided with opportunities for personal and professional growth. This is demonstrated in numerous ways — from how we recruit team members, to how we train staff, to how we provide training, educational and leadership development opportunities, to how we recognize staff for a job well done. Crouse's culture today not only expects but requires participation, input, transparency and empowerment from team members at all levels of the organization. As a result of our servant-leadership focus and drive for continual improvement, Crouse has increased its employee satisfaction survey results each year since 2004, and our positioning in the Avatar national employee satisfaction database has risen from the 73rd percentile (2007) to the 91st percentile (2011).

Actively listening to employees is another way Crouse fosters staff engagement, which in turn leads to operational and financial success. One way we do this is through our Ideas for Excellence (IFE) program. Approximately 150 IFEs are submitted each year, 65 percent of which are implemented. Each submission is answered with a personal letter of thanks from the CEO and recognition by management and their co-workers.

And while we are in a serious business, we do like to have fun from time to time. This coming Monday evening, for example, we'll hold our annual Crouse Choice Awards event, where 30 awards will be presented to staff and departments who have gone above and beyond in service to their colleagues and patients. It's the Crouse version of the Academy Awards, complete with klieg lights and a red carpet!

By the way, we also do our best to weed out the whiners, losers and jerks. We try to target them right at the start of the interviewing process by asking them to sign a values pledge. If they do not sign, or cannot sign for whatever reason, we strongly suggest they apply at one of our competitor hospitals… we even give them the name of a recruiter!"

Diane M. Henry, aclinic scheduling coordinator at Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital in Milwaukee, wrote to tell me she recently helped organize an out-of-work gathering with her colleague, Jessica Bevan, the hospital's clinic manager:

"We often do pot luck luncheons — but due to our size we are never able to sit and enjoy each other. Yesterday we did. Jessica found a day where we could be away from the clinic for an hour or so. Our staff was kept in the dark and thought this was just going to be some kind of special meeting. We had a beach theme — using the 50th anniversary of the Beach Boys making music. We were far away from our clinic, we had pizza and soda, decorated the conference room, had simple prizes (sunglasses, flip-flops, summer hats, etc.) played a few games. There was so much laughter… everyone was engaged and sharing with each other. I hadn't seen so many smiling faces at work in a very long time! It doesn't take a lot to make people feel appreciated — internal engagement, being inclusive produces a happy, well-connected staff. We do recognize that if we take good care of our people those same people with take excellent care of our patients!"

And finally, Judy. L. Foley, president and CEO of Balance Concierge, commented on the role work-life balance plays in employee satisfaction:

"I can't agree more with Paul Spiegelman and Britt Berrett in their collective thoughts relating to the employee first framework for engagement. Certainly keeping the right people on your team is critical to success, however, there is more to the ultimate engagement equation. In a time when we have asked people to do more with less, it's time for more hospital administrators to understand that work life balance is more important than ever. How can hospitals create a "this is just for you" kind of environment for the caregivers of their organizations? Demonstrating true concern for an individual and their family seems like a monumental task for the time-starved managers in health care. Some are effective, and most experience heartburn over this daunting endeavor. More and more organizations are realizing their Talent ROI is as important a metric as the other easier to measure ROIs like volume, and expense reduction etc. Quinn Studer conducted a study a couple of years ago with almost 8,000 nurses representing many different types of organizations. 63 percent of the respondents indicated they would use concierge services if offered. In a day when the government offers incentives for hospitals to improve the patient experience as measured and reported through the HCAHPS survey, some hospitals are taking a step forward and asking "how can we serve our staff in new and more meaningful ways?"

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