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Healthcare Transformation - The Importance of Employee Experience for Successful Organizations

By Donald N. Wilver, JR., MA, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, VP, Human Resources, UPMC Susquehanna

Donald N. Wilver, JR., MA, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, VP, Human Resources, UPMC Susquehanna

The rapid pace of change in the health care industry requires Human Resource professionals to be more attentive than ever to the strategic alignment of their services and initiatives to the overall drivers of their health care business. Transformational change is occurring in the industry driven by:

• Consumerism
• Value Based Purchasing and Reference-Based Pricing
• Growth in Integrated Delivery and Financing Systems (providers and insurers)
• Access to Health Information and Electronic Medical Records
• Mergers and Affiliations
• Explosive Growth in Point of Care Technologies

These dynamics require a workforce that can successfully leverage partnerships and relationships like never before. Partnerships with consumers, providers, and the communities these organizations serve. To that end, successful organizations have begun to understand the importance of Employee Experience and its connection to Employee Engagement. Positive Employee Experience creates a positive Patient Experience.

Employee Experience or EX takes a more comprehensive view of the total employee than what we traditionally think of as Employee Engagement. Although a workforce with a positive Employee Experience factor would produce a more highly engaged workforce, engagement doesn’t present the full picture and doesn’t provide a roadmap for creating a good EX. EX is often described as the cumulative perception the employees has about their daily interactions at work.

"There is no right or wrong culture for any organization, and it is often difficult to reduce to words"

In his book, “The Employee Experience Advantage”, David Morgan identifies three areas that predominantly shape all Employee Experience: Culture, Technology, and Workspace. Organizations that are able to successfully navigate the transformation of our industry today understand the importance of this three legged stool and are able to develop those components to create the best Employee Experience.

It goes without saying that culture is key in supporting either a positive or negative Employee Experience. There is no right or wrong culture for any organization, and it is often difficult to reduce to words. Culture is what we do, and generally not what we say. With this first leg of the stool it is the feeling or 'vibe' you get in the work group and you feel it throughout the organization. Employees who score high on EX related to cultural measures feel top leaders set a clear direction for the organization and operate in an ethical manner. They have managers and supervisors that show empathy, compassion, discernment, flexibility, and a personal interest in them.

In the second leg we understand that Healthcare Technology changes rapidly and the tools that we provide employees to navigate their daily tasks are just as important to their performance efficiency and effectiveness as they are to the patient experience and outcome. Understanding how we develop and implement new technology for workers and providers can’t be an afterthought in an organization that values ex-employees what technology that works for them and find value in employers who can provide the tools they need to do their jobs efficiently. As we focus on process standardization and highly organized and coordinated delivery of care it is increasingly important to remember the role individual providers play in creating a unique patient experience. Having the technology to provide that care is important to employee experience.

The third leg of Employee Experience is the Physical Workspace we proved to employees. We have all seen first-hand the change in demeanor and employee attitude when workspaces are redesigned for comfort, are visually pleasing, and are designed for the practical workflow expected to be accomplished. I walk through a beautiful, expansive lobby each day with a player piano and sunlight pouring trough large windows and there is an immediate effect on my attitude and disposition. I’m proud of my work environment, and it is an important part of my experience each day.

A further breakdown of the elements of culture, technology, and workspace might include five distinct index measures that were identified in a 2016 study by IBM and Globoforce. Those measures were:

• Belonging
• Purpose
• Achievement
• Happiness
• Vigor

Using these 5 guiding measures employers should be able to identify specific strategies to improve the Employee Experience.

Belonging and feelings of cohesiveness and shared responsibility in workgroups and teams contribute enormously to EX. What might supervisors and managers do to strengthen personal human bonds among their team? Cultivating an environment of dignity and respect for our teammates builds empathy and cohesion. Helping employees connect to the purpose of their work, and find value in the relationships they have with patients and customers is often easily done in healthcare. Most healthcare workers got into the business for the very reasons of helping others by doing work that matters and makes a difference in the lives of others. As we onboard new employees to our culture, we make a point of having them understand that “how we work is just as important as what we do” and we are purposeful in hiring folks who get that intuitively.

Healthcare employers should focus on helping create an environment where achievement is easily recognized and rewarded and where employees are able to discern their own sense of achievement through the important healing work they do with their patients. Encouraging employees to build relationship with those they serve provides a feeling of happiness, meaningful work, and purpose. Organizations that have a means to share inspirational stories of caring that connect employees to the mission and purposes of their work have an opportunity to set their culture and strengthen the EX in a meaningful way.

In healthcare we have an opportunity that few other businesses have—the ability to create a human connection to the work we do, an opportunity to become part of a patient or family’s life story through meaningful work, oftentimes lifesaving medicine. When we empower and encourage our employees to create those connections, we not only create a great employee experience, but we also create a great patient experience. After all, employee experience correlated directly to patient experience. Employees with a positive work experience will create patients with a positive patient experience.