'This is a time that can make or break our teams': A challenging year reveals strengths for our organization to build on.
The results of the 2020 We Want to Know Survey are clear: the fundamentals of our culture are strong, and now is the time to build on our success.
We took the We Want to Know employee engagement survey in the early months of COVID-19, in the midst of one of the most challenging years CoxHealth has seen.
Participation hit 90% and we achieved the largest percentile jump ever, from the 43rd to 57th percentile nationally.
Results on all survey questions rose or stayed the same from last year.
In those positive scores, one result stands out: senior leadership. The leadership composite score placed Coxealth in the 73rd percentile nationwide.
Four questions in that composite score, which includes trust in senior leadership and communication through major change, jumped by more than .25. For the record, a change of .02 is statistically significant.
“This is significant progress,” Hedgpeth says. “I can’t underscore enough the movement we had this year."
The statement “If a major change occurs, I can count on senior leadership to explain why” rose by .3, which is .38 above the national norm. That score puts CoxHealth in the 79th percentile nationwide.
“It just reflects the job Steve (Edwards) has done. And what we have done with Incident Command and regular updates,” says Brett Stiles, HR’s Organizational Effectiveness Coordinator and guru of WWTK numbers. “That has all gone a long way toward keeping morale up.”
There is no question these are difficult times, but we are in this together. We are leaning on one another more than ever. HR leaders are determined to use that reality to engage employees and reinforce the teamwork.
“Our scoring this year reflects the faith our workforce has in this organization’s ability to watch out for our employees,” Hedgpeth says. “It gets us on a solid footing to distance our culture from the average health system. We will use this opportunity to continue driving toward our goal to be the best in the country as a place to work.”
Where we are doing well
Across the board, the overall raw score for the system rose from 4.81 in 2019 to 4.92 in 2020.
In addition to high scores on senior leadership and explaining major change, we made major improvements on questions such as:
- Employees are treated with dignity and respect.
- I have not seriously considered leaving CoxHealth for another job.
- I believe my benefits are competitive.
The scores reflect confidence that we are on the right track as an organization.
On “CoxHealth is taking the right steps to keep its competitive edge in the marketplace,” we scored .29 above the national norm.
Statements like “We have adequate staff in my dept. to do our jobs well” and “I feel my job is secure at CoxHealth” also rose vs. 2019 and are above national norms.
“Those scores are a testament to everything we have done to hold on to our people and make sure we have enough staff to get through this,” Hedgpeth says.
“They reflect that in our employees’ greatest time of apprehension, our leadership made doubly sure we would do everything possible to ensure our employees remained gainfully employed – even if their normal role wasn’t available.”
So where are the opportunities? We are making progress on “working well together,” “understanding what I need to do to be successful” and “there is good cooperation between my department and others.”
Teamwork and clear definitions of success are vital, and that’s where we will focus in the coming year.
Our survey partner, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co, studies our results and determines where our focus should be to get the most impact for our engagement efforts. Gallagher identifies “recommended priorities.” If we improve in those priority areas, scores on a large number of questions are likely to rise.
Based on Gallagher’s analysis, leaders will build action plans around three key questions:
- I understand what I need to do to be successful in my job
- My accomplishments are recognized
- The people I work with work well together
Engaging teams for action planning
The three recommend priorities cover a lot of territory. How can teams improve those scores? That’s where action planning comes in.
Leaders will work with their teams to dive deep into the scores and brainstorm the best ways to make improvements.
It’s a matter of using tools like WWTK, LEM and rounding to keep employees engaged.
“If someone doesn’t know what success looks like in their job and they don’t feel like their supervisor is recognizing them, they will go somewhere else,” Hedgpeth says.
In a recent virtual session for leaders, Hedgpeth and Stiles offered advice on each of the points:
It is critical that teams understand what they need to do to be successful. The WWTK action planning process is a way for supervisors to spell out what success looks like and what metrics will be measured.
That, in turn, can give everyone clarity. It’s easier for all of us to be satisfied in our work if expectations are spelled out and we know what targets we are trying to hit.
Leaders can then use rounding and 90-day planning to keep their teams on track.
Similarly, leaders need to make sure they take time to recognize the effort their teams are putting in.
What kind of recognition is your team looking for? Stiles says leaders must engage with staff members personally to find out. Different members of a team may interpret the question differently.
“You have to ask, ‘how does someone like being recognized?’” Stiles says. “Some people may want to be called out in huddles, others may want recognition one on one. Bottom line: if someone is doing a good job, tell them.”
Working well together
This may be one of the toughest areas to address, but we have a lot of progress to build on.
“We have come up quite a bit and our scores are nothing to scoff at,” Hedgpeth says. “We can always get better and if we want to be at the 90th percentile, we will have to work to do that.”
Leaders can use action planning to ask their teams: “where are the gaps?” and “how can we work better together?”
Discussing the survey responses as a group can help teams identify the best way forward, while making sure everyone has a voice.
“There are all kinds of books on building effective teams, study guides and team-building exercises out there,” Stiles says. “Leaders need to get everyone involved in the brainstorming phase for how to improve teamwork.”
Now is the time to engage our teams
With the work of managing COVID-19 on top of the regular work of health care, it is more important than ever for supervisors to actively engage their team members.
Leaders need to connect with staff, and sure they are supporting them – both in their daily work and in the staffer’s larger goals.
“Supervisors have to ask themselves: Am I making a personal connection with my people? Am I invested in their growth and development?” Hedgpeth says. “These are very important things that can help us create an engaged culture.”
In a stressful time, doing the little things can make a big difference. Checking in on your colleagues, listening to their concerns and offering support are vital to our success.
“This is a time that can make or break our teams,” Stiles says. “Hopefully, we will see an end of COVID-19, but this will wear on everyone. We need to ensure that employees are taking care of themselves and help them any way we can. If we can make it through this, we can make it through anything.”