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To Protect Employee Morale, Show Them Their Value—Today

You may have had this experience before.

Maybe your organization’s leadership developed an exciting new initiative to improve the patient experience. It seemed promising, and even enjoyed an initial burst of enthusiasm from staff. However, before too long the initiative lost its novelty, and standards slipped back to the previous status quo.

That can be frustrating and disheartening to see. It also raises the question: how can healthcare leadership prevent this from happening?

For any large organization, transformational improvement is a long haul, and requires persistent effort over a long period of time. How can leaders sustain institutional momentum to bring about true, enduring change?

Looking Too Far Ahead

Conventional wisdom says that business leaders should avoid short-term thinking and instead focus on the long-term implications of their decisions. In most cases, that’s sound advice. But sometimes, a myopic focus on the future can sap a workforce’s motivation.

This is according to management guru Jim Collins, who, in his book Good to Great, describes how “Futurism” from the C-suite can crush employee morale.

As described by Collins, management Futurism entails permanently pointing down the road. Rewards, accolades, and results are always deferred. Employees, according to this philosophy, should work hard today in order to see a positive impact years from now.

The problem is, if employees don’t see any tangible effects of their efforts, it’s very difficult for them to sustain motivation for that long. More often than not, their enthusiasm fizzles out before the long-term goals come into view.

How Short-Term Success Leads to Long-Term Change

Collins found a solution to the problem after consulting with Jim Herring, who led grocery giant Kroger through a very difficult era of consolidation and change. Here’s how Herring kept Kroger’s employees motivated to see the job through:

“We presented what we were doing in such a way that people saw our accomplishments. We tried to bring our plans to successful conclusions step by step, so that the mass of people would gain confidence from successes, not just the words.”

This is the antidote to Futurism. Regular, incremental signs of success are what assure employees that their hard work is paying off—so if they’re going to keep working into the future, they need to see results now.

Enter Real-time Feedback

Here is where real-time feedback comes in. It offers immediate results. Patient comments tell healthcare employees right away whether or not their processes are effective, their connections are genuine, or their service is up to snuff.

With real-time feedback, when staff members do good work, they get instant satisfaction from complimentary patients. And the accumulation of little successes like that can help them sustain their efforts over time.

The Real-time Impact at CareMount Medical

 Jason Ruda, MS, CareMount Medical’s Director of Patient Experience, has seen the impact of Real-time feedback first-hand.

In 2017, he and his team supported the operational efforts of CareMount Medical’s Population Health Team in a Practice Transformation initiative, with the goal of improving patient-centered care.  Knowing that timely data is the key to successful decision-making, Mr. Ruda was confident that the Real-time feedback solution from NRC Health would help his team offer the necessary information to key decision-makers as they evaluated their progress with precision.

The Transformation team started with coordinating outpatient care, so that patients almost never had to leave their exam room.

“We heard many positive comments from patients,” said Mr. Ruda. “It took a lot of work to bring the coordination together, but our patients raved about it.”

With these rave reviews in hand, Jason was able not only to validate the Practice Transformation team’s efforts, but also was able to give meaningful encouragement to the physicians and employees who made the changes happen.

“Patient reviews told us that our efforts were working,” Jason said. “That made it easier to keep going. It’s hard to see how that would have been possible with a lag time in feedback.”

A Foundation for the Future

Why do short-term results work so well in motivating employees? Collins sums it up like this: “Good people want to be a part of something that actually works. So when you show people it’s working . . . the tangible results become infectious, and their enthusiasm grows.”

Cultivating that kind of energy among clinical staff may be one of the stiffest challenges facing healthcare leaders today. But with smart tools and the right mix of short- and long-term thinking, leaders will find that their “good people” are willing—and eager—to get to work.