The Employee Engagement Puzzle
A few weeks ago, many hospitals and healthcare organizations throughout the Unites States celebrated Nurses week followed by Hospital week. Healthcare organizations held lunches, hosted parties, gave away free stuff, and took out advertisements in the newspaper to thank their employees for their hard work and dedication. Some of you who are reading this blog post participated in some of these activities. What the leaders of these healthcare organizations failed to realize is that employee engagement is not something that can be taken care of during one week; employees want to be appreciated and engaged all year long.
Research has shown over and over again that highly engaged employees are more productive and less likely to leave an organization so it is in an employer’s best interest to figure out how employee engagement really works. The way I look at it, there are four interconnecting pieces of the employee engagement puzzle and each piece is critical to the success of the organization.
The People Piece - The first piece of the puzzle has to do with people. Having the right boss and competent co-workers is critical. If an employee has a boss who is a poor manager or a boss who yells, screams, intimidates and creates chaos on a daily basis, no amount of free stuff is going to make up for the bosses bad behavior. If on the other hand an employee’s boss is competent and caring, the employee will probably enjoy coming to work every day and the employee will do his/her best. Employees also appreciate working with co-workers who are competent and considerate of each other’s work. A nurse in an emergency room cannot do her job alone, she has to rely on her co-workers to pitch in and get the job done whatever it takes.
The Organization Piece – The second piece of the puzzle has to do with the organization. Is the organization healthy? Does the organization have a good reputation? Are workers threatening to go on strike and grumbling about their lack of a contract? Do employees feel confident that there job is safe? Is the organization profitable? Is the organization listed as one of the best places to work? Does the organization offer growth and advancement opportunities? A week after hospital week Orange Regional Medical Center in Orange County, NY announced massive layoffs. The leaders actually waited until the hospital week celebrations had ended to announce the layoffs. The remaining workers are anxious to say the least and not very engaged.
The Position Piece – If an employee is in the wrong job, that employee will not be engaged and will probably leave the organization. No amount of free lunch is going to make that employee engaged. The very first job I took when I graduated from college was clearly the wrong job for me. I was a receptionist for Soros Fund Management, a hedge fund management firm in NYC. George Soros, the founder of the firm, was and still is a very influential money manager. My immediate boss was pleasant, the environment was beautiful, the organization was very successful, my co-workers were nice, we had a kitchen stocked with free food BUT I was bored to death every single day. It took me about two hours every day to sort the daily mail which was delivered in a large duffle bag. I was in the wrong job and not a happy camper! It was also a very small firm and I did not see any room for advancement and my boss never spoke with me about future opportunities so I left. I could not see a bright light at the end of the tunnel. The four hour daily commute also added to my misery.
The Environment Piece – The work environment piece is huge! There are so many factors to think about when we think of work environment. Is the physical work environment neat, clean and tidy? Does the work environment foster creative thinking? Are there video games and ping pong tables in the cafeteria? Is the equipment up to date? Does the organization provide free coffee, lunch, bagels, pizza on Fridays or any kind of food? Is there a formal reward & recognition program? An informal reward and recognition program? Are the leaders of the organization approachable? Do they meet and greet? Do they care? Does the organization provide fabulous employee benefits and compensation packages? Is the organizational environmentally focused? Does the organizations support community initiatives. Does the organization provide training and development opportunities and/or offer tuition reimbursement?
The good news is that it is possible to engage employees. The bad news is that it takes time, planning, deliberate thought and smart actions. You can’t engage employees in one week and you can’t engage employees by giving them a free coffee mug once a year! You can engage employees by placing them in the right job with the right boss, providing a fabulous work environment with competent co-workers, and taking care of your organization so that it is profitable and reputable. Good luck!