3 Must-Have Strategies to Permanently Improve Engagement

Every executive leader in healthcare has a vested interest in improving employee engagement – whether he or she acknowledges it or not. Unfortunately, many senior leaders think HR should manage engagement or they are looking for a magic formula when it comes to sustained improvement. Of course one doesn’t exist.

First, the problem. Here’s what I typically hear in my conversations with hospitals and health systems across the country. Employee engagement survey results come in and senior leaders talk about how important engagement is with their manager group. They share their desire for front line leaders to create department level action plans to transform engagement.

Click HERE to discover 3 must-do strategies that will permanently improve engagement in my most recent article in Becker’s Hospital Review.

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The Secret to Engaging Millennials is Revealed!

Many leaders are looking for the secret to engaging millennial employees (those born early 1980’s to early 2000’s). By 2020, nearly half of all employees will be from this generation so I guess it’s fair that Baby Boomer and Gen X managers are interested.

Guess what…there is no “secret”. But you knew that already didn’t you. Millennial employees, just like all other generations before them, are individuals. There is no one right way to engage with these team members.

You might remember in the summer I sent out a short survey – thanks to all who participated – asking about what motivates you at work. I asked those who responded to include their generation so I could sort the answers. I’m excited to reveal some of the things I learned.

First the facts. Five hundred and ten people responded to the survey – with a majority (56%) being Baby Boomers. Of the remaining 44%, 24% are Gen X and 18% are Millennials. For those of you adding up those 3 numbers, there were a few outliers to make up the additional 2%.three-generations

So here’s the news…drumroll please…the #1 internal motivator for ALL THREE GENERATIONS is “The feeling of accomplishment after completing a task or project.”

It’s not so amazing that we are all alike in this important way. Our beliefs and mindsets about work are formed at an early age sitting around the dinner table listening to adult conversations. The “good” parts of those conversations almost always revolve around positive feelings versus positive actions.

So what if more leaders helped the people on their team connect with that feeling of accomplishment after completing a task or project?

That’s my suggestion for today. If you are a leader, ask the folks who report to you what makes them feel satisfied, energized & productive (my definition of engaged). Then, when you see them, help to connect the dots to the positive feelings they get each day when those things happen. It’s all about personal connections coming from a sense of caring. There’s no secret… it’s called a positive work relationship.

If you would like your boss to better understand your internal motivators, then ask about his or hers. That will start the conversation and who knows where it will lead.

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In Dawn’s Words…

I’m excited to introduce you to Dawn Osterling, a Director at Hanover Hospital. I received a big envelope with a real typed letter from Dawn recently (I love the old school touch!). I was blown away by what she shared and that she had taken the time to write. I think you will appreciate the letter as well and learn some good ideas when you read it. Don’t worry if you don’t work in healthcare – the ideas are transferable to any business. I can’t wait to hear what you think. Thanks Dawn!!

In Dawn’s Words…

julie-swartzI had the pleasure of participating in Hanover Hospital’s nursing symposium last fall and I was so inspired by your message that I decided to start a Chief Paradise Officer (CPO) program on my unit. During one staff meeting I had the nurses decide what would need to be present on our unit to make our environment a paradise and we came up with the criteria. I created a commitment statement that they signed and we hung a copy in our locker room as a reminder (Thanks to Dawn…this is attached). My leadership group decides each month which staff member exhibits CPO characteristics based on their commitment to our unit. We want people to be owner-minded, accountable, problem solvers, respectful and team builders.

To date we have celebrated 8 staff members consisting of nurses and OB scrub techs. The leadership team sends very specific attributes that they feel are present in each person and we promote these things in the celebration. The winner receives a flower lei, a CPO button, a certificate and a few little prizes. It is so much fun! It is the most exciting thing that I do with the staff and it has become a wonderful time of anticipation during our staff meeting. After the winner is announced, other staff members clap, cheer and celebrate that person. We take their picture in front of a beach mural that I had put up in our lounge and we post it on our unit. I have enclosed a picture for you to enjoy.

Another very special change that I made after your symposium was changing our lounge into paradise. I had the lounge painted a beautiful blue and had a beach window mural put on the wall. We took down all the flyers and stressful clutter to create a nice tranquil place that the staff could escape to. I hung signs of paradise and peace and put a sound machine in there to simulate waves. It is so great to hear people say that they are going to eat lunch in paradise.

I just want to thank you for the inspiration and helping me see how to turn my “POWS” into “WOWS.” Nursing can be exhausting and leadership can be downright draining so it is so important to have resources such as yours to remind us of how to keep positive and motivated.

Continually moving forward positively,

Dawn Osterling MSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM
Director, Maternal/ Child Health, IV therapy and Outpatient Infusion Services, Hanover Hospital

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I Could Do It In My Sleep

When I travel, I have routines that help me stay organized. I carry the same suitcase and backpack, and my passport and boarding pass go in the same pocket. All my power cords are neatly stored in their respective spots…you get the idea. This helps me pack quickly, remember important must-haves and comfortably travel.

We all have routines we’re so used to, that we could do them in our sleep.

suitcaseSome of these routines are helpful and some not so much. How about the plop on the sofa to watch the same old show on TV with the bowl of ice cream routine? Not so helpful is it?

What routines do you have at work that positively (or negatively) impact your ability to be satisfied, energized & productive?

When your boss calls or emails you, do you routinely worry or feel put-out by the interruption?

When surrounded by coworkers, does your routine include gossiping or complaining?

If you’re a manager, do you routinely jump in to fix problems that someone on the team could take care of so that you can “save the day”?

If you want to create your own Professional Paradise – or positively impact other’s ability to create theirs – then you’ve got to wake up and consciously create your routines. Stop the knee jerk reactions that are your old habits.

Here are three ideas for new – more positive – routines.

  1. Create Gratitude Triggers™ – pick something that you routinely do and add a gratitude component to it. Here’s an example to get you started. As you pull into your parking space at work and park your car, think of things you are grateful for about your job.
  2. Step up and get involved – next time something happens that you aren’t happy about, instead of routinely complaining and pointing fingers at others, step up and offer to help solve the problem.
  3. Disengage from the drama – when others start to tell stories of gloom and doom or talk about coworkers behind their back, just politely walk away. No big speeches about taking the moral high ground. Just disengage.

Routines save us a lot of time and make extra space in our brains for thinking about other things. They can be incredibly helpful when they are positive and well executed. Start to notice your routines and beef up the ones that help you become more satisfied, energized & productive at work.

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Paralyzed with Fear (Again!)

I was recently invited to join a group of experienced cyclists on a hilly, 20-mile evening ride (I know some of you are saying, “Really Vicki? Another cycling story” – so please work with me here). At first I was going to say “no thanks.” I was nervous and I didn’t want to be the one holding everyone back. But after reading Shonda Rhimes book, Year of Yes, I’ve been working on saying “yes” to things that make me uncomfortable.

So off I went to meet everyone and they couldn’t have been nicer to me. Lots of “don’t worry” comments eased my anxiety a little bit. We started riding and all was going well until we came to the first giant hill. I’ve been working on clipping in to my pedals and have been trying it on one side to ease the transition. As I trudged up the hill, very slowly, I clicked on my gears to lower them and my chain fell off. “OH NO!” And to add to my anxiety, a car was coming up the hill behind me at a very slow pace. I forgot that I wasn’t clipped in on my right foot. I felt trapped. My heart was racing. I had visions of myself falling into the traffic. I was PARALYZED WITH FEAR!

This got me thinking about all the fear we experience (create?) at work. What fears do you have that get in the way of you being satisfied, energized & productive? Here are two fears that I hear about.

7-19-16 blogUncomfortable Conversations
When I talk to staff and leaders about what needs to be done to improve engagement, a big buzz word is “accountability.” When staff who are actively disengaged bring their negative behavior to work, most people want someone else to handle it. But the fear comes when it’s time to have those uncomfortable conversations. Now it’s time for you to feel the fear and move through it. No more procrastinating. Get a book, attend a class – improve your communication skills and just do it!

Making or Admitting to a Mistake
Making a mistake at work is scary. They are paying you to do a good job – not to mess up. But hey – we are human and we do make mistakes. Add to the fact that if you aren’t making some mistakes, you are probably stagnant and maybe in need of a little innovation to mix things up. No, I’m not suggesting making mistakes on purpose or on the really big things (like safety or quality). But try something new. Give yourself a chance to fail – who knows what you might discover!

Now back to our regularly scheduled bike story…I panicked and just before I fell, I unclipped my left foot and righted myself. Crisis averted. Whew! I put the chain back on and had to walk my bike up the hill. I was too shaky to ride. I acted really cool about it but it took me a good 10 minutes to calm down. Hey – guess what. I finished that ride with everyone else. I rode the bike up all the other hills and we all pulled into the parking lot together.

What if I would have let the first bout of fear paralyze me to the point of turning back? Or, what if I had said “no” to begin with? I would have missed a lot of beautiful scenery, the summer sounds & smells, the company of new (very patient) friends and some great exercise.

Now…dive in! Do something you are afraid of. It’s the lesson that keeps on giving.

Happy Skydiving (haha)!

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Bratwurst, Bad Weather, & Bruises

Remember those papers you wrote as kid entitled “What I learned on my summer vacation?” I just got back from a cycling vacation and I’d like to share what I learned and how it might help you at work.

1. Bratwurst
I’m a pretty healthy eater and wouldn’t typically eat anything close to a bratwurst – especially when it’s prepared by a street vendor and I don’t know the contents or origins of the sausage. But, I learned that sometimes the “locals” really do know what’s best and that bratwurst is really good!
Lesson Learned… Maybe the folks in other departments that are serving you their “bratwurst” really do know something you don’t know. Maybe the local knowledge gives them different insights and perspectives that you don’t have. What if you trusted their judgement and tried something new?

2. Bad WeatherGermany Rainbow
I cycled 168 miles in 6 days throughout Germany, Austria and Switzerland. What a glorious way to see the countryside and observe local customs. One challenge was that It rained 5 of the 6 days. UGH! My husband and I could have ridden in the van and hung out in museums but that wasn’t the trip we had in mind so we got up every day and put on our right rain gear and started peddling. Of course it became a joke with our fellow cyclists. We are all better riders now and we still had lots of laughs.

So it was fitting that right after our good bye dinner in Konstanz, Germany we stepped outside to survey the skies. Lo and behold, we saw the most beautiful double rainbow over the city. What a fabulous reward for all the rain!

Lesson Learned… Work can be challenging. Unexpected obstacles arise and you just have to keep “peddling” to move forward. It’s not what you planned, it’s not what you would have chosen – it’s what’s in front of you right now. The bad weather brings the team closer and helps you learn – if you let it. Now you can go look for that rainbow.

vicki cycling in rain in Austria3. Bruises
I fell twice while riding my bike. I was jarred and scared and felt sorry for myself. Both times, I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings. The guides even warned us about each of the hazards that I encountered. When they talked about safety, I thought “I’m a good rider – I know what I’m doing…this doesn’t apply to me.” Boy was I wrong and I have the soreness and bruises to prove it.

Lesson Learned… It’s a good idea to pay attention – even when you think you know what’s being discussed. Let’s admit it. We’re all guilty of zoning out during meetings. It’s easy to get distracted and think about what’s “really important” back at your desk or in your work area. It makes sense to heed the advice of those who might just know a bit more than you do. You can learn a lot and avoid the bruises.

I hope you are taking some time off this summer to relax and enjoy time away from work. In the meantime, take a look at things with fresh eyes and think about how you can create your own Professional Paradise today.

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