Employee Engagement Best Practices:

Professional Paradise™ Found

Most leaders and staff don’t think about employee engagement on a daily basis. Do you? Are you intrigued by the idea of Professional Paradise? Would you like to work in Professional Paradise? Would you like to learn employee engagement best practices?

Some leaders are forced to think about employee engagement best practices in response to external factors such as turnover, low morale or poor employee engagement survey results. Others simply tolerate the topic or ignore altogether. Why? Because employee engagement feels “soft” and people don’t always clearly understand the real value behind an engaged team. Or no one is implementing employee engagement best practices or measuring employee engagement on a regular basis. Unfortunately, in many healthcare organizations, employee engagement best practices are not strategically and proactively embraced. That’s got to change.

If you want to reap the benefits of employee engagement – and you need to learn best practices – you need to change your mindset about employee engagement and accept it as foundational to everything else you do. There’s a strong and direct connection between levels of employee engagement, due to the best practices you implement, with financial health, patient satisfaction, safety, quality and efficiency. Because of this, you literally need to embrace the value and importance of engagement.

Embracing employee engagement best practices as an organization, as a team and as individuals is the fastest way to improve customer outcomes and business results.

First, it’s important to understand how beliefs impact employee engagement. Beliefs determine our state of mind, and our state of mind directs our actions, which in turn drive outcomes. When it comes to employee engagement – and looking to implement best practices – being aware of how your beliefs help or hinder your actions and outcomes is important.

Many people believe that being engaged is dependent on the organization, the job, the boss, the salary or the working environment. All of these are definitely contributing factors, but they are not the determining factor for true employee engagement. (It’s helpful to be very aware of the real factors at play, when looking to implement employee engagement best practices.) That is why you will find plenty of disengaged people in fantastic jobs with great pay at exceptional companies. It’s also why there are people who believe they work in Professional Paradise despite conditions that most of us would find objectionable. Being satisfied, energized and productive is an internal issue based on our beliefs and this directly leads to individual employee engagement.

Each person on your team comes to work with beliefs that act as a lens through which they see, experience and interpret every event, situation, interaction and circumstance. If you pay attention, you will start to understand what team members believe about employee engagement (and other subjects as well) by their actions. For example, someone who does a lot of finger pointing and blaming is showing a belief that says, “I’m not responsible for outcomes. I’m a victim.” Someone who is a self-starter and solves problems independently demonstrates a belief of self-sufficiency and independence.

Clearly understanding these beliefs helps you develop and successfully implement employee engagement best practices for your organization. There are several best practices in employee engagement activities. (This Forbes article addresses how the best places to work are nailing employee engagement.)

The first employee engagement best practice is all about examining your own and your team’s beliefs and mindsets about employee engagement; changing them if you’re not getting the results you want and adjusting your best practices.

When everyone connects with the belief that we are each responsible for our individual engagement, a different mindset is developed. This mindset drives different actions and outcomes that directly impact your organization’s employee engagement best practices. In other words, disengaged employees are likely to reassess their individual employee engagement and potentially reconnect to a sense of ownership. Those who are in Professional Prison (actively disengaged employees) or on Professional Parole (those who are in-between) will see the possibility of Professional Paradise and understand their role in creating it or they will leave. Again, this understanding helps you, as a leader, develop and implement employee engagement best practices.

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Create a shared vocabulary, which leads to employee engagement best practices

Employee engagement, the state of being satisfied, energized and productive and Professional Paradise are synonymous.

Unfortunately, most people don’t wake up every morning and say, “I want to be engaged today.” So let’s stop talking with team members about “employee engagement” and “employee engagement best practices.” Since the term “employee engagement” resonates well with executives and leaders but not most team members, let’s create a shared vocabulary that looks at it from the individual employee’s point of view.

To create transformation over time – and implement employee engagement best practices that lead to positive outcomes and metrics – it’s crucial to talk about employee engagement in terms that everyone can relate to. It may seem like it doesn’t matter what you call “employee engagement,” but it does. When you create a shared vocabulary for employee engagement, you create a vehicle for everyone to talk about it openly and comfortably.

Being satisfied, energized and productive is language that everyone – from the frontlines to the C-suite – can relate to. When conducting research for my first book, SHIFT to Professional Paradise, I asked over a thousand people, “What makes you happy at work?” The largest percentage of responses related to getting things done, being productive, making a difference. (Note that people didn’t say “employee engagement” or “employee engagement best practices.”) It just makes sense to focus on things that your team members want to do every day. The biggest benefits of instituting employee engagement best practices are for team members themselves. That’s the truly exciting part.

Now we want to create a shared vocabulary around employee engagement so that everyone is on the same page. You can use “satisfied, energized and productive” or Professional Paradise, whichever resonates with your team. If you already have common terminology that you use related to employee engagement – or integrated into your employee engagement best practices procedures – by all means use that. Just remember that the goal is to have a common vocabulary around employee engagement that team members can relate to.

Employee engagement best practices: Learn what gets team members satisfied, energized and productive.

Another step in helping team members be accountable for their individual employee engagement is coaching them to identify and connect with what gets them satisfied, energized and productive in a one-on-one setting. This is a critical, foundational step in healthcare organizations’ employee engagement best practices and strategies.

When you have a personal discussion and better understand what’s motivating to an employee and his or her current level of satisfaction, you are in a better position to do something about it and to help the employee do something as well. Note that this isn’t about being a cheerleader for employees; it’s about seeking to understand what the influencers of employee engagement are for each of the team members you lead, then employing best practices to help them make the connection between those influencers and their daily job.

Next, go a bit deeper with each team member individually with what I call “The Match Game.” The Match Game is a way to proactively and purposefully match projects, committee assignments, activities and responsibilities with team members’ engagement drivers.

When I was employed in the Education Resource Center at LifeBridge Health, my boss and I had monthly one-on-one meetings. During one of those meetings, I shared my desire to get involved at the system level. I let her know that I wanted to continue to grow my internal network and learn new performance improvement strategies and best practices. With a twinkle in her eye, she graciously offered me the opportunity to serve on the Lost Wheelchair Team. This system-wide, multidisciplinary team provided me with a learning opportunity and provided my boss with a volunteer to represent our department. To most other people in my department, being assigned to the Lost Wheelchair Team would have been the same as being sentenced to a stint in Professional Prison. But for me, it was Professional Paradise! The assignment was a perfect match with my individual employee engagement drivers. This is the Match Game in action!

When you use your knowledge of what gets team members satisfied, energized and productive to assign projects and activities – foundational employee engagement best practices – you multiply employee engagement throughout the team.

Each team member consistently gets more of the kind of tasks that get them satisfied, energized and productive and less of the kind that tends to contribute to their disengagement. You have now increased employee engagement on your team and have successfully implemented some foundational employee engagement best practices.

To “play” the Match Game, you must first discover specifically what makes each employee feel satisfied, energized and productive. This can easily be done in conjunction with your existing one-on-one meetings. Or, if you’re not currently holding one-on-ones with team members, simply schedule a 10-15 minute get-together with each of them over the next few weeks. I know you’re busy, so do what’s realistic based on your schedule. Just don’t put this off for too long, because this is the foundation of your employee engagement efforts and your ability to develop and implement your own employee engagement best practices.

Once you have all of this great information about what makes each employee feel satisfied, energized and productive, use it intentionally to foster employee engagement and, again, implement your employee engagement best practices. Regularly remind team members that they can connect to these engagement influencers simply by paying attention and noticing the “paradise” parts of their day. This reinforces with employees their role in and responsibility for employee engagement and directly helps them identify these influencers, thereby increasing their own engagement.

Use this information to create a more engaging environment by intentionally matching employees’ engagement drivers with tasks and activities that meet those criteria. This may seem like a daunting task, but it’s actually quite simple and honestly, kind of fun. Plus, it’s an essential step in developing your own employee engagement best practices. Take my advice: Use the Match Game as a high-impact activity to engage employees and implement your own employee engagement best practices.

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