Aug. 23, 2019
Most rural hospital CEOs recognize the importance of external marketing. I wish I could say the same when it comes to internal communications (IC). It seems that sometimes internal communications is only deemed important when a “crisis” is brewing or some controversial decision needs to be announced. Maybe that’s why IC is often under-appreciated and undervalued.
I can tell you from decades of experience that an effective internal communication strategy is directly related to employee engagement. Why? Because engaged employees will not only advocate for your rural health organization, they’ll also provide better care. Unfortunately, sometimes as leaders, we don’t always see that connection. Let’s explore this idea a bit more.
A recent Advisory Board study found that every 1 percent increase in hospital employee engagement correlated with a 0.33-point increase in the facility's Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) overall hospital rating. (And we all know that HCAHPS scores can positively or negatively influence a rural hospital's Medicare reimbursement.)
The study also showed that a 1 percent increase in hospital employee engagement was tied to a 0.41-point increase in patient safety grades. Researchers found that engaged employees are three times as likely as disengaged employees to earn top performance marks.
I’m sure this makes sense, but I love it when data backs up our instincts. Effective internal communications, engaged staff, satisfied patients, and successful rural health organizations are all related. If your IC program fails, it can pull the others down with it. If that sounds like hyperbole, consider this: Gallup found that nurse engagement is the No. 1 predictor of mortality variation across hospitals.
This revelation puts a huge check next to the ROI box when it comes to investing in an effective IC program. When I say “effective,” I mean a program that is the true voice of your organization: one that breaks down operational silos, allows for two-way communication, and is targeted and ongoing.
I’ve found that the majority of employees are actually hungry for communication. The problem is, they often feel like the messages they receive are overly complicated, irrelevant or are shared only when something “bad” is about to happen. That said, I’d like to highlight some important takeaways from my work with rural health organizations that are reinventing their IC programs to help increase engagement.
Overall, employees of rural health organizations:
Just as in external marketing, one size does not fill all when it comes to communicating with a diverse staff, often in different locations. With the above in mind, I recommend taking a holistic approach to communicating to employees. This includes multi-channel content provided in a variety of formats, such as:
I’ll be honest. I’ve seen my share of failing internal communication programs over the years. It’s an issue that comes with very real consequences for employee engagement and ultimately, organizational performance. That makes it an issue not just for Marketing or Human Resources, but especially for rural hospital CEOs and senior executives.
So I ask, “When was the last time you took a good hard look at your internal communications program?” What you see may shock you into making a powerful and positive change. If you’d like to learn more details on the ideas discussed here, I’d welcome your call.
If you’re planning on attending this year’s NRHA Critical Access Hospital Conference, September 18-20 in Kansas City, we’ll be discussing employee engagement in more depth. Join us at 9:00 a.m. for: Innovative Strategies to Increase Employee Engagement and Drive Growth, co-presented by Michael Coyle, CEO Ely Bloomenson Hospital.
Mike Milligan, President, Legato Healthcare Marketing
Website by: Craig Erskine
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