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A push for impact: Connecting employee experience data to key metrics in healthcare

It’s intuitive, the employee experience is both rapidly changing and hyper-local.  In other words, each interaction on a personal level has an impact on whether your current experience is positive or negative.  It turns out, that both individually and in the aggregate, the positivity of employee experience has a direct impact on the outcomes that you care about for your patients, suppliers, independent physicians, community health, traveling nurses, etc.  The very nature of the way employees experience their workplace has profound implications on HR leaders’ ability to transform their organizations.

Historically, organizations would measure employee engagement or other employee experience metrics, report out the results and talk about the drivers of that metric.  This creates a feedback loop where the org cycles over and over again on employee engagement or experience in general.  This is probably good for the organization, however, it is kind of like shooting free throws with a blindfold on.  You will definitely take shots, you might make some baskets if you are lucky, but if you would just take the blindfold off you would make many more.  When it comes to people analytics, things can get complex, but in this case, taking the blindfold off is pretty straightforward – pick the metrics you care about most, things like Patient Experience (e.g. HCAHPS or NPS), Burnout rates, retention, clinical outcomes, safety incidents, etc. – and run the driver analyses on those as well.

Nowadays, savvy HR professionals leverage rapid data gathering techniques and data analytics platforms like Qualtrics to acquire and discover where there are direct correlations between employee perceptions and behaviors and the overall performance of the organization.  “Engagement is a point in time metric,” explains Brian Jefferis, Talent Management Senior Analyst, Nebraska Medicine. “There’s a short lifespan – or half-life – for engagement data as it relates to its ability to predict on a variety of KPIs. The longer you wait between when the data is collected and when it’s presented, the less you know and the less [likely] the action taken from it might actually relate to how colleagues are feeling right then.”

As Brian notes, taking action is the third leg of the stool here, and deciding which actions you take couldn’t be easier when you have a cohesive data strategy that incorporates employee perception on employee experience with outcome metrics.  By focusing on which perceptions and behaviors are the strongest drivers of both experience and outcomes, you know exactly what to focus on down to the workgroup level!  Leveraging technology to identify and surface the appropriate focus areas for each leader and manager and then curating action planning content to guide employees in the right direction helps maximize the transformational impact of the data gathered.

Taking action could not be more critical now, as we see in the American Medical Association’s most recent National Survey: “Coping with COVID-19 for Caregivers.”  Half of all respondents reported at least one symptom of burnout with nurses reporting a troubling, but not shockingly, high level (56%).  One-third of respondents noted high levels of self-reported anxiety and/or depression and 25% of Physicians indicated that they plan to leave practice within the next two years.  As with engagement, if we stopped the analysis here we would make educated guesses as to the drivers of burnout, anxiety/depression, and retention and take action that way.  Luckily the AMA takes a modern approach to workplace research.  In fact, AMA researchers found that feeling valued by your organization and feeling an enhanced sense of meaning and purpose served as protective factors against stress, burnout, self-reported anxiety, or depression in physicians and retention.   By linking perceptions with outcomes, the AMA has effectively created a roadmap of what to do.  In healthcare organizations, layering inpatient experience data takes this process one step further and ensures that your strategy encompasses the most important outcome of all.

What does this look like in practice?  Finding that there was power in ongoing results, the Nebraska Medicine team began conducting regular pulse-style engagement studies, as well as automated life-cycle surveys to study onboarding and exit perceptions. “We’re able to do this in-house which allows us to do some pretty incredible things, like turn dashboards around in a week. And we provide access to every level of leadership at the same time” Brian explains.

As the research has progressed, they’ve seen significant results, not only have the number of employees reporting top tier on engagement items (5’s) increased by 14.5%, “Employees who give fives are actually more likely to stay longer,” Brian explains. “They’re more productive, our top performers, and more engaged in our culture.”

And the results stretch into other aspects of the organization. Brian adds, “The beauty of Qualtrics is that we can partner with other leaders in the organization to link [employee engagement data] to KPIs. We’re linking it to the patient experience, to safety, to turnover – all big concerns for our operational areas. This really helps our executives grasp how important it is to drive improvement and the impact it has in the organization.”

The dynamic and cohesive approach Nebraska Medicine is taking with their workplace strategy allows them to be agile and transformative.  At this critical juncture, in what hopefully is the waning days of the pandemic, taking the first steps to effectively listen to employees and develop a comprehensive data strategy is critical to identifying and addressing the issues and harnessing the opportunities that create the positive ones.

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