Survey Says

A primer on achieving breakthrough engagement

Anne Terry, Survey Solutions

One of the most common questions I hear from hospital executives is, “Are highly engaged organizations doing something different than the rest of us?” The short answer is yes. Top performing organizations focus on the same engagement drivers as everyone else, but they pursue them in a very different way.

Most organizations take what should be a familiar approach to improving engagement: run a survey, use the data to identify improvement opportunities, and deploy a combination of initiatives at the department- and organization-level against those deficits.

As we have discussed, organizations that hold managers accountable for creating and executing against action plans are more likely to make engagement gains under this process.

While this approach is valid, sustaining it over the long term is often difficult because it requires ever-increasing improvement on one-off initiatives. As a result, the organizations who achieve and sustain the highest levels of engagement (often higher than 50%) take a wholly differentiated approach.

Introducing the strategic approach to workforce engagement

Organizations following this framework center their engagement efforts on a distinct, renewable employment proposition—a compact between the employer and its desired employees that speaks to shared core values.

These organizations over-invest in initiatives targeting the handful of engagement drivers that advance this employment proposition. They use their engagement survey to verify the proposition is engaging staff, and, if not, whether the problem lies in the animation or the definition of the employment proposition.

Points of difference

You may be wondering how different this is from your current efforts. After all, most organizations have core values, and both approaches include a survey and engagement initiatives.

First, the differentiated employment proposition is very specific—often, only a single sentence or phrase—and reflects both employee engagement drivers and the organization’s strategic goals. For example, CHOMP’s proposition “Employee input inspires action every day,” works because input is a high impact engagement driver and it offers a viable alternative to unionization.

Second, nearly all engagement initiatives—at every level of the organization—target the same handful of drivers that support the employment compact. As a result, these organizations tend to invest heavily in a smaller number of mutually reinforcing initiatives and use survey data to refine or expand established projects instead of generating new ones each year.

Finally, this approach shifts much of the burden for planning and leading initiatives from frontline managers to hospital and system executives. Managers still play a supporting role, but they typically need centralized training and oversight in order to achieve consistent execution across the organization.

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We support organizations following both the traditional and the strategic approach to engagement through Advisory Board Survey Solutions. Subscribe to our blog for further guidance on how to select and perfect the right framework for your organization.