Survey Says

Three strategies for instilling leadership buy-in

Andrew Zotter, Survey Solutions

One of the universal barriers to engaging the workforce of any health care organization is a lack of buy-in for engagement. Simply put, leaders want to know why they’re putting forth the effort to have an engaged workforce when they have so many other change initiatives and priorities on their plates. 

We've compiled the three key strategies to achieving leadership buy-in for engagement initiatives.

1. Elevate the message through engagement kick-off presentations

During my presentation to Adventist HealthCare in Maryland to re-orient their leaders to the strategic importance of engagement, the VPHR introduced each session and spoke to the strategic importance of engagement for the organization. 

These introductions made the case for engagement more meaningful by putting it in the organization’s context rather than that of the health care industry.

Holy Spirit Hospital in Pennsylvania hosted a series of in-person meetings to kick off engagement. Their CEO opened each session to connect engagement to their other strategic priorities around financial performance and patient satisfaction. 

Their VPHR concluded each session by speaking to the timeline for rolling out the survey and follow-through steps. Also, they kept the sessions consistent with their “Give us the Scoop” theme for the survey and ice cream was handed out by HR team—a way to emphasize importance while keeping things fun to make the message stick.

2. Reinforce the message with weekly talking points

“It’s not realistic to give people the 10-course meal of engagement all at once, so we wanted to give them the information one bite at a time.”

Emphasizing the importance and value of engagement is a great way to initially capture leadership buy-in, but it’s important to reinforce that message over time. Otherwise, engagement may fall into the same trap as other performance indicators—no one fully embraces what it means.

The HR Director at St. Luke’s Hospital in Texas communicated with leaders on a weekly basis about the survey. It started with foundational pieces about survey logistics, and then gradually built up to specifics on engagement and survey methodology, and finally leaders were invited to share their approaches to addressing improvement opportunities.

As the HR Director put it, “it’s not realistic to give people the 10-course meal of engagement all at once, so we wanted to give them the information one bite at a time.” This, she said, contributed to their successful increase in engagement by over 10% from last year.

3. Bring engagement to life by sharing best practices

ThedaCare in Wisconsin took these communication strategies a step further by creating formal programs to share engagement best practices. 

The programs made engagement less abstract and thus less daunting. It also served to recognize leaders for their hard work and inspire others around them. Additionally, ThedaCare focused this program around their top system improvement opportunities so what they shared was relevant to many leaders throughout the organization.

Bringing it all together

While these tactics can be effective on their own, they’re most effective when done in concert with one another. So, when evaluating your own leadership buy-in strategy, consider which of these you may be missing, and think of which forums you could leverage to fill the gaps, such as monthly management meetings or the Intranet.

If you have any questions about implementing any of these strategies, reach out to your dedicated advisor or feel free to get in touch with me at