The healthcare industry saw a record number of mergers and acquisitions last year. And the flurry of deal making has carried over into this year, such as Bon Secours and Mercy Health’s recent merger and the impending deal between Dignity Health and Catholic Health Initiatives.

When an organization is faced with M&A activity (or any other major change for that matter), the focus is often on external positioning and management. That can be a nearly full time job, as these deals face increased scrutiny from legislators and community groups.

However, the success or failure of a newly-combined organization can hinge on an internal factor: employee engagement.

Engaged employees have more longevity and help allay the concerns of others during times of transition. Research has also found ties between engaged hospital employees and patient care quality. And, the statistic to share with your c-suite: companies with engaged employees perform better. According to the Deloitte University Press, organizations with highly engaged employees had an average 3-year revenue growth 2.3 times greater than those whose employees showed average engagement.

So, how do you get started on your organization’s employee engagement journey? Your first stop: an audit to get a baseline measure and to identify gaps in communication. Many people groan when they hear this, because it sounds time-intensive.  It can be, but there are lots of effective tools to help provide a quick pulse check and provide near real-time measurement of engagement, which can help you be more agile in tweaking your tactics.

We’ve done lots…and lots…of audits and there are some key themes that tend to emerge. Based upon our observations, we’ve put together a crib sheet with three key insights to help improve employee engagement in your hospital.

  • Drive Culture From the Top

Employee engagement is a culture issue. And the culture in your company starts at the top with your CEO. Not every CEO is a “natural” when it comes to cultivating trust and engagement with employees, but as communications professionals, we can develop tools that help facilitate that connection.  For instance, a CEO can relate to employees by helping frame up major changes within the context of larger industry trends, rather than simply handing off information about changes being made. Presentation training and coaching also help improve delivery of information to create an authentic, personal connection. Finally, it’s about creating “memorable moments,” small interactions with the CEO that demonstrate humanity and a sense of “we’re all in this together.”  We can think of several CEOs that make it a point to round the hospital at the start of shifts to greet employees (one who always entered through the emergency department each morning!) and who regularly have lunch in the cafeteria.

  • Get Managers Involved

Your CEO can’t carry the culture load alone. Leaders at all levels of your company should be driving culture and engagement.

Research shows that managers account for more than 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement. It’s these leaders who are a conduit of information (to and from employees) and who can make or break your employees’ ability and willingness to adapt quickly during times of change.

Too often, however, managers simply don’t know how to effectively communicate in support of your company’s mission, values and culture. That’s why you should help managers make communications consistent, meaningful and easy. Some ways you can do this include:

  • Requiring communications training for new managers.
  • Creating expectations for managers to support your company’s mission, values and culture.
  • Developing toolkits for managers that include communication tips and templates.
  • Equipping managers with FAQs to help answer employee questions and address concerns during times of change.
  • Hyper-target Your Communications

One-size-fits-all communications that speak to everyone, everywhere in your company won’t resonate. Instead, strive to get the right content, to the right audience, through the right channel, at the right time.

This means tailoring messages to different audiences. And it means localizing content when possible to make it more relevant, such as to employees in different hospitals and clinics. Also, consider which channels are right for different groups of employees, such as those who regularly use email and those who don’t.

Amid all this, don’t forget to always tie your communications back to your company’s goals, mission and values. This will help ensure employees are keeping the bigger picture in mind.

Whether you are in the midst of M&A activity or any other change (or no change at all, which is unlikely these days), employee engagement is a strategic priority for every hospital communicator. Remember – your employees are your greatest ambassadors and can be your most passionate defenders or your harshest critics.