Engaged Employees Deliver Better Patient Satisfaction

by Laura Santiago

Insights From the Energage Research Desk

Many studies point to a strong correlation between staff engagement and positive outcomes. The bottom line? In healthcare, employees who are passionate about their work deliver better clinical outcomes in terms of patient satisfaction. Perhaps that’s no big surprise.

But to better understand the drivers that lead to higher employee engagement, we explored our normative database of 17 million survey responses. Pulling from more than 24,000 responses in the healthcare dataset and matching it to patient outcome data, we pinpointed the key culture drivers that lead to higher engagement in the industry.

Values, formal training, and staff engagement are important to delivering higher customer satisfaction. But in the world of healthcare, the patient is the customer. So what does our data tell us about the relationship between the culture of a healthcare organization and patient satisfaction? We matched a list of hospitals in our dataset to external, third-party evaluation public data. This represents over 24,000 healthcare employees across the United States. We then analyzed the data to see if any of our statements were significantly related to hospital ratings.

 

Patient satisfaction: What the data reveals

Many of the 15 culture drivers that our Top Workplaces research has shown to be key factors in building employee engagement are also closely correlated to patient satisfaction. Here are the Energage Survey employee statements with the strongest correlation. In other words, these are the statements most closely related to a healthcare organization delivering exceptional patient care.

 

1. “This company operates by strong values.”

A strong score on our values statement is one indication of a healthy culture. Strong values are related to customer satisfaction — and the patient experience too. Clearly, values are important enough to predict organizational outcomes in many different settings, including the healthcare industry.

Most healthcare organizations will explicitly state patient satisfaction as a core focus and value. But until you see this reflected in survey responses, you have to assume the value has not yet taken root.

2. “At this company, we do things efficiently and well.”

When healthcare organizations do things efficiently and well, the entire operation runs more smoothly and the result is a better patient experience. Not a surprising find, but nonetheless an important point.

But doing things efficiently and well is not only about being a well-oiled machine. Fighting inefficiency, red tape, or bureaucratic processes grinds down staff morale and leads to a sense of powerlessness.

3. “This company enables me to work at my full potential.”

In healthcare settings, employee performance can be a matter of life and death — literally. Here we see that empowering employees to do their best pays off. Organizations scoring below average on this statement were 130% more likely to score below the national average on patient satisfaction!

This begs the question: What barriers are these employees facing that prevent them from working at their full potential?

 

Correlations with Patient Satisfaction

Employee engagement also ranks high

It’s both validating and encouraging to see employee engagement ranked as a top driver of these important organizational outcomes — particularly in an industry as unique as healthcare. This is tangible support for what we have known for a long time: Engaging your employees pays off. And in the healthcare industry, it has a direct impact on patient experience.

The winning team syndrome

But there is a chicken-and-egg argument here. If a healthcare network is already scoring high on patient outcomes, employees will feel more pride and commitment. If patient outcomes are below par, it will be much harder to become engaged. We call this the ‘winning team syndrome’. After all, it’s much easier to be engaged on a winning team.

This is true, but it’s incumbent on leadership to understand the drivers of engagement. In affecting these, set up the right conditions for employees to become engaged in the success of patients.

This will take leadership effort and rallying of the troops for sure, but we have seen hospital networks with low engagement scores and low patient outcomes orchestrate astonishing turnarounds.

Why this matters  and what you can do 

Patient satisfaction is directly dependent on the engagement and passion of healthcare employees. Here’s some advice for creating a culture that’s supportive of it:

  • Align your organization around common values and a compelling mission.
  • Make sure you’re doing things efficiently and well. Your employees suffer and patients certainly notice when you are not running a tight ship.
  • Empower your employees to work to their fullest. You’ll unleash untapped potential. The best route to success is to develop managers as coaches who can help each team member connect with the purpose of the organization and carve out a meaningful and fulfilling role.
  • Employee engagement is critical. It’s an outcome of a healthy culture. Track and foster engagement by focusing on the key culture drivers.