well check data2 header
Marcie Hopkins, University of Utah Health
leadership
Feedback is a Gift: Making the Most of WellCheck Survey Results
Chris Fairbank, director of organizational development, gives practical advice for using feedback from the Hospitals and Clinics WellCheck survey as a springboard for dialogue and growth, rather than a yardstick of personal leadership.
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bout nine months ago, in the depths of the pandemic, we made a drastic change to our approach for getting staff feedback. We went from a formal, every other year, 52-question engagement survey, to a 10-question, quarterly pulse check. Although we changed strategy during an unsettled time, this new approach is a permanent feature.

Staff have responded favorably with 7,200 team members giving feedback on a quarterly basis. That’s a 56 percent response rate. The staff responses tell us know they appreciate the opportunity. The real adaptation comes for leaders: how do we best use this most valuable gift from our staff, their feedback?

Teams across the organization are using the WellCheck as a foundation for team discussions that are leading to a new level of openness and transparency, as well as setting the stage for team-specific recovery discussions. Here are some pointers to support you with the increased frequency and expectations of the survey.

Understanding the data: information for leaders

  • This is a different survey process than before. In a world full of performance metrics, we can sometimes lose sight of the true intention behind the numbers. While in the past, survey data may have been used to rank parts of the organization, our new survey approach is about providing leaders a vehicle for meaningful team discussions rather than use survey metrics as a measure of performance for leaders or teams.  

    This approach recognizes there are many factors that may cause survey responses to fluctuate, many of which can be outside of a leader’s control. The best way to process and use this survey data is to have that discussion with your team.  

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  • The WellCheck isn’t about you as a leader. Team members may have feedback about you and your management style but the overall focus of this survey isn’t about your capability as a leader; the focus is to understand your team’s experiences in their work environment (and leaders will always play a part in that). If the feedback gives you some insight into how you’re viewed by your team, acknowledge the information and think about how you could adapt and take a different approach.  

    Related to this, there may be times when team members inappropriately use the survey as a way to report negative behavior such as abusive language, discrimination, or harassment. If needed, remind staff the appropriate method for reporting behavior is through the Abusive Conduct reporting or with OEO.  

 

  • Look at the trends. Remember we are in a complicated time. It’s OK to not be OK—or your perceived level of what OK should be. The data is here to help you understand team dynamics. 

    You have probably noticed there are no benchmarks with the WellCheck data. Our new approach allows us to gather relevant data more frequently and focus on changes and needs within our own organization. Now that we have a few surveys behind us, you can look at trends in the dashboard to see fluctuations on your team. Watching these trends can be a valuable tool for identifying meaningful areas for improvement for your team. You can use the organizational average as another data point as you work with your team to figure out where they would like to focus any improvement efforts.   

Talking about the results with your staff 

  • Focus on “Recognize” and “Recover” first. Many of us have seen the 3Rs presented in Dr. Good’s Moving Forward town hall. This thoughtful approach from the Resiliency Center outlines steps to take to successfully rebound from this past year. While it may be tempting to move quickly with swift action, taking time to focus on discovering our new, post-Covid normal will help us understand how to rebuild. 

    The WellCheck feedback can give you insights to your staff needs. However, the data alone is not the answer. Use the data to have a dialogue to recognize the impact the last year has had on your team. Take the opportunity to address concerns, fears, or insecurities that could stifle our progression down the road.   

 

  • “Recover” through conversation. One of the best ways to “recognize” is through team discussions and the WellCheck data provides an ideal foundation.  

    Start a conversation with your team by viewing your trending data and asking questions such as: 
    • What’s jumping out at you? 

    • Where have our scores improved?  What might be behind that improvement? 

    • Where have our scores dropped?  Why are we seeing this decline? 

      The goal here is to start a conversation, not lead it. Get comfortable with silence and remember you may encounter hesitation. For example, if your accountability numbers have dropped, and the discussion is slow, encourage team members to talk with you in a one-on-one setting. Suspend your inner thoughts about what may be leading to the survey responses and let your team take the lead. You can find additional discussion questions here.  

 

  • Let your team identify solutions. You have permission to not have all the answers. Leaders have expressed concern about having discussion about issues they perceive have no solution. Embrace the reality that your team members have creative solutions for the problems they encounter every day.  

    Take these opportunities to listen to understand how you can support solutions and make them actionable. Engage and empower them in this process, regardless of the outcome, and they will appreciate you for it. 
  • Don’t expect immediate turnaround. We’re surveying frequently because we know health care is rapidly changing and we want to stay current on how those changes are impacting our most valuable resource: our people. Sustainable change means small, consistent actions over time. Your actions might show up in the next immediate survey, and that’s ok. Invest the time to create sustainable, not reactive, change. 

Our next WellCheck survey will be in September. If you haven’t already, look not only at your results, but what you did (or plan to do) with the feedback. The way you handle your team’s most valuable gift speaks loudly back to them. It tells them you are listening. It helps them understand your intentions. And it will help you connect with them on a deeper level.  

Each time you demonstrate you are listening and want to understand how they would approach tough topics like burnout or accountability, you and your team become stronger, together. 

Contributor

Chris Fairbank

Director, Organizational Development, University of Utah Health

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