n March 2020, the Covid-19 outbreak upended our health care system. Within a two-week period, Care Navigation sent over 300 people, or about 80-85% of our staff, home to work. What began as a temporary effort to promote safety has morphed into a more enduring situation. Now, nearly two years into the pandemic, 70% of those employees continue to work remotely on a permanent basis.
There are many benefits of working from home, but our teams have found a need to amplify opportunities for connection and engagement. That sense of belonging and connection they felt in-office is harder to replicate virtually, particularly when coupled with the unforeseen complications from the pandemic.
With the pandemic prompting people to seek out change, we must address the underlying question: What can we do to keep our employees engaged? As leaders, we can do this through listening and making time to learn what they need.
Hospitals and Clinics’ quarterly WellCheck survey aims to restore warmth and connection with staff by giving them a forum to feel seen and heard. The intentionally short survey encourages both leaders and team members to share feedback frequently. It can help us rebuild communication channels, identify concerning themes, and boost opportunities for engagement.
How my team “listens” using WellCheck
Before WellCheck began in late 2020, Hospitals and Clinics teams participated in engagement surveys every two years. These surveys tended to revolve around national survey benchmarks, and the data compilation could take months before managers received any feedback. WellCheck, on the other hand, strives to facilitate meaningful discussions between employees and leaders more frequently and get a manager’s data to them within days for discussion with their team.
We truly view feedback as a gift. By giving and receiving honest feedback, we can bring innovative ideas together to help our teams make changes that are meaningful to them. The comments can teach us about our team’s experiences and work environment. Feedback helps us identify their specific needs and concerns, as well as any broader themes affecting the department.
For the Care Navigation team, we receive more than 90 comments per quarterly survey. We make it a point to review them with the close of each survey. I recommend our managers read through feedback independently to form their own assessment before we get together for a large-group discussion.
By giving and receiving honest feedback, we can bring innovative ideas together to help our teams make changes that are meaningful to them.
Personally, I set aside about 30 minutes and read all the comments in one sitting. Then, I go back and read the comments from the prior survey and identify any changes in themes or tone. I try to be as objective as possible. I do my best to read to understand, not read to formulate a response. Once I’m finished reviewing both sets of comments, I write down two or three overarching thoughts or concerns.
My leadership team and I use this feedback to examine our environment. This is an opportunity to share our insights rather than create an action plan. We do this by using the feedback to answer questions: What are we actually seeing from our team members? How are they working with their leaders? What are the current needs of our department?
How we “learn” from WellCheck and share those insights
We try to respond to feedback within 1 to 2 weeks. Rather than respond to every comment, we work to identify and discuss themes. We create a short video to share the results of our discussions.
Our approach isn’t to solve every problem or execute a game plan from day one. Rather, our goal is to build awareness and develop a sustainable approach to implement over the next few months. WellCheck isn’t just about management resolving issues, it’s about cultivating psychological safety, or a partnership with team members so they can feel comfortable sharing their voice and bringing ones whole self to work.
As leaders we can feel pressure to take action when sensing opportunities for progress. Cultural shifts move as slow as molasses. Speed is not the objective. While some changes – like improving the snacks in the snack cart – might be a quick fix, others take more time. Simply acknowledging “we hear you” shows our team members they aren’t going unnoticed, that we value their feedback, and that their engagement is needed for positive change.
We partner when we need help
Managers alone are not responsible for initiating change; every member of the team is accountable for creating a positive environment. Since every team has different needs, the key to identifying those needs is listening to understand. The WellCheck survey can be a second set of ears.
Partnering with Organizational Development (OD) can help identify emerging themes and address your department’s specific concerns. Instead of relying on reactive action planning, OD helps leaders develop transparent communication channels to involve the whole team in the problem-solving process.
The uncertainty of the last few years has left many feeling isolated and unheard. By encouraging continuous feedback, WellCheck empowers team members to share their voice. Reconnect with your team by giving (and receiving) the gift of feedback.