Every day, Everywhere Rock Stars

Healthcare, Shaping Culture


Help a hospital shape their engagement/employee experience and move the needle from the middle of the pack (low 70’s employee engagement levels) to “Rock Star” status.

There were many elements that needed attention to help a hospital move from very “average” engagement to “rock star status”. These vignettes are a view into some of the many details both large and small that contributed to their end result over a three-year period moving the needle into the low 90’s and in the three years since continuing to move the needle into and maintain their engagement and employee experience in the mid-90s and be known as a Rockstar within their system.

Senior Leader Rounding

As part of their health system process and procedures senior leaders (in this case seven of them) were required to “round” to department meetings on a monthly basis, with each leader alternating departments. This gave senior leaders a first-hand view into what is going on inside of each department. By rounding it also provided a great opportunity for senior leaders to get to know their front-line and managerial team in a different way. 

As part of my work, I rounded with senior leaders to different department meetings for a two-week period. In that time, it became painfully apparent that an opportunity ripe to be “rich” was falling flat. 

In most department meetings you could tell that is was more of an unwelcome intrusion to have a senior leader join them. This element was meant to break down silos and it was not doing so. As another component of the work, I had joined many team “huddles”. The huddles were informative (what is the status today, what needs to get done, any constraints, any needs people had, etc.) and generally had people seemingly relaxed and comfortable. When I arrived with a senior leader at a department meeting you could almost feel the hair raise on the back of necks and body language spoke volumes and the lack of participation was like a 1-2 punch. 

I choose to round back to several departments alone and spoke with managers and staff and the comments were consistent: when they show up it is like a command performance, they don’t come regularly, they don’t respect our start time, and it just feels like we are being “graded” on how we meet. 

At my next opportunity with senior leaders as a group, I began asking some curious questions. Indeed, these leaders admitted they didn’t always round as scheduled, did not necessarily give the department head a “heads up” and when they did attend, they felt equally as awkward, not knowing quite what to do.

With a bit of work with senior leaders, we moved this difficult moment into a coveted moment. I worked with senior leaders to recognize the important message it sends to show up on time and consistently. In addition to just showing up participating. Asking curious questions to:

  • Listen to learn at a personal level what is going on within a department, for an individual employee
  • Listen for “details” that people share
  • Ask meaningful and relevant questions

With these few things in mind over a couple of months senior leaders were quite surprised at what they learned:

  • Who just completed coursework to advance their career
  • Who had a baby, lost a loved one, got married or possibly divorced
  • A process or procedure that was cumbersome and developing work arounds
  • And more

With these kernels of information, we took this activity to the next level and leaders committed to writing a personal hand-written note to a minimum of one person from the department they had visited. Using guidelines developed for them to make this activity seamless, this activity was a success and developed professional relationships that neither the front line or senior leaders imagined.

No Pass Zone

In my time on this hospital and clinic campus it became painfully evident that for many keeping their eyes forward and focused as they walked from one destination to another was the “culture”. No acknowledgement of people you passed whether a colleague or a patient. No stopping to possibly answer a call light, rather just passing the room. For an organization with goals of being rock stars for engagement translating to the employee and patient experience this is something that needed to change. 

No Pass Zone was developed as a commitment from the hospital staff to each other to work together and recognize each other as the humans that they all are. This included simple things from:

  • Making eye contact, looking up and smiling at a colleague, patient or patient’s family
  • Extending a simple hello
  • Look at fellow colleague’s name badges and address them by name
  • Stopping to check into a patient’s room when a call light is on, is it something simple, care I help this patient
  • Stopping to pick up a piece of trash on the floor or stray magazine left in the wrong place.

Overtime the use of this practice built greater camaraderie, more of an all for one and one for all feeling. Part of putting “human” back into “healthcare”.

Service Recognition

As I began my work at this hospital and clinic campus one of the first tools I used to learn about where the organization was culturally was to study the last three years of their employee engagement and pulse surveys. One aspect of this study stood out like a sore thumb…it was clear that begin recognized for years of service was extremely important yet employee satisfaction with service recognition was nearly non-existent. This needed some investigating. 

Over the course of two weeks, I moved into a series of 55 interviews with employees asking questions developed through studying the engagement surveys and identifying “disconnects” within the survey results. By simply asking an employee about their experience as they celebrated their anniversary milestone (this campus had many long-term employees with a service recognition program recognizing 1,3,5, 10 etc. years of service) I got an earful. 

All reported the current program in the same way:

  • Our anniversary is acknowledged at an annual event
  • The CEO calls us up shakes our hand and gave me a “plastic plaque” 
  • Upon leaving the event “I tossed the plastic plaque in the trash”
  • What am I going to do with a “plastic plaque” (I work in dietary, environmental services, am a nurse, I don’t have a desk, I am not taking it home and putting it on my bookshelf)
  • It would be nicer to get a really nice personal thank you.

Armed with this information I worked with a small group to reimagine how to make a program that was important to many and falling flat while absorbing many resources (human and financial). Getting to the core of what would create meaning and value.

Revised program:

  • Still during holiday party
  • Those being recognized are called up and a few sentences about them shared.
  • Receive a pin that can be worn on their badge. Each pin has a crystal of a different color to designate years of service. This element became a conversation starter between employees and employee to patient or patient family, an unexpected happy surprise.
  • Receive a gift that reflects a personal interest. Each department head with an employee celebrating a service anniversary was given a budget and the recipient’s department colleagues decided up a unique and meaningful gift. One woman who loves gardening and birds got a bird bath. A guy that loves to hunt got a camo insulated backpack.

I happened to be on campus the week after this first revised celebration and ran into several employees who had received service recognition. In short conversations about how they felt, what they received – I was almost accosted by one employee who I had gotten to know through the process. “Do you know what I got to recognize my five-year anniversary?” she asked. “No, what?” I replied. “A SWEET GB Packers Jacket!” she exclaimed. Well, if you knew Trisha, you would know that her Sunday’s lived and died by how the Packers played. Overall there were huge smiles, recognition by the employees that their managers and others that really gone the extra yard to do something thoughtful. The few that I saw that day were all sporting their new “pin” on their badge. Overall, the financial investment has been optimized AND employees really feel celebrated at this milestone.

This program improved the employee experience in a way that aligned with the company’s corporate values and goals. Let’s discuss how to improve yours. To start the conversation connect with us today.