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HIMSS23: Creating an engaged workforce


How to keep employees from leaving your practice

Doctors in grid | © Mangostar -

© Mangostar -

Every organization would like to have an engaged workforce that is excited to come to work each day and give 100% effort, but to achieve that, you have to actually commit to it, says Jonathon Goldberg, former CIO, and Tejal Desai, assistant vice president, IT applications, both with Edward-Elmurst Health, who presented at HIMSS Chicago 2023.

“If you can create an environment where people are not looking for jobs, they won’t leave for jobs,” says Goldberg.

He says that to engage your workforce, you have to create a culture where the organizational lines are blurred so that everyone feels like a leader. Employees want to have fun and feel like they are in control. If you can do that, then they will be more committed to their employer.

Desai said to be aware of the difference between engagement and satisfaction. The qualities of engagement are enablement, energy, empowerment, and encouragement.

She says the goals for leaders is to create an environment where employees love their job, but it takes an intentional effort by leadership to accomplish that.

To achieve this, they created employee advisory councils where employees could give honest feedback in an informal environment and it sampled a wide range of employees. They also sent out employee surveys on a regular basis.

“Everyone has probably given them, but it’s about looking at the results,” says Desai. “Many of us are guilty of sending surveys, but not acting on the results.”

After the team had transitioned to working at home during COVID, she said they were surprised to find that survey results showed that employees still didn’t have everything they needed for optimal performance. They worked to fix that, but without the survey, they would have thought employees were set.

They also used informal townhalls that they adjusted to be less than an hour that combined updates on the company along with time for employees to give feedback. Another thing they did was to adjust their meetings so all meeting were intentional with a purpose and built on collaboration. In doing so, they also made sure if they were having a meeting, that everyone had an equal voice.

The final piece was the CrushIT award, where employees could nominate teammates for a quarterly award. Winners were recognized by leadership in front of the entire staff.

Goldberg also sent out a weekly email on Friday with a fun tone, addressing anything from leadership ideas to musings while standing in line for coffee.

They also spent time developing a holiday card with a message for each employee signed by management. In addition, they also tried to do something on random days, such as “do something nice day” to recognized staff for their contributions.

Goldberg and Desai both said that staff parties went a long way to develop camaraderie and respect with staff, because the more time people spent together, the more relationships were built.

“Someone will be more likely to be forgiving if they like someone, and that helps build a culture of respect,” says Desai.

Goldberg says that developing an engaged workforce is not easy and leaders should expect to put in effort to get results. But the results are worth the effort: they saw a turnover rate of 2% over two years when the industry average is 25.9%. With the cost of hiring a new employee above $100,000, he said it’s well worth the effort to retain employees.

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Jennifer N. Lee, MD, FAAFP
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health