When it comes to health and healing, the patient experience – of care, quality, and service – is always paramount. Patients and their families must be at the forefront of all decisions physicians, nurses, and administrative team members make. But these aren’t the only people who must be a priority for health leaders. Their people must be a priority, too; in fact, the first priority. Whether working in finance, technology, or healthcare, the employee experience must be core to the organization’s strategy and culture.
Creating a Thriving Team Experience
#1: Expand your definition
The first and most important step to creating a positive and memorable employee experience is to expand your definition to what we call Experience for All. We fundamentally believe the customer or patient experience can never exceed the employee or team experience, and neither can the two be detached. So you have to put the two circles together as a whole. The second step to this foundational process is to step back and recognize that the experience is not just a set of behaviors, actions, standards, or series of events. It’s an intentional coming together of a bigger picture where strategy and operations meets culture and belief.
#2: Data and people tell the whole story
In the realm of the care experience, traditional measures such as HCAHPS that address the what but not the why or how are typically not the best indicators of success. It’s on us to be creative and find those that are. Measuring progress is the key to sustainable change, because it allows for adaptation when context requires it. Numbers, however, don’t always tell the full story. Hard data needs to be coupled with human stories to create a compelling narrative. It needs to be baked into why each team member comes through the door every day and how they fulfill that why for their colleagues and patients.
#3: Ask, don’t tell
Great – now you get it, so let’s go create that experience. But before you try to create what you think is the right experience for your team members, go ask them what it feels and looks like when they deliver an experience at its best. What’s unique about it? Watch and listen for both their hopes and best practices. You will hear their feelings and wants. You will hear that the printers need fixing, the walls need repainting, and the EHR needs replacing. That’s part of the relationship between leaders and teams, and it’s on the path to relevant change. What you want to get to is the authentic stories your team members tell.
#4: Create the big picture
What everyone needs but is usually missing is the “box top,” – the bigger picture – that brings together the why, what, and how of a holistic experience. Before you can tell people how to deliver a world-class experience, you are best served to show them why it’s the right story – their story – and what the plan is to get there. They need to know they’re valued and their contributions make a difference. Once every person can align on that common picture and mental model, you can begin connecting everything – from the strategy to floor-level operations – to that ideal experience.
#5: Tie everything to that experience
Don’t view experience as a one-and-done task or event. It should be integrated into your operations, strategy, the way you communicate, and how everyone shows up every day. Every action and interaction impacts the experience and creates consistency. Experience is not just the bow on top; it’s a decision filter and the lens through which you see and do everything. This principle applies to how leadership aligns on their decisions (and making sure everyone is at the table), how the operational “ecosystem” is designed, how teams work together moment to moment, and how people choose to show up and take accountability.
#6: Empower your people to deliver this experience
Although executive sponsorship and involvement are crucial to sustainable experience transformation, everyone needs to own it. Experience is a culmination of small interactions and memorable moments, rather than just a big corporate initiative. Showing up authentically in every interaction creates a ripple effect. Yet the stage needs to be set for everyone to own it, too. In other words, they need permission to make the right choices and solve tough issues in the moment. Sometimes the difference between “I can” and “I can’t” is whether leadership has created a safe environment for the experts in their organization to be their best and thrive.
#7: Show gratitude and recognition
Recognition and gratitude are transformational levers of experience. They connect actions and behaviors to the experience and patient outcomes. Most often, the root cause of someone insisting, “That’s not my job,” is that no one thanked that person for the job they’ve already done – or the lives they’ve saved in the process! People want to feel valued and have an unshakeable sense of purpose and belonging. Celebrating their wins emphasizes the importance of the work they’re doing and that they’re contributing to something bigger than themselves. It’s particularly impactful if it comes from the top down, signaling the magnitude of this work to the organization.
Your People Are the Experience
Without putting time and effort into cultivating a culture that recognizes, motivates, inspires, and supports your team members – from department leads to caregivers at all levels, and the administrators that make all the behind the scenes happen – your organization will not be able to support its patients and guests to the best of its ability. This is why creating an employee experience strategy and making it a core tenet of your organization’s mission is so important. Happy clinicians will lead to happy patients, and as the doctor says, “Laughter is the best medicine.”