Jim Harter, chief scientist for workplace management and well-being at Gallup, says data shows a clear link between employee engagement and patient satisfaction. “As organizations improve their engagement levels, there is a positive linear relationship with growth in patient satisfaction and loyalty,” he says. “One of the key questions we ask on our survey is, ‘Do you know what is expected of you at work?’ If your expectations aren’t set around the patient, then you aren’t going to get the same results as they would be if you engage the employee and encourage them to think about the patient.”
Improved employee engagement also means lower turnover and onboarding costs. Adventist Midwest invested $1.8 million over the first 18 months of the program. Using what Garufi called “very conservative numbers,” and estimating that it cost $20,000 to replace a nurse and $5,000 to replace a non-nurse—from cleaning staff to physicians and top executives—the health system saved $3.8 million in turnover costs for the period. “That’s a net return of just over $2 million for an ROI of 112% over one and a half years,” Garufi says.
While the health system’s leadership has bought into the idea, Russell and Garufi say they constantly have to guard against complacency.
“It is easy for people to get the sense that, ‘Okay, I’ve been rounding my employees for a year and we’ve gotten good results. What do we do now?’ We have to help them see that the answer is: Keep rounding,” Garufi says. “People are attracted to the new and shiny things, which is why we had such great momentum in the first year. Now it’s about keeping them focused.”
Russell says rounding questions evolve as the employer of choice program matures. “Early on we were asking ‘Do you have the tools to do your job?’ We still ask that question but now we are asking ‘Where do you want to be in three or five years?’ so we can start succession planning if someone wants to grow,” Russell says. “There is also the background message it sends about the connection between the manager and the employee, and it demonstrates to the employee that they are important to the manager. That is a foundational aspect that is important regardless of questions that are being asked.”