Use Targeted Pulse Surveys to Achieve Healthcare Workforce Alignment

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021
This blog post excerpts an article in the Fall 2014 issue of HealthStream's Healthcare Workforce Advisor, our quarterly magazine designed to bring you thought leadership and best practices for developing the healthcare workforce.

Consider the important relationships in your life. Chances are they don’t happen in a vacuum. Instead, regular feedback helps you nurture the things that are going well, and change or address what’s not. Similarly, the organization-employee relationship requires regular and timely feedback to thrive.

As an essential part of an organization’s workforce strategy, the annual employee engagement survey provides organization-wide feedback for an overall view of the health of an organization and the factors influencing business outcomes. Employee engagement is the metric that drives everything else, and when scores rise or fall, other metrics, such as financial or operational performance, and patient satisfaction can climb or dip with it.

Thus, annual engagement surveys can take on strategic importance. When timed around annual planning periods, they give employees a voice in the setting of priorities and goals, and help guide decision-making around initiatives that support an organization’s business strategy. Such dialog is critical to strengthening workforce alignment with objectives, and encouraging personal accountability for and ownership of the organization’s mission, vision, and values.

An annual survey that keeps pace with an organization’s business planning makes logistical sense. It provides the time needed to complete short-term plans and lay the groundwork for long-term initiatives. But in a 12-month cycle, faster moving initiatives or emerging demands may go under-served or under the radar. Some things are too dynamic to measure only once a year. Priorities and demands can shift overnight. Ideas and initiatives can evolve. Other things are too big and too complex to measure in a single annual survey. Thus, the ability to respond to threats and opportunities effectively depends not only on the collection of data, but also on the timeliness and intelligence of response.

If leaders aren’t listening to employees on a regular basis, they can miss warning signs of risk to the organization, its people, or its patients, and miss opportunities to keep employees focused and aligned with strategic initiatives. Leadership and workforce can get out of sync with one another and an organization can get off track or lose its  purpose.

Consider the Florida-based lifeguard services company Ellis and Associates. In 2012, a lifeguard employed by the organization left his post and raced to an unpatrolled area of the beach to save a man who was drowning. Instead of being commended for his quick thinking and heroic actions, the lifeguard was fired for breaking the rules: He had gone outside his assigned area. The company had become so focused on mitigating liability, that it lost sight of its mission to keep people safe and prevent drowning. Shortly after the incident, several lifeguards resigned. While its employees had taken personal ownership of its mission and values, somewhere along the way, the company lost their voice and other interests took center stage. Leadership and workforce were out of touch and out of sync, and, sadly, the company lost sight of its purpose.

To keep in touch with strategic concerns and bolster the benefits of the annual survey, targeted, intermittent data collection can add a tactical and more proactive element to your overall engagement and business strategies. Thus, the Pulse survey is emerging as a viable solution for enhancing leadership’s ability to understand environmental influences and make data more actionable.

This article also includes:

  • What is a Pulse Survey?
  • Are Pulse Surveys Worth It?
  • Three ways pulse surveys can drive employee involvement and engagement
  • Four key features to ensure successful use of pulse surveys