At Children’s National Hospital, we employ quite 7,000 employees, who are opened up across quite 40 locations. Due to our size and geographic reach, keeping a pulse on employees’ engagement levels is often a challenge. In recent years, we’ve begun conducting employee engagement surveys twice a year. This frequency allows us to stay engaged top of mind for managers, and track any improvements we make in additional real-time.

Last year we made an interchange to our Employee Engagement Survey, making it brief and more user-friendly. The survey, which we run twice a year, is now just 12 questions long, and every question is answered with “emojis.” Employees select one among five frownings, neutral and smiling faces to point their answer to the question. We believe this alteration has helped keep our survey participation rate high because it allows employees to finish the survey quickly. The survey is additionally mobile-friendly, which is important for several of our job functions who are on the battlefront and not near a computer during their shift.

At the conclusion of every survey, managers are provided access to a dashboard of their aggregate department data (individual employee responses are anonymous). It’s ultimately the work of our leaders to impact change in their work environments. The expectation is that our leaders will thoroughly review the info, and be transparent about the results with their team. We hope the discussions that come from those meetings can help identify positive trends and initiatives or help create buy-in to enhance the results.

For those departments that score below 75% engagement, we encourage the managers to interact with every member of their team as a partner in change. Our Learning and Development team and HR Business Partners also team with these departments to make action plans.

"Employee engagement in health care can impact quite just retention rates and morale; research shows that engagement also can impact patient satisfaction, reimbursement, and safety culture"

This approach worked particularly well in one among our departments that had a 68% engagement score within the fall of 2018. The department’s senior leader took a “the buck stops with me” attitude, and really owned the necessity for change. After taking her concerns to her own leaders for his or her buy-in, she presented the survey data to her staff. She was extremely transparent and asked for every one of them to play a neighborhood in change.

With input from the staff, the department created “guiding principles,” or standards of behavior, that lay out their expectations for every other, their work environment, and the way they're going to hold one another accountable. The senior leader also met one-on-one with all 31 staff members within the functional team that scored rock bottom, to know their concerns and invite their help. She also engaged the loudest negative voice within the department to make sure that an individual felt heard and involved and will be a positive force within the process.

Their diligence paid off; the department’s engagement score increased to 80% within the next survey – a mere 6 months later.

Children’s National has ambitious plans for 2020 which will help us grow and undertake new initiatives, but which will also impact employee engagement. We all know that within the coming years, maintaining attention on employee engagement, and sustaining the improvements we’ve already made, are going to be more important than ever.