Vital Actions: Building engagement one step at a time

October 31, 2022  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership, ,
Top: 12E team members at a recent Beacon Award celebration. Bottom: The Biological Chemistry Department.

Approximately a 6-minute read

  • Leaders and staff from two areas at Michigan Medicine offer best practices for engaging with your teams
  • Having open conversations, developing trust with your team, and involving staff members in decision-making are great ways to engage with faculty and staff in your area  
  • Improvement plans are due to be submitted in the Press Ganey portal by Nov. 30

Since the results of the 2022 Vital Voices faculty and staff engagement surveys were shared, leaders across the organization have been hard at work developing improvement plans for their areas. While there are tools available to develop and track an improvement plan in the Press Ganey portal, identifying ways to improve engagement can be difficult.

Directors and managers from two areas that scored well in this year’s survey — the 12E nursing unit in C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and the Biological Chemistry department in the U-M Medical School — shared some tips and ideas for managers looking to improve engagement in their areas.

Teamwork and trust

“As a manager, there is an ‘operational’ part to our job and a ‘people’ part to our job,” said Korey Poe, M.S.N., B.S., R.N., clinical nursing director for 12E. “Both are equally important, but it’s essential to develop a relationship with your staff and build a sense of teamwork and trust with those around you.”

Poe, and his colleague Cathy Doherty, B.S.N., R.N., clinical nursing supervisor on 12E, have spent several years developing trust with their staff and it showed in not only this year’s survey but consistently in past surveys – they were among the highest scoring areas in the organization.

“We focus on building a positive culture but credit for making this unit a great place to work really goes to our staff,” said Doherty. “We involve our staff in decision making that impacts the unit and provide them with a space to share thoughts and ideas. We foster that sense of inclusion, but they are the ones who really bring the ideas to life.”  

The administrative team in the Biological Chemistry department agrees that carving time out of your day to meet with everyone in your department is an important part of building trust.

“Our department experienced some turnover in leadership over the last couple of years that led to some uncertainty among our teams,” said Amanda Howard, executive assistant in Biological Chemistry. “Once our new leadership team was in place, they made it a priority for the entire administrative team to spend time getting to know our team members and develop a relationship with them. Now, when anyone in the department has a question or a problem, they know who to reach out to and they know we will do what we can to help problem solve.”

Open communication

Another key driver in developing trust with employees is facilitating open communication.

“If you take care of people, establish professional and personal relationships, and have open lines of communication, you will have an engaged, and empowered staff, which will automatically lead to improved outcomes and experiences for our patients,” said Doherty.

Maintaining open communication is even more important in a hybrid or virtual work environment, like the one many Michigan Medicine departments are now utilizing.

“Our staff are split between in-person and remote work, with many of our researchers working on-site majority of the time, which can create challenges to communication,” said Lisa VanMeerbeeck, faculty, staff and trainee advisor for Biological Chemistry. “When our administrative team is on-site, we make sure to engage with staff working in the office, but we also take time to meet with staff virtually and maintain those connections. Moving to a hybrid work environment has enabled us to make better use of available technology and has actually made it easier for us to keep in touch with one another.”

Rounding is another way that staff on 12E stay connected and provides Poe and Doherty with opportunities to communicate with their staff and “close the loop” on any issues of concern that are raised.

“We involve our staff in decision-making and bring them along in our process,” said Poe. “We are also continuously seeking feedback and asking staff to tell us what we can do better, and how we can help them grow.” 

Informal get-togethers can also help grow relationships and improve communication in a more relaxed atmosphere.

Informal events help bring the biological chemistry team together.

“Planning social events and activities has been a great way for us to connect as a team and talk more openly with one another,” said VanMeerbeeck. “We really try to take advantage of the flexibility that hybrid work has enabled us to have and use it to improve the well-being of our team.”

Highlighting teams that are making a positive impact not only recognizes important efforts, but it may provide inspiration or spark ideas for other areas of the organization.

“Recognizing areas with high engagement is a great way to share ideas and highlight best practices that may benefit other departments in the organization,” said Paul Sturgis, MSHROD, SPHR, senior director of human resources strategy and organizational effectiveness. “We have a lot of committed leaders across the organization who are engaging with their staff every day, which ultimately leads to an improved experience for our patients. We want to celebrate their successes and let them know we appreciate all their efforts.”  

How to submit your plan

Once you begin the improvement planning process, the ideas highlighted here may provide inspiration for initiatives you can implement in your area. If you have not yet submitted an improvement plan, there is still time! Improvement Plans are due to be submitted in the Press Ganey portal by Nov. 30.

Plans can be submitted by logging into the Press Ganey portal and navigating to the “department hierarchy.” The improvement planning tool is only available in the department hierarchy, not the manager hierarchy. Search for your department and then click on “improvement plans.” 

Detailed instructions on how to submit a plan and additional resources are available on the Employee Engagement website.

This story highlights one of what will be a series of “Vital Actions” being generated from the feedback received in the Vital Voices survey. Every time you see the Vital Actions icon, you will be reading about an initiative that is being implemented to address issues raised by team members who responded to the Vital Voices survey.