Nancy Anderson, RN, MA, Senior Vice President of Engagement Solutions

“I have a clear understanding of the goals and priorities of the organization.”

Would your employees agree with this statement? This is one of the questions we ask employees in our engagement assessment because it relates to a key driver of engagement … the feeling of having meaningful work that contributes to what’s most important in the organization. Interestingly, among all of the measures in our engagement assessment, this item consistently surfaces as one of the lowest scoring!

Not surprising. It’s estimated that in most organizations, only about 5% to 14% of employees understand their organization’s direction and strategy. When employees rate this item low, they may be conveying that:

•  Their leaders don’t communicate this information, or information isn’t shared frequently enough

•  They don’t know how to translate the information they get into what it means for them personally or professionally

•  Or (and this is the worst case scenario) they feel their manager doesn’t think they are important enough for this type of communication. In other words, they see their manager as believing that employees should just do their job and they don’t need to know anything else, essentially sending the message that employees aren’t worthy of hearing important information.

The fact is, your employees want to be “in the know” about what matters most in your organization. They are interested in the direction and goals of your company and why these goals are important. AND they want to know that what they do on a daily basis has some purpose behind it.

Embed ‘clear line of sight’ communication approaches as part of your leadership system.

In last month’s blog, “How does your leadership team lead?” I shared the importance of defining a system of leadership that is designed to drive high levels of performance in your facility. A critical element of your leadership system is sharing information with employees in ways that routinely and consistently keep them informed about what’s important in your organization. This means establishing systematic approaches for communicating goals and priorities. And the key word is “systematic.” Communicating goals and priorities can never be a one-time thing.

In addition to your mission, vision and values, here are some examples of other information you may want to communicate:

•  Strategic objectives, i.e., organizational, facility and/or departmental direction

•  Key metrics, especially those for which employees have a direct impact, e.g., customer experience measures

•  Progress towards goals

•  Any major decision and the reason behind the decision

•  Any plans related to changes in the work or work environment

•  New projects or focus areas

•  Industry news, including regulations affecting the facility or organization

Agree on key messages to cascade.

To ensure consistent messaging, agree on key communication points to cascade to employees. One efficient way to do this is to take a few minutes at the end of your management team meetings for members to agree on talking points that each manager will take back to their respective teams. Be deliberate in preventing the “black hole” of information, i.e., vague, inconsistent or non-existent, communication between the management team and frontline employees. Make sharing of agreed upon information an expectation of managers and hold them accountable.

Also, make sure that you are getting information to all shifts. Here is a comment written in the narrative section following the goals and priorities question on an engagement survey:

“I work the evening shift. The only thing I know about this place is what they told me when I went through orientation 6 months ago. The only thing my supervisor tells me is what my assignment is and if I make a mistake. I have no idea what the goals and priorities are. In fact, I’ve never even met the Administrator or DON.”

People working the evening and night shifts can feel pretty isolated, unless intentional efforts are made to communicate with employees who work these shifts.

Be consistent and persistent.

When you launch a communication plan to routinely share goals and priorities, observe the reaction from employees. You may find that initially they have a “so what” attitude. But if you continue to routinely share bigger picture information and help employees see how they contribute to what’s most important, you will most likely see a higher level of interest and a higher level of engagement over time. Primarily because you are sending the message that employees are an important part of your organization and that it’s worth taking time to keep them informed.

By giving your employees regular updates about what matters most, and helping them connect their work to the success of your organization, you reinforce a feeling of significance among your employees and create an environment in which they can say: I’m valued, I’m respected, I matter here.

Nancy Anderson, RN, MA, is the Senior Vice President of Engagement Solutions for Align. She provides strategic leadership and supports development of solutions to help providers successfully build and sustain a culture of engagement.