“Communicate in Probabilities” and other Proven Strategies for Employee Engagement in Healthcare

by | Feb 15, 2021 | Healthcare Industry Insights | 0 comments

Lisa McCluskey, Vice President of Marketing Communications at CHI Memorial, shares tips on employee engagement in healthcare and lessons learned over the last year.

Among many oth­er shifts expe­ri­enced dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, the role of employ­ee engage­ment in health­care has become one of the most crit­i­cal func­tions with­in the organization.

As front-line work­ers and oth­er health­care pro­fes­sion­als expe­ri­ence trau­ma, stress and burnout, lead­ers are turn­ing to their mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions teams for exper­tise in cel­e­brat­ing, inspir­ing and edu­cat­ing their colleagues.

At CHI Memo­r­i­al in Chat­tanooga, TN, Lisa McCluskey over­sees inter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tions among many oth­er strate­gic dis­ci­plines. She also serves on the COVID-19 Com­mand Cen­ter team to inform the system’s more than 4,600 asso­ciates, 400 vol­un­teers and 600 affil­i­at­ed physi­cians through­out South­east Ten­nessee and Georgia.

Pri­or to 2020, she had devel­oped a mul­ti-chan­nel inter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tions plat­form designed to engage employ­ees, physi­cians, med­ical staff and physi­cians in the com­mu­ni­ty. The pan­dem­ic ele­vat­ed those efforts — and the esteem from her peers in exec­u­tive and clin­i­cal lead­er­ship — to an entire­ly new level.

“The pan­dem­ic has thrust the com­mu­ni­ca­tions team into the lime­light,” Lisa says. “That’s one thing that has been good for the art and the pro­fes­sion of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, as they now have a seat at the table where per­haps before they didn’t.”

To inspire peers work­ing to adapt their inter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tions strat­e­gy and boost employ­ee engage­ment in health­care, Lisa shares a few lessons learned dur­ing 2020.

In a rapidly changing environment, communicate in probabilities

COVID-19 changed near­ly by the day, and as the days went on we learned more about the dis­ease and the treat­ment options so we had to be very nim­ble as a com­mu­ni­ca­tions team. Through­out the process, we would com­mu­ni­cate to our inter­nal audi­ences what we knew, when we knew it. Some­thing may not be black and white but we would still com­mu­ni­cate, “This is what we know today, and it may change.”

This approach was a real shift for our physi­cians. We had to get them com­fort­able with talk­ing about things before they were actu­al­ly set in stone because a lot of com­mu­ni­ca­tion is build­ing trust by prepar­ing peo­ple and guid­ing them on the jour­ney based on the infor­ma­tion avail­able. That has been the over­ar­ch­ing phi­los­o­phy of our com­mu­ni­ca­tions plat­form through­out COVID-19.

People like a steady flow of information in short, snackable bites

This approach allows them to breeze through and get the high­lights, and then click through for more infor­ma­tion. Peo­ple like con­stant con­tact and they can accept change if you’ve pre­pared them along the way. You have to lay the ground­work so they know what to expect, and then if we have to shift based on new infor­ma­tion, they’re more accept­ing of it.

Make information easy to find

Effec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion is about pro­vid­ing infor­ma­tion in mul­ti­ple areas so we can meet peo­ple where they are and respond quick­ly. Through­out the pan­dem­ic, we devel­oped a robust plat­form that start­ed with a land­ing page with a lot of FAQs. We also issued week­ly videos fea­tur­ing physi­cians along with a dai­ly COVID-19 newslet­ter that cov­ers what’s going on in the com­mu­ni­ty, key oper­a­tional issues and cel­e­bra­tions of our health­care heroes. In addi­tion, we have an employ­ee app as well as a ded­i­cat­ed email address so any employ­ee that wants to ask a COVID-19-relat­ed ques­tion can email covid@memorial.org.

These ini­tia­tives worked so well with our inter­nal audi­ence that we shift­ed them to the exter­nal audi­ence as well. We have a ded­i­cat­ed COVID-19 land­ing page, where users can email us a ques­tion along with the videos, FAQs and oth­er resources. For patients, we can send SMS mes­sages with links to infor­ma­tion on our COVID-19 page. We’re also able to send direct-to-Face­book mes­sag­ing for patients using our CRM. Through these efforts, our ulti­mate goal is to be the trust­ed source of infor­ma­tion for all things COVID-19.

Physicians want non-medical information, too

We’ve seen physi­cian engage­ment climb to phe­nom­e­nal lev­els dur­ing the pan­dem­ic. I always thought doc­tors don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly care about oper­a­tional issues, that they main­ly care about their par­tic­u­lar spe­cial­ty or med­ical news only. How­ev­er, when we start­ed pro­vid­ing them with COVID-19 updates, we learned they also want to know about the oper­a­tional updates at the hos­pi­tal. They would even call and say they print­ed the updates and shared them with their staff. Our physi­cians read almost 7,000 arti­cles in 2020—up a full 50% from the pre­vi­ous year — with up to 76% engage­ment rates.

Develop a partnership with your physicians

When peers see our videos online or Face­book Live and ask how I get physi­cians to par­tic­i­pate and speak in plain lan­guage, I tell them it requires ongo­ing rela­tion­ship build­ing. To be the trust­ed source of infor­ma­tion in our mar­ket, we need physi­cians to be a part­ner with us. We’ve pro­vid­ed our prac­tices with script­ing and fly­ers with a QR code that linked to our COVID-19 infor­ma­tion page and ear­ly on, we estab­lished a core group of physi­cians we could always call on. We set the expec­ta­tion that every day you’re on some sta­tion some­where. We also share with them what our audi­ence is want­i­ng to know and what lev­el of edu­ca­tion they have so we can speak appro­pri­ate­ly. We spend a lot of time shar­ing the ques­tions we’re get­ting with physi­cians. We even share key­word search­es to show them what terms peo­ple are using to find infor­ma­tion so they can use that lan­guage in their messages.

My advice to peers is to get a core group of physi­cians who are will­ing to be your spokes­peo­ple and help you be the trust­ed source of infor­ma­tion in the com­mu­ni­ty, and work with them to be pre­pared and knowl­edge­able about what patients and the com­mu­ni­ty are thinking.

People need ‘brain breaks’ from the pandemic

They need a sense of nor­mal­cy, moments to not be think­ing about COVID-19. That is why we re-start­ed pro­duc­tion on our employ­ee mag­a­zine Our Voice (pro­duced in part­ner­ship with True North) that fea­tures inspir­ing sto­ries and focus­es on peo­ple liv­ing their per­son­al mis­sion in their every­day lives. It was paused for a while because of COVID-19, but we’re get­ting ready to ramp back up to an every oth­er month schedule.

We’ve got COVID-19 real­ly well cov­ered, and peo­ple need to engage with their cowork­ers and return to cel­e­brat­ing care­givers as health­care heroes.

Note: Lisa is a mem­ber of our Health­care Insight mag­a­zine advi­so­ry board.

Let’s Boost Your Employee Engagement

Our team of health­care mar­ket­ing experts can help you craft con­tent that sup­ports an effec­tive inter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tions strategy.

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