Employee Satisfaction Surveys: A Cornerstone of Your Culture

 In Reducing Employee Turnover

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) mandate in the Conditions of Participation that home care agencies must have continuous improvement programs in place for the patient care they deliver. Just as any hospice or home health organization is constantly working on improving their quality metrics, it’s a good idea to apply the same rigor and focus to the culture and health of your workplace. We constantly review patient care plans; it’s only natural that we do the same for our operations and employee experience.

Employee satisfaction surveys are viewed with trepidation by many agencies. They are time and labor intensive and can reveal hard truths about how employees view their organization. It’s understandable that a leadership team may feel like a formal survey is just “one more thing” on their ever-growing to-do list and rely instead on feedback from their chain of command as the only way they gauge employee sentiment.

With turnover, burnout and staffing shortages at all-time highs for home health and hospice agencies, not fielding an annual survey is a mistake.

Building a robust culture and maintaining a positive workplace requires sustained effort. Thoughtful employee surveys can help an agency continuously improve, with tangible implications to their bottom line in the form of lowered turnover and onboarding costs. Transcend thinks about the survey process in three distinct steps: collection, analysis and action.

Collecting the Data

An employee survey should be well-designed with a few considerations in mind:

  • Balance the need for employee anonymity with the ability to parse your data: There’s no point in having a survey if your employees don’t feel they can give honest and candid responses. People can be wary of giving their opinion if they feel like it may be used against them or that they’ll be identified. However, making your survey completely anonymous can mean you may not be able to drill down into specifics like satisfaction by role, or perhaps identify particular regions of your operations that may be struggling. One answer to this dilemma is to engage a third party who can administer your survey for you, but provide “scrubbed” data and feedback so that particular employees can’t be identified. You should highlight this anonymity in your messaging to staff.
  • Define success and make it fun: What does good employee participation look like? Staff engagement can be notoriously difficult for surveys. Obviously, the higher your participation, the clearer your understanding will be. A “good” response rate depends on a number of factors, including your size and tenure among others. Raffles and giveaways for participation can be useful incentives. Find ways to make it fun! Instead of a gift card or monetary reward, consider prizes like having your Chief Medical Officer run the IDG for the group with the highest participation survey or having the leadership team wash the car of a randomly selected employee who took the survey.
  • Develop the right set of questions and keep them consistent: If you’re restarting your survey process, take time to develop a list of agency-specific questions that speak to your circumstance. It’s critical that a set of base questions be used consistently year-over-year. This will allow you to track and trend employee sentiment over time and help you to measure the impact of any longer-term projects, such as benefits enhancements or leadership development programs. Of course, circumstances may often dictate a few specific questions, such as how they’ve felt about COVID-19 or other major recent changes, and some questions capturing sentiment around these are also important to include. Transcend can help you with survey design to ensure you’re clearly capturing the most relevant data each year.


Analyzing the Results

Building a comprehensive plan for how you’ll dig into the findings is something you should do before fielding your survey. Gauge how long you believe it will take to analyze the data and look for trends or hotspots. Determine which teams or key leaders will be responsible for reviewing data-driven ratings and also any free-text or open-ended responses. Let staff know when they can expect next steps in terms of findings or action plans that come out of the survey results.

A best practice of a healthy organization is to have a proactive plan for sharing the results of the survey in a transparent way with staff. An organization can gain ground and trust with their staff by not shying away from acknowledging areas where employees have expressed less-than-satisfied feelings. Presenting the findings will require nuance and context, but it’s a critical part of the process. Employees may be less likely to engage if they feel as though their input is being kept hidden, or if they only get reports on areas where the organization is doing well.



Putting Action Plans into Place

Perhaps the most critical part of the employee satisfaction survey cycle is what you actually do with the results. If your organization asks staff to put their time and effort into giving you their opinion, they’ll expect you to do more than just listen. In fact, not doing anything with the feedback you’ve solicited can be more harmful than not doing an employee survey in the first place.

Staff need to hear on no less than a quarterly basis how leaders at all levels are working to improve areas of dissatisfaction and to reinforce those aspects of work that appeal to employees. A good leadership team will take time to craft a strategic workplan that leverages staff feedback into actionable steps. If your organization needs facilitation for a strategic retreat to analyze and act on your employee satisfaction surveys, Transcend can help.

It’s also important to note that the ownership for your action plans should be cross-functional and interdisciplinary. It is not solely HR’s job to deal with survey results – operations, finance, clinical and IT leaders all have a role in pursuing actionable change to improve workplace conditions and morale. While HR will be a part of the solution, confining changes to their portfolio limits the amount of change and sends a clear signal to staff that this isn’t a full leadership priority.

Transcend Is Here to Help

If you’re dealing with turnover, employee dissatisfaction or having trouble recruiting, it may be time to be intentional with regards to your employee experience. Thinking strategically about deploying an annual satisfaction survey; reviewing your internal communications practice; or updating your mission, vision or shared values all can be good steps. If you’re not sure where to start building out a sustainable and self-reinforcing culture that attracts and keeps the best clinicians, Transcend can support you in building a strategic roadmap that will work for the home care workforce of tomorrow. Contact us at hello@transcend-strategy.com to start a conversation.

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