Putting Staff First Proves to be Effective in Healthcare Marketing

Many hospitals focus on taking a ‘patient first’ marketing approach. Putting patients first is great, in theory, but some argue that hospitals would do a better job of serving their patients and community if they put their staff first.

According to Branham (2005), “Gallup studies show that businesses with higher employee satisfaction also have:

  • 86 percent higher customer ratings
  • 76 percent more success in lowering turnover
  • 44 percent higher profitability
  • 78 percent better safety records”

By focusing on hospital staff, you will not only improve patient care but will also improve financial performance as well as other key metrics. Hospital leaders often want to jump immediately to external messaging, branding campaigns and positioning statements; and then assume staff will get on board with the promises being made. But, unless staff are aligned with expectations being put in place and have buy-in to the promises they are expected to deliver, the patient experience won’t align with brand messaging and marketing dollars will be wasted.

As strategic healthcare communicators, it’s often a challenge to determine your role in putting staff first. It starts with candid discussions with HR, Operations and other members of the C-suite. Ask:

  • What do we love about our staff?
  •  What do we wish was improved?
  • What goals should be achieved if all staff were working together?
  • Does our staff currently know and live our Mission? Vision? Values?
  • Do we have a way to share and celebrate success?
  • How do we want to be known in our market?
  • What can patients expect when they come to our hospital(s)?

These questions can start a conversation, which should help you develop a strategy to begin aligning staff with operational and marketing goals.

Review the four E’s below as you begin to think through putting your staff first:

1. Educate

Why do we do what we do as nurses, doctors, administrators, business office staff and technicians? Educating on your mission is the first step. Then, further educating on how the mission is visible in everyday job roles is even more important. We’ve worked with hospitals that have had missions, visions, guiding principles, pillars, pinnacles, values and more. But, creating a framework to educate about the why and the how is an important first step in the process.

Education about measurement metrics is also important. It is unfair to employees if they do not know how success is measured and have access to periodic progress updates. Whether goals are measured financially, with HCAHPS or manually with patient surveys – staff cannot be expected to move the needle if they do not know where it is or what affects change.

2. Equip 

Once employees understand the goals and the basics of how to get there, it is vital to equip employees with the knowledge to succeed. Seek out and leverage best practices throughout the organization through various training programs. Reducing admissions is a goal that all staff, collectively, can help achieve. But, how does every person in the process play a part? It is presumptive to think a new staff member will know their role- unless you educate them.

Equipping clinical and operations staff with what they need to succeed is vital. If nurses are being measured by the ‘quiet’ on their floor via HCAHPS, perhaps a few posters reminding patients, visitors and staff to stay quiet will help them succeed. What can you do to equip employees to succeed?

3. Empower

Establish processes that empower employees to share best practices in the organization and reward success. Taking an example from the hospitality industry, a well-known hotel chain has a program where employees wear buttons stating ‘Catch me at my best.’ Guests are encouraged to note which staff member exceeded their expectations during their stay. Programs similar to this are a great way to find out what consumers consider great service in your organization. Empower and encourage your employees to go above and beyond, and reward employees who exceed the status quo.

4. Engage

Your staff best understands the experience being delivered in your hospital. Before any external marketing effort is launched or promise is communicated, ensure staff and/or physicians have bought into the message. Show messages internally and get input. You don’t have to use all of their feedback, but it will help you know if you are about to promise something that isn’t true. Internal launch parties before a new campaign are a fun way to get employees excited about how what they do is going to be communicated in their community.

The next time someone comments that ‘we really need to put patients first,’ we hope you’ll take a breath and think about if your staff needs to come first in order to truly exceed patient expectations.

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