Many organizational leaders fail to recognize the costliness of employee disengagement. According to a survey conducted by Gallup Inc., Washington, D.C., one disengaged employee costs an organization up to 40 percent of their annual salary. For an employee earning $50,000, that’s a $20,000 annual loss.

Disengagement can also destroy interdepartmental relationships and impact employees from the top down if management is also disconnected.

Building effective relationships with a team, leadership and end-users is critical to developing successful partnerships inside and outside of a health care facility. Engaged workplaces have two times higher customer loyalty and productivity, two times lower turnover and three times faster profit growth.

The process starts with engaging and empowering employees and generating increased productivity and efficiencies to ultimately create organizationwide value for the department. By knowing the right data to deliver to the right audiences within the organization and using the proper communication tools, facility professionals will strengthen the partnerships needed to maintain a safe and efficient healing environment.

The value formula

Ultimately, what may be destroying an organization’s value is a break-fix mentality. At some hospitals, the facilities management department is stuck in a cycle in which technicians and laborers wait for something to break, then react to it. However, a department that passively waits for things to malfunction is not a stable department. Rather, it’s a high-risk department, plagued by inefficiencies, complaints from internal customers, low morale and lack of respect within the organization. Not only that, but it is breaking the value of the facilities management department as well.

This cycle can be broken, and it starts with leadership development and a technician mindset transition. By defining department goals, setting expectations and training facility management leaders to manage a proactive team, technicians’ mindsets will shift to create a more engaged, efficient and proactive team.

Small adjustments to team communications and daily routines — like proactive rounding, planning for the work ahead and collecting data on work orders — can make a world of difference in increasing a facilities management department’s value, morale and standing in the organization.

In order to understand this, it’s important to recognize what it means to deliver value as a facilities management team.

It’s not unusual to promote a facilities technician to a leadership position just because they’ve been there for a while, despite a lack of training, mentoring or leadership ability. However, this can greatly impact an organization because it creates high turnover, loss of institutional knowledge and a growing reliance on external service contracts that will cost far more than growing in-house capabilities.

The value formula — consisting of data, employee engagement and communication — will help put facilities management teams on the path to successful partnerships inside and outside of the department.

Importance of data

Data makes everyone’s jobs easier. Too often, though, strategies, tools and tactics employed in facility operations hinge largely on personal experiences and preferences. While there’s a great amount of value in personal perspective, basing decisions on shifting values and information invariably leaves blind spots and gaping holes where resources slip through. This results in duplicate, inefficient and needless expenses.

Pairing activity reports and recommendations with data not only makes information more precise and error-resistant, but it also helps to remove emotion and biases out of discussions — particularly those with potential for controversy. Clearly, data also provides evidence, so facility professionals can make better decisions and more accurate predictions, avoiding costly mistakes.

When developing the data aspect of a value formula, it’s also integral to understand the difference between meaningful data and useless data. Useless data involves only looking at data from one hospital and trying to standardize based on that data. Alternatively, meaningful data consists of examining data points across appropriate benchmarking to a capture a more accurate current state to make better business decisions.

One must also determine what the meaningful and actionable data points are for a particular facility, then they must be sure to track and report those. However, to get there, one must first establish the destination.

To pinpoint a destination with data, one must glean where the department is now by completing the following actions:

  • Evaluate the current state of the facilities management department, including current workflow, staff and resources.
  • Set achievable goals for the team to work toward that align with the organization’s goals.
  • Establish milestones and reporting processes to show progress.
  • Ensure reliable data with evidence that facility professionals can make better decisions and more accurate predictions.
  • Secure leadership buy-in to demonstrate value.

Data is of utmost importance when working to develop a more engaged, successful and productive facility management team and should be regarded as a key component of success.

Communication skills

The number one rule of communication is to know one’s audience. Consider questions such as, "What are their needs? What are their pains and drivers?" Of course, answers will differ depending on who is being assessed, but understanding the audience prior to communication is critical to success.

For employee communication, it’s important that associates are heard in an open, non-judgmental way. They want a say in their daily routines and departmental decisions and want respect and a sense of purpose. It’s also important to employees that they’re set up for success with growth and advancement opportunities, as well as provided all the proper tools and resources available.

Communication for internal customers is not one-size-fits-all for all employees. Executive leaders want to stay informed of issues, threats and opportunities impacting facilities operations. Communication with them should include evidence of claims as well as recommendations and objective, and data-based reasoning for requests, particularly as they relate to finances.

Alternatively, vendors and trade groups seek to leverage knowledge and opportunities, desire to exchange actionable practices and want to feel like partners. Direct internal customers — like unit leaders and clinicians — want work orders fulfilled quickly and accurately, positive and friendly interactions with staff, and problems spotted and fixed before they recognize them.

An important aspect of communication is also to secure leadership buy-in and involvement. A three-pronged approach is best when demonstrating the importance of collaboration and investment in facilities management:

  • Earn the leaders’ support by showing evidence of the impact and value of facilities management efforts through data and standardization.
  • Share what to expect by presenting the plan for driving improvements with regular progress reports.
  • Clarify the leaders’ role by answering the question, "What do you need from them to be successful?"

The faster way to make an impact, particularly when working with new groups, is to secure early wins. Find a problem that can be solved quickly to earn credibility and positive word-of-mouth as new audiences or partners are engaged.

Employee engagement

It’s no secret that increased employee engagement will have positive implications for an organization. By implementing an engagement program and focusing on employee morale, companies will quickly reap many rewards, such as higher customer loyalty, higher productivity, lower turnover and faster profit growth. When employees aren’t valued, the entire company suffers.

The biggest problem with employee engagement? Many organizations don’t fully understand how to fix the problem. The misconception of an engaged employee fix is that by adding snacks in the break room, employees will suddenly be engaged, and morale will be increased. The reality is, however, that without a full engagement program, these gestures may just decrease productivity. 

Meaningful goals and engagement should be defined by employees affirmatively answering the following questions:

  • I know what is expected of me at work.
  • I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  • At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  • In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  • My supervisor or someone at work seems to care about me as a person.
  • There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  • At work, my opinions seem to count.
  • This mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
  • My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  • I have a best friend at work.
  • In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  • This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

One of the most critical components of employee engagement is to treat individuals as their own, valued person. It’s important to employees that they’re enabled to have their own voice, opinion and career. By investing in their own distinct careers, they will feel more valued and motivated to complete their work and go above and beyond in their workplace responsibilities.

When facility managers ask and act, employees will become valued and engaged. When they engage their employees, the organization will become more productive and, in turn, more profitable.

Evaluation and results

No program can be regarded as successful if a clear evaluation and results component is not integrated into the plan. Evaluation is not only critical to the outcomes of the program, but it’s also important for proving value to leadership, employees and other parties.

To ensure results, facility professionals should ask these five questions to provide a picture of what a solid facilities management program looks like:

  • Do we have the right culture?
  • Do we have a good strategy in place?
  • How strong is our customer intelligence?
  • Do we take action?
  • How well do we implement change?

Moreover, to safeguard the effectiveness of a program, a clear destination must be defined ahead of evaluation. This should include specific and obtainable goals and metrics to guarantee the program delivers the appropriate outcomes and pushes the company in the correct direction.

A route and plan to get there should also be outlined, which will help everyone to understand where the program will take the company and how it will be accomplished. Without this strategy, it will be difficult to evaluate the program later on.

Potential hazards should also be summarized in the evaluation and results portion of the program. Any risk mitigation that might take place will also be important to understand. Since vulnerabilities are likely inevitable, it’s beneficial to get ahead of these challenges to prepare and safeguard all involved.

Finally, accelerators of the program should also be determined. This will include the data, processes and tools needed to push the program along to success. Examples might include meetings, targeted milestones, resources and more.

Furthermore, the attainment and subsequent evaluation of a program will rely heavily on successful partnerships. To guarantee this, both parties should have skin in the game, both participate in solutions and both reap the benefits.

Departments must determine how they will aid partners in achieving their goals, the quality and accuracy of their services, and the quality of facilities management leadership at each site. Sharing facts and information with each of a facility manager's audiences is a great start. Excellent reporting, however, also explains how the information benefits them and helps them advance their interests.

Final thoughts

There are many components facilities management teams must consider in order to reach their goals of a fully engaged and highly productive interdepartmental team. While many tips have been shared, they have only just begun to scratch the surface of three larger topics that health care teams should focus on.

Ready to certify the success of programs like those listed above? Use this information as a starting point to develop a plan and path to show greater departmental value within the health care organization. The facility department's employees are likely already doing great things – now it’s time to empower them by using the most meaningful data and the right communication methods to make others realize just how much value they bring to the overall organization. 

Jennefer Pursifull serves as vice president of marketing and Damian Skelton, PE, CHFM, serves as area vice president for Medxcel, based in Indianapolis.