There are myriad positive outcomes that come with building a world-class culture of employee engagement, not the least of which are higher productivity, more ethical behavior, less turnover, and greater profitability. But I have a favorite outcome, which exists within the healthcare industry: better safety compliance.
Sadly, each year hundreds of thousands of people are admitted to hospitals with moderate health conditions, only to leave later in a body bag. The culprit? The spread of infections in the hospital. The gravity of this situation first got my attention when I learned Americans are five times more likely to die of a hospital-acquired infection than a homicide.* Needless to say, that is a very troubling statistic, and even more alarming given that many of these infections could be easily avoided if all healthcare workers followed the proper protocols for health and safety, every time.
This got me thinking about whether there is a correlation between healthcare workers’ engagement level and whether they comply with handwashing rules and standards. When hospital staff members are trained on infection protection, the vast majority are not only told to use soap and hot water, but to sing “The Happy Birthday Song” twice while scrubbing their hands. My theory was that engaged employees were policy compliant, while the ambivalent employees (not engaged or disengaged) followed policy haphazardly, and actively disengaged employees did not follow policy and thereby regularly put patients at risk.
I asked my Chief Statistician at my old company, HR Solutions, to run an analysis to verify that there was indeed a direct correlation between employee engagement and handwashing compliance. Not only was it verified, but to the .99 coefficient, which is extremely high.
Healthcare workers have some of the most difficult and most meaningful jobs on the planet. They suffer from the same workplace challenges as the rest of us, only people’s lives are dependent on their performance. The workers who are engaged in their job and continue to spend the time necessary to properly wash their hands over and over again aren’t just doing their job; they are saving lives. So the next time you or a loved one are considering a hospital in your area, you might want to ask to see their staff’s employee engagement survey scores. It could save your life.
*HR Solutions; the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 2010.