How to Engage Employees + Ultimately Improve Patient Experience

Featuring: Susan Milligan | Director, Patient Experience

Keeping patients satisfied as well as healthy is critical for healthcare organizations. A patient’s level of satisfaction during a visit can affect their health outcomes, impact their decision to return to that provider and influence their overall perception of that organization.

Healthcare providers know clinical care quality is a key driver of patient satisfaction. Less commonly considered is the organization’s level of employee engagement and how that ultimately effects the patient experience.

The higher the level of engagement, the more willing your employees are to deliver an outstanding experience to your patients. Engaged employees who are happy and interested in their roles will be much more invested in exceeding expectations of their leaders and your patients, friendlier when dealing with patients face-to-face or over the phone and more productive in their day-to-day responsibilities.

So, consider your employee engagement program central to your patient experience strategy.

Three Levels of Employee Engagement

What does it mean to be engaged? An employee’s engagement can range from neutral sentiment about a company to high motivation and drive for success. Whether employees are motivated impacts productivity, quality of work and the experience of those around them, including patients.

You can think of employees as falling into one of three categories:

  1. Engaged – satisfied with the company and motivated to work hard and do a good job
  2. Unengaged – getting by doing the minimum, but not motivated to do more
  3. Disengaged – previously engaged; but now so unhappy it shows in their work and influences those around them

How to Establish + Execute a Successful Employee Engagement Program

Start (but don’t stop) with a survey.

Engagement surveys are an easy way to check the pulse of a team and learn more about the key drivers of your employees’ satisfaction. Consider using short quarterly surveys, or a larger biannual or annual survey to prevent survey fatigue and provide enough time to respond to results.

Surveys are meant to evoke discussion, invite improvement and foster collaboration. Without follow-through and commitment to action, surveys can fall short. Leaders must understand the importance of spending time with their team members and learning what is important to them. One of the best things a leader can do is ask open-ended questions to maintain a clear understanding of their team’s needs, the effectiveness of interventions and additional methods to improve engagement.

Establish an Employee Advisory Group (EAG).

An EAG is a highly effective way to give employees a voice and the ability to contribute to organizational decision-making, which is a proven method of driving employee satisfaction. To be most effective, an EAG needs a sense of purpose, doable tasks with a timeline, recognition and a belief its input will be valued and impactful. Even the singular step of creating and effectively overseeing an EAG is likely to have a significantly positive impact on engagement and ultimately patient experience.

Read our 4 Tips for Forming an Employee Advisory Group

Invest in development.

Incorporate development into your organization’s engagement strategy to help employees become proficient in their responsibilities and gain additional skills. Build a consistent culture of development by identifying and communicating core competencies employees need to be successful. You should also provide a variety of training and upskilling opportunities, empowering employees to self-manage their careers in collaboration with their leaders.

Make sure mobility and advancement opportunities, as well as the steps needed to achieve them, are well-known for all roles throughout your organization, including non-clinical and administrative roles.

Make recognizing employees a habit.

Regularly recognizing employees is a great way to make employees feel they and the work they do is valued. Encourage praise and shout-outs on company communication channels. Set up an employee-of-the-month program or similar awards to spotlight engaged employees and give them an opportunity to share their pride outside of your organization. Simply taking time to acknowledge those who are going above and beyond can have positive ripple effects across your organization.

Strengthen the sense of community.

Encourage participation in opportunities that align with your organization’s core values like volunteering, investing in employee support funds, donating to charities or getting involved in the community in other ways. Creating a culture of community and giving back not only helps those on the receiving end while elevating employee engagement, but it also reinforces a positive brand reputation in your community.

Key Takeaways

Your employee engagement program should be central to your patient experience strategy.

Satisfied teams promote higher patient experiences because they live and work in environments that foster empathy, engagement and empowerment. Those engaged employees then emulate that experience for patients. Make employee engagement a top priority, not only for its immediate effects, but the domino effect it will have throughout your organization and community.


Susan Milligan, CHAM, CRCR, is the patient experience director for Ensemble Health Partners. Informed by her experiences in healthcare and as the mother of a child with Down syndrome, she is passionate about helping healthcare organizations improve their patient experience through empathy, empowerment and engagement.  

These materials are for general informational purposes only. These materials do not, and are not intended to, constitute legal or compliance advice, and you should not act or refrain from acting based on any information provided in these materials. Neither Ensemble Health Partners, nor any of its employees, are your lawyers. Please consult with your own legal counsel or compliance professional regarding specific legal or compliance questions you have.