Patient Experience Starts with Your People Strategy

people strategy office cultureHave you ever walked into a store, business or medical practice and felt immediately at ease, welcomed and comfortable? When you feel a sense of tension or discomfort it is almost palpable. But when you experience positive feelings, it’s easily overlooked.

Ensuring a warm and welcoming tone for your patients can be challenging for various reasons. That’s why you need a people strategy…first for your internal audience. It sets the stage for your office culture and environment.

What is a people strategy?

In short, a people strategy defines the cultural make-up of your business, hospital or practice. It is a high-level outline for your approach to and relationship with employees. And patient experience flows from your culture and your people strategy.

It should consider all aspects of the employee/employer relationship including hiring a new employee, employee rewards and people policies and issues. People strategies might also include details regarding:

  • Compensation
  • Wage/benefit tradeoffs
  • Staffing and onboarding
  • Training, rewards, promotions and turnover
  • Standards for hiring, performance, and behavior

People strategies are unique to each business, hospital, or practice. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution. What may work for one hospital may not work for another. It’s important to consider your existing culture and use that as a starting point.

What’s the difference between a Human Resources strategy and a people strategy?

The difference is subtle but important. Human Resource strategies focus on attracting, retaining and motivating top talent. A people strategy creates the programs and processes necessary to improve human performance at all levels. In turn, this improves the performance of your entire organization and how patients “experience” the office. When people understand the routine they can be more effective.

Why is having a people strategy important?

Having a roadmap to help managers navigate key elements of running your practice helps set the tone for the office. It eliminates a lot of guesswork, giving managers a guide to help them with a wide range of judgment calls are not covered in the company manual. It sets expectations for the desired employer/employee relationship.

How does office culture affect your patient’s experience?

A people strategy helps shape your office culture. When you have a team of employees and managers working together in harmony, with clear expectations and objectives, they are more likely to provide excellent service to your patients. Here are some of the ways in which office culture affects the patient experience:

  • Happy employees equal happy patients
    Hospitals and medical practices that value their employees will produce employees that value patients. When people feel appreciated they are more likely go out of their way to ensure a positive patient experience.The founder of Wal-Mart, Sam Walton, once said, “Appreciate everything your associates do. Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They’re absolutely free and worth a fortune.” 
  • Too much competition equals hostility
    While a little competition may help boost productivity, too much can cause hostility. Patient satisfaction suffers when there is too much focus on competition and not enough focus on teamwork. When people work in an excessively competitive environment, they become focused on their own success, rather than the patient experience.
  • Patient satisfaction equals reward
    People like to be recognized for a job well done. So it stands to reason they will work harder to provide excellent care if patient satisfaction is part of their performance assessment. Rewarding desirable behaviors will drive employees to find ways to resolve patient concerns and make every interaction positive.
  • Empowerment equals ownership
    If your hospital builds a culture of trust, employees feel empowered to take ownership of issues and make decisions to resolve them. Rewarding this behavior inspires other employees to take initiative on problem-solving as well. Empowered employees have the confidence they need to help patients quickly and efficiently with their questions or concerns, boosting overall satisfaction.
  • Insecure employees equal unhappy patients
    The opposite is true when employees are concerned about the security of their job. Similar to the result of an overly competitive culture, when insecurity becomes the norm, employees focus on themselves instead of providing excellent patient care.

A well-defined people strategy can help build a patient-focused, collaborative team that is empowered to provide the highest level of patient care. When everyone is working together toward a common goal with transparent objectives and expectations, businesses, hospitals, and medical practices alike are able to succeed.

Kathy Roy Gaughran

About Kathy Roy Gaughran

Senior Marketing Strategist Kathy Roy Gaughran [Kathy@healthcaresuccess.com] has helped thousands of clients throughout North America achieve their growth goals. An award-winning strategic marketing planner, Kathy is an accomplished writer and speaker, frequently presenting to national, local and state professional associations.

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