Employees are a treasure trove of energy, idealism, and devotion.  In healthcare, they are critical to our success.  They can make or break a healthcare provider.  Pure and simple.

Yet, as Fierce Healthcare blogger Thomas Dahlberg wrote last Wednesday, far too many hospital CEOs do not consult with these employees before making important decisions.  An amazing statement but based on our research, it is regrettably true.  To illustrate his point, Mr. Dahlberg offered the comments of a case manager in a northeast U.S. hospital.

“One director of case management at a small community hospital in southern Maine told me a story of how leadership failed to support front-line staff during its efforts to improve protocols associated with congestive heart failure (CHF).

“You don’t know how it is to call a code, take care of the patient and support the family.  You don’t know how it is when someone dies on your watch and no one is there afterwards to support the care team.  You talk about initiatives and not about the people,” a floor nurse had told leadership soon after a CHF patient had passed.

“Hospital leaders showed no support for this individual as a nurse, as a professional or as a person, she said.

“More and more, we read that hospital nurses suffer from depression at twice the average rate.  If the earlier story is any indication of standard operating procedures in hospitals, we have much to do to better support front-line nurses.” 

For healthcare leaders, the future success of their organization will be based on three concepts: trust in, empowerment of, and support of those employees.

Not every employee is worthy of keys to the kingdom, but denying all employees the right and benefit to participate in decisions that affect the day-to-operations and their patients does not make a lot of sense in leveraging the human capital department.

If you have employees you cannot trust, or consistently do not make the right choices for the safety and well-being of patients or the organization, then the big question is why are they still there?  The truth is that in order to survive in what will be a dramatically different environment over the next 5 to 7 years that is precisely the question that must be asked—long-time loyalties and political alliances notwithstanding. 

“Our people are our most important asset,” is one of the most overused phrases in corporate annual reports, in employee relations puffery and in speeches. 

In 7 years, we will know which leaders have embraced and empowered their employees and who will be out of a job.  Self destruction is never a pretty thing to experience or watch.

© 2012 John Gregory Self