Too many CEOs do not “go to an employee’s office and thank them for doing a good job. They try to delegate that to their HR departments, but you can’t. If you want to be the leader, then you have to appreciate and respect your employees. One way too show them is to get off your ass, go to their office – which might be a cockpit – and say hello and thank you.”

Gordon Bethune, former Chairman & CEO of Continental Airlines

Employment engagement is all the rage these days from thank you gifts to company swag for employees to take home. There are also employee quiz nights, outings and trust building exercizes that employers are booking for their hard-working employees. From some interesting books like Patients Come Second and Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work, to literally thousands of articles, blog posts, conference presentations and consultant solutions, this topic is a remarkable treasure trove for those seeking to profit from the latest management fad. Except this is anything BUT a fad.

It is a leadership imperative that is at the core of sustainable improvements in performance, service, and in the


case of healthcare, patient care and safety. It is not a “subject or process” that can be delegated to Human Resources, or some newly created department in the executive suite. It begins with the Chief Executive Officer.

If the CEO is not on board with the importance of employee engagement, or if he or she lacks the communications skills to lead the charge, then no amount of money or the best intentions of an “engagement leader” will deliver the game-changing results that will produce sustainable success. There are no “trickle down” benefits without the CEO’s daily support and actions.

This is not the first time this truth has been put forward, and it certainly won’t be the last. Almost everyone I know agrees with the importance of employee engagement. In fact, there has even been software developed to specifically monitor and provide feedback on how happy employees are in their workplace. What I find fascinating is that a surprisingly small number of the nodding heads -those who say that it is important – actually will go all in, much less make themselves publicly accountable for the success or failure of this cultural transformation. I wonder why since the many benefits are so apparent?

In healthcare, where study after study seems to confirm that a truly engaged workforce will produce better, safer care along with improved operating results, this idea should be a non-brainer.

I have talked with many people about this. My conversations, far from scientific discovery, led me to a fairly simple understanding: That CEOs see employee engagement as a strategy, program, or campaign, not as a leadership philosophy. Frequently it is used as a short-term plan to address quality or improve morale. However, seeing employee engagement as just a tactic misses the point and blocks important long-term benefits.

Some organizations seem to prefer paying outsiders huge fees every year to address a myriad of problems while ignoring, or giving short shrift, to the sustainable benefits flowing from the type of an engaged, motivated workforce that former CEO Britt Berrett discussed in a recent interview on our podcast. It was Britt, who, when presenting his organization’s employee engagement-based business plan to the division President, was challenged by an incredulous division CFO: “You know this is a business, right?” Obviously the CFO saw Britt’s employee-first approach to leadership as a silly, touchy-feely that would never produced budgeted results. Except he was wrong.

Britt’s hospital that year was number one among 190 other facilities in profitability and satisfaction. Their results in quality and safety, as well as a low employee turnover rate, were among the best, if not the best, in the company. Moreover, his hospital was the first in DFW to win recognition as one of the best places to work in the Metroplex.

“We did all of this while focusing on our employees and supporting their development. We did not achieve these results by grinding away on the (budget) numbers,” Berrett explained.

For Berrett and other leaders who consistently produce exceptional results, employee engagement is at the heart of who they are as leaders. It is at the core of their philosophy and their daily routines.

In the world of career management, here is today’s important tip: Candidates for leadership positions should take notice that an increasing number of recruiters are incorporating emotional intelligence and employee engagement questions as major elements of their behavior and values screening process.

They can expect questions that zero in on their respect for employees.

If you have questions, you can reach us at AsktheRecruiter@JohnGSelf.Com