Inspiring Hospital Managers To Live The Values Of The Organization


A relatively new and still growing 350-bed health system in the Midwest with 2500 employees was concerned about attracting and retaining key talent as well as patients given their proximity to two much larger metropolitan areas. To be successful, they knew that it was essential to establish and communicate a set of key values that would serve as a guide in their mission to provide top quality healthcare to the people in their area. While the values were well-designed and well-communicated, many employees expressed concern that the values were not always being lived up to in day-to-day hospital activities. This was having a damaging effect on employee engagement, particularly in several key patient-facing departments. Feedback from patients confirmed the problem.


Realizing that the problem was not with the value statements but rather with the work environment and culture that had been established, the health system came to MPI to help them assess and improve their inconsistent performance. We recommended that an employee survey approach be used to diagnose the work environment from the employee perspective. It was critical that the survey addressed teamwork and performance issues both within and between departments.


  • Identify and eliminate barriers to reaching its Mission by providing specific issues to focus improvements on at the system level as well as for each department
  • Promote effective relationships by improving communications among employees across all levels and departments
  • Promote the active involvement of employees in the change process
  • Demonstrate to employees that management was sincerely interested in listening and responding to employee concerns


The employee survey was custom designed to assess performance in several categories within five major areas critical to the success of the health system:

  • Customer Service
  • Quality
  • Innovation
  • Teamwork
  • Malcolm Baldridge Healthcare Criteria

In addition to numeric questions, the survey included open-ended questions to get a better understanding of critical issues facing employees. Given the 24/7/365/ nature of a hospital, the survey was offered to all employees via the web. Paper-and-pencil questionnaires were also distributed to departments where computer availability was low. An MPI representative was available to assist with data collection. In the first year about 60% of employees participated yielding statistically reliable results at the organizational as well as departmental level. Two years close to 70% participated.


While the initial survey indicated that most employees in most departments were living the values and delivering quality patient care, four departments were identified as falling short. Each department – and especially these four – was tasked with developing action plans designed to remove barriers to quality performance. Department heads worked closely with their employees to design and implement these plans, since it was felt that employee involvement was critical to the success of this project as well as to the organization itself.

A follow-up survey two years later provided an assessment of the effectiveness of the initial action plans as well as providing continued guidance for future interventions. Again, while most departments were showing successes, several departments were still lagging behind. But there was a bigger issue. While departments were focusing on internal issues, inter-departmental coordination suffered in several key areas. The survey results indicated that the health system needed to focus on staffing levels, staff training, improved technology, as well as inter-departmental communication and teamwork. The survey results also showed that to keep living their values they needed to build a strong sense of spirit and pride that tied individual success to organizational success. The hospital is continuing to thrive and grow.