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Why continuous employee listening is the best financial investment of 2024

Coauthored by Alexis Wegman, Manager, Workforce Solutions, Press Ganey.

A dedicated workforce is the engine behind everything we do in healthcare. Better patient experiences, improved clinical outcomes, fewer safety events, and increased profitability all begin with engaged and resilient employees.

But we all know the healthcare workforce has been hurting. Our data clearly indicates that employee engagement is at an all-time low. Challenges—like rising labor costs, inflation, an aging population, a global pandemic, burnout, and fierce competition for labor—have led to a widespread staffing shortage and an overall downward spiral of healthcare worker well-being. Now, more than ever, continuous employee listening is key to driving engagement and experience.

So, what does that mean? Continuous employee listening is the ongoing practice of collecting feedback and data, from multiple touchpoints. We include both active and passive listening here, moving beyond annual workforce surveys to keep your finger on the pulse of the employee experience in real time via regular check-ins, focus groups, social media monitoring, and much more.

Continuous listening gives healthcare leaders a deeper understanding of how employees are feeling—where things are going well, and where challenges persist. By continuously listening to the workforce, many high-performing organizations have realized a significant return on investment in patient and employee experience, clinical outcomes, cost savings, and revenue.

7 key benefits of continuous employee listening

1. Improved employee engagement (EX): Continuously listening to healthcare employees fosters a positive work environment and greater employee engagement. Engaged employees are more productive, committed, and likely to stay with the organization—lowering overall turnover expenses significantly: An organization spends $765,000 per 100 neutral and disengaged employees. And, given the high cost of nurse turnover, a 1% reduction in turnover represents $2.2M+ a year in savings.

Additionally, having a continuous listening and action strategy in place can mitigate the negative impacts from unexpected crises or change. For example, according to our research, healthcare organizations that did not pause on workforce listening during the pandemic were shielded from the national declines in employee engagement—with some organizations even seeing improvements despite the extreme conditions they faced.

2. Enhanced patient experience (PX): Patient experience is higher at facilities with strong workforce engagement. Engaged healthcare employees are more likely to have behaviors and actions that create a better care experience, leading to an improved patient experience. And a better patient experience can result in increased patient loyalty, positive referrals, and higher patient retention rates. Combining your PX and EX strategy drives improvement in both, saving millions when it comes to improved loyalty from your patients and employees.

And there’s hard proof supporting these claims. We analyzed performance across our vast client base and learned that a combined PX and EX strategy results in a 4% percentile rank increase in "Likelihood to Recommend” (LTR) and “Rate the Hospital” scores. For context, a five-percentile-point increase in “Rate the Hospital” is associated with a 1% increase in net profit margin. Add NDNQI® to the mix, and organizations typically score 18 percentile ranks higher on LTR and 28 percentile ranks better on “Rate the Hospital” than those using PX alone. And this also impacts an organization’s bottom line.

3. Excellence in patient care: Engaged employees are more invested and take greater pride in their work, which translates to higher-quality patient care. This can lead to better health outcomes for patients and reduced costs associated with medical errors or complications. Press Ganey nursing data reveals that certain experiences and perceptions nurses have in their environment are significantly related to falls, HAPIs, and CAUTIs. For example, for every one-point increase on the 5-point scale in safety culture perceptions, falls decrease by 0.38.

4. Compliance and safety focus: Safety is inherently and necessarily a top priority for all healthcare organizations. And patient and workforce safety hinges on employee engagement. Engaged employees are more likely to adhere to safety protocols and compliance standards—and more likely to notice and report errors, reducing the likelihood of costly regulatory fines or legal issues.

In the words of Vicki LoPachin, MD, FACP, MBA, Chief Medical Officer, SVP, Mount Sinai Health System: “You cannot achieve the quality and safety metrics that you want to achieve without an engaged workforce. They’re really the backbone of everything that we do.”

>> Watch: Inside Mount Sinai Health System’s highly successful employee engagement strategy

5. A positive and cohesive organizational culture: Continuous listening fosters a culture of transparency, trust, and open communication. A positive organizational culture attracts high performers, reduces recruitment costs, and contributes to long-term organizational success. This kind of environment and high employee morale can lead to reduced stress and burnout in healthcare workers, which can, in turn, reduce employee absenteeism. Fewer sick days mean increased productivity and lower costs associated with temporary staffing and overtime payments.

6. Attracting (and retaining) top talent: The best companies to work for know the value of employee feedback. They also know that an annual hospital employee engagement survey, while important, simply doesn’t go far enough. Continuously listening, and deeply understanding employee engagement, is crucial to workforce retention: Disengaged employees are 2.3x more likely to leave than those who are highly engaged. Organizations with positive work cultures and engaged employees are appealing to job seekers. This leads to a higher caliber of qualified job applicants—and even reduced healthcare recruitment costs.

Press Ganey works with some of the country’s top healthcare organizations in their pursuit of high-quality PX, optimal clinical outcomes, and job satisfaction. In 2022, 65% of health systems on the Forbes 2022 Best Employer List—including Emory Healthcare, The University of Kansas Health System, and Cleveland Clinic—partnered with Press Ganey for employee experience.

7. Financial gains: Ultimately, continuous listening to the healthcare workforce drives better financial performance. Continuous listening leads to improvement across patient experience, quality of care, productivity, turnover, and other metrics that contribute to your bottom line. Faced with the mounting pressures to reduce overhead, bring in more cash, and, generally, do more with less, it is imperative that healthcare organizations deploy strategic continuous listening technologies to effect meaningful, sustainable, across-the-board change.

Beyond continuous employee listening, using one connected platform drives greater business value and outcomes. For far too long, different facets of healthcare have operated as silos—often with little-to-no communication or collaboration between them. Patient experience was one department’s responsibility, employee experience another’s, and so on. The marketing team might own consumer experience, while safety, quality, and clinical lived in distinct buckets of their own.

But that’s all changing for top-tier healthcare organizations taking a holistic approach, where integrated workstreams, technologies, and data paint a more detailed picture of the Human Experience (HX), at every moment and interaction. Press Ganey’s integrated HX platform allows you to positively impact brand reputation, market share, patient experience, employee experience, nursing quality, and safety and reliability, ultimately driving business growth. An average system-wide platform contract is a $4.5M investment, delivering an estimated +$12M financial impact, for ~2.7x ROI, annually. Our employee experience consultants can also help your organization overcome its unique challenges and support your team in impacting positive cultural transformation at every level.

To learn more about continuous employee listening, including why it’s vital for healthcare and how to implement the latest technologies at your organization, get our e-book: “From awareness to action: Transform your workforce through continuous listening.” Rather chat with a workforce and employee engagement expert? Reach out to our workforce team here.

About the author

As Chief Clinical Officer, Jessica leads efforts to support organizations in increasing clinician engagement and improving patient care outcomes, particularly among physicians. Her areas of expertise include leadership development, clinical care redesign through outstanding teamwork, addressing clinician burnout, and advancing professional fulfillment. Jessica also leads Press Ganey’s Workforce Well-Being Collaborative, an initiative designed to help healthcare organizations identify the varied and disparate needs of their workforce and enable them to respond to their physical, emotional, financial, and operational needs in both the near term and beyond.

Profile Photo of Jessica C. Dudley, MD