Effective Communication - Key to Organizational Success

By Marie Stehmer, Sr. Director of Human Resource, PeaceHealth

Marie Stehmer, Sr. Director of Human Resource, PeaceHealth

In the workplace, good communication is an important factor to develop client relationships, profitability, team effectiveness, and employee engagement. If communication is thorough, accurate, and timely, the organization tends to be vibrant and effective. An office floor that communicates more effectively establishes comfort zone for the workforce to think creatively and express their ideas. It helps employees feel more comfortable taking ownership for challenges and projects, and typically results in more creative brainstorming or problem-solving initiatives.

Could you give a brief overview of the current scenario in the employee communication space and also elaborate on some impactful initiatives that you’re currently overseeing?

At PeaceHealth, we’ve been focusing majorly on communicating vital clinical information to our frontline caregivers. We call our employees’ caregivers,’ and I have been a believer of using multiple streams to communicate to employees about the kind of work that we have undertaken and the consequences if we are unable to execute it. For instance, if we’re looking at making a certain clinical procedure where a clinical centric process is required, I work with the folks who are in charge of the policies to ensure that the consequences of not following it are clearly outlined.

"Even though there are a lot of transformations happening with respect to technology, I think that the need for human connection is still going to remain"

I’ve asked a communication team to put together a cascading communication plan about why we’re doing the initiative, its impact on patient care, and safety and again, the consequences for not following the plan and the work. It’s important to have verbal communication at leadership meetings, i.e., a conversation between a supervisor and caregiver such that they understand what is going on. We’re also doing hands-on training with everybody who touches this particular process, and it takes advantage of a term called ‘training within the industry.’ It’s a term that came into place back during World War II when all the men went off to war, and the women went into the factories to run things. The factory managers trained people by first having them observe the work, do it, and then have them teach it to others. So that’s the approach that we’re taking with this particular process-a personal connection.

We also leverage social media and have an internal online magazine of recent or upcoming events that happen within the organization. And there’s an app which you can download on your phone, and you get instant notifications on new articles. In this way, people can keep in touch, but truthfully, I find face-to-face communication to be the most effective method of communication.

So I’ve done a lot of work with our leadership team to help them. First of all, I’ve helped them develop the competencies on how to deliver messages. Then working with our executive leadership, and marketing and communications team to help give them the framework which talks about what we want them to communicate so that we have a consistent message across the system.

What would be the single piece of advice that you could impart to your colleagues to excel in this space?

I would advise to be an advocate and don’t be afraid of speaking up and ensuring that your voice or opinion is heard. We wear a lot of hats in the world of human resources. One of those is to be an advocate for those employees and caregivers that are on the frontlines providing care to patients. In our case, often, it’s up to us to think about what will be best for them, and frankly we learn that also by going out and talking to them. I often say you can’t do HR by sitting behind the desk; you need to get out and talk to people. For instance, if you need to have a meeting with a manager, director, or supervisor it’s best to go to their office because along the way you’ll meet people and have an opportunity to make connections that you wouldn’t have made if you just stay in your office and have everybody come to you.

How would you see the evolution a few years from now with regard to disruptions and transformations within the arena?

A lot of changes are happening with respect to communication and collaboration technologies across the healthcare and in other industries, but I think that the need for human connection is still going to remain. So there is a need for managers and supervisors to have the skill on how to talk to people. Although we are doing it virtually via FaceTime or Skype or any other apps, we might not do it as much in person which is always going to be the best mode of communication. I think people will always react favorably to the latter because humans haven’t changed that much that we are not craving interaction with each other. Lastly, we don’t know what new technologies are coming, so I think we need to keep an open mind and be willing to explore and use them. Maybe it’s not going to work every time, but it’s acceptable to try and fail; don’t keep failing!

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