Written By: Angela Fieler, MPA, CMQ/OE, Baird Group Consultant

I’ve been working in healthcare for a long time – 78% of my life, to be exact.
And it seems, no matter what level of the organization I was working in or
working with, there was an issue with communication. Specifically, employees
of the organization complaining about how poorly leaders communicate with
them. I’m sure you’ve heard statements in your organization like, “I didn’t
know that.” or “No one told me that.” or “They never tell us anything,” To
which you might respond, either in your head or out loud, “How could you
possibly say no one told you that? I made an announcement at our last staff
meeting, the CEO sent out an email, and there were posters near the time
clocks and in the cafeteria.”

Is there an organization out there where this scenario doesn’t play out on a
regular basis? Well, in every organization, there may always be a handful of
people who don’t “get the word”, but they should be the exception rather
than the rule. The reality is that organizations who communicate by design
rather than by default are truly breaking down barriers to communication.
They have figured out ways to ensure the people “hear” their messages by
first, getting their attention, and second, speaking to their hearts.

These organizations are engaging in strategic communication. They are
focused on their mission, vision, and values. They identify every key message
tied to their plan to achieve their vision and they plan every communication in
detail. These organizations begin by thinking through what needs to be
communicated, who the target audience is, and how to best reach that
audience. They not only know where their audiences naturally go for
information but they have experimented with different communication
channels and assessed their effectiveness based on both their objective and
their target audience. They don’t send out one memo and consider the job

In executing their strategic communication plan, these organizations recognize
that leaders at all levels fall back on old communication habits and will benefit
by developing new and more effective communication skills. Using a cascading
technique, senior leaders are trained first in how to develop succinct, short
messages or talking points. Then they take the message to their direct reports
in an open forum. This open forum for leaders at the next level down, is an
opportunity for them to ask questions, get clarification, and for senior leaders
to validate that the message has been received. This process is repeated down
the organization, either individually or in small groups until every person in a
leadership position can explain the message clearly and succinctly. Leaders in
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these organizations understand that it takes repetition and many channels to communicate effectively. Remember; no matter how many times you have repeated a key message, the fiftieth time may be the first time it resonates with the receiver.

Best practice organizations don’t stop there. Leaders follow up on the message by talking with employees during rounds. They ask specific questions designed to validate that employees can clearly articulate the message. The best organizations track the employees’ ability to recall the message and then these scores are used to determine the effectiveness of the delivery method employed. They build grids to capture their lessons learned in terms of what communication channels work best by target audience and the type of message being delivered. Most importantly, these organizations understand that while this type of strategic communication takes time, the return on that investment is immeasurable in terms of employee engagement.

Copyright Use
Want to use this article in your e-zine, newsletter, or on your Web site? You may, as long as you include the following statement:
             Nurse, author, and consultant Kristin Baird, "Healthcare’s Customer Service
             Guru," is the author of Raising the Bar on Service Excellence: The Health Care
             Leader’s Guide to Putting Passion into Practice (Golden Lamp Press, 2008),
             Reclaiming the Passion: Stories that Celebrate the Essence of Nursing (Golden
             Lamp Press, 2004), and Customer Service In Healthcare: A Grassroots Approach
             to Creating a Culture of Service Excellence (Jossey Bass, 2000). The Baird Group
             provides consulting, mystery shopping, and training services for improving the
             patient experience. To learn more, please visit or
             call 920-563-4684.

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