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6 Trends Hammering Today’s Workplace (And How Employee Surveys Help)

Today’s workplace trends continue to cause a dramatic shift for organizations, employees, customers, and suppliers. Paraphrasing the cliché, “The only real known is that change is a constant.” That’s why constant awareness of what’s going on — and adjusting appropriately — is critical.

We may not be certain of what lies ahead, but we know that six workplace trends mark the early 2020s. And we know we’d better be all over them now in preparation for what’s to come.


Three-quarters of 2,500 surveyed business leaders rank agility as a top-three priority.

Employees have their ears to the ground through their own networks, contacts with customers, experiences with processes, procedures, and management. What are they seeing and hearing? What gaps in expectations exist? Where are the opportunities for improvement?

Being able to spot patterns and shifts quickly gives leaders the agility to change tack better than less nimble competitors. And a workforce invited to share insights regularly augments the ability to act with agility.

Enabling Remote Work

Remote work stats are as trendy these days as witty memes. Studies indicate 52% of global employees work remotely once a week, and 68% do so at least once per month. Work from Home (WFM) models are relatively new. There’s the physical environment — ensuring people have the tools and resources. And there’s the mental side — specifically, providing support and resources that can help with stress, anxiety, and isolation.

We often get caught up in ensuring everyone has access to the ‘same’ or ‘equal’ opportunities. However, diverse employee populations have different experiences and different needs. While the glass ceiling impedes women and members of minorities, ‘virtual’ walls have now been added into the mix, threatening the progress of current and aspiring employees.

Are remote workers being enabled in a way that works for them — and you? The only way to know is to ask.

Prioritizing Mental Health in the Workplace

Remote workers exposed to the stress of isolation, and on-site employees faced with potential virus exposure, are projected to trigger behavioral health conditions of pandemic proportions. Exhausted, anxious, and often sleep-deprived, many people show up at work — virtually or in-person — despite mental or physical ailments. For many organizations, the result is immense productivity losses and increasing risks.

Today, employers are facing a potential mental health crisis. They need a window into employees’ hearts and minds, especially those absent from the physical work world. At the same time, it’s vital to recognize specific employee populations need more support in dealing with their personal life circumstances than others. For instance, anxiety and depression figures reported in December 2020 are higher for Latinx (46.3%) and Black respondents (48%) than the overall 42.4%average.

How do we know who needs what support? And whether it’s effective?

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI)

Employees have become more outspoken about the discriminatory treatment they’ve observed or experienced in the workplace. Creating a safe environment for people to speak up and feel like they belong is a hot topic among executive leaders.

Employees are your compass when navigating matters of DEI. Their insights point a way forward and help keep your organization informed and on track. But change has never been as fast and as furious — nor as forcefully dominant — as it is today. And employee sentiment is far from immune to this tide of transformation.

Reaching an intended DEI destination depends on continuously checking coordinates — the voice of employees — and making adjustments as the winds change.

Frequent Surveys

Frequently monitoring the pulse of employees is helping more leaders make the right kinds of decisions across issues like agility, mental health, DEI, and more. Here at WorkTango, more than half of the organizations we support that weren’t already offering pulse surveys or using the active listening model have started to shift how they collect input from employees. Those companies now see higher participation than ever, with many receiving upward of 85% to 90% response rates. Why? When surveys are contextually relevant to an employee’s experience, they want to give feedback.

The themes associated with frequent pulsing can be around anything – whatever’s important in the moment. It’s an ongoing process to gather and understand sentiments around all the moving parts of your organization.

The bottom line: Pulsing is a diagnostics tool that gives leaders something they can focus on—and ignites a shift from measurement to action.

Heightened Accountability

Regularly checking in to get employee feedback gives leaders a quick snapshot of whether the actions they’ve taken are working. We then inextricably link accountability with these quantitative and qualitative insights.

With more frequent measurement, leaders tend to listen more. They take steps, actively review progress, make tweaks, and cycle through the process — fine-tuning as they go. The data collected and shared puts the onus on functional leaders and hiring managers. Because seeing their survey score — how they’re trending and their own personal management results (and knowing that data is public to the executive team) — creates built-in accountability.

The thread that links these six trends?

Actively listening to the voice of employees and using scientifically validated data to guide meaningful actions.

Centralized Survey Structures in Today’s Workplace

A centralized survey tool helps your organization measure and adapt to the needs of your human capital throughout the employee lifecycle.  Whether your approach is to gather employee engagement insights annually or to run more frequent pulse surveys, a single survey platform is where the real power of data can be found.

Plus, whether giving feedback or for reporting, it’s easier for employees to use and get comfortable with one platform. So when choosing a survey tool, look for a single platform that eliminates the need for multiple vendors and the time involved to learn and support various platforms.

We’ve been going through more disruptive shifts in the last 15 months than we have in the past 15 years. To paraphrase Charles Darwin this time: “It’s not the strongest or most intelligent that survive, but the ones most responsive to change.”

For organizations, that responsiveness comes from listening to employees frequently and attentively. Using a centralized survey platform to obtain real-time insights into workplace issues that matter now — or point to potential trends and taking pre-emptive action to keep a step ahead — helps make active listening a critical element of your company culture.


Want to know more about WorkTango? Listen to our own Cyndy Trivella’s thoughts on this 2021 TalentCulture HR Tech Award winner:

Servant Leadership: Real Accountability Is Investing in People’s Lives

In business, accountability is often viewed as meeting quarterly goals, and other activities designed to maximize returns for stakeholders and shareholders. But there is another, deeper view of business accountability. It’s when you look at yourself in the mirror in the morning and, as uncomfortable as it may be, hold yourself accountable for your behavior and how your actions impact others. As servant leaders, we are held accountable for our behavior.

I often meet CEOs who are interested in servant leadership. They usually think they’re already showing their teams that they think of others first. But when I ask them what servant leadership means to them, I usually get responses like, “we don’t have any reserved parking spaces at our company,” “we have quarterly employee gatherings to celebrate our success” or “we have training programs in a wide spectrum of subjects.”

I rarely hear how the company is investing in the lives of its employees. I rarely hear leaders talk about helping their employees through the messy unfolding of personal events that impact their performance at work.

Make an Impact on Young Adults at Work

In my keynotes, I often share why servant leadership is so important in today’s world. I talk about the “bookends” of life, with young adults at one end and those facing death at the other. Several years ago, hospice nurses were asked about working with patients who are in the last season of life. What do they talk about the most?

By far the most frequent topic of discussion is their regret that they didn’t live their lives as the people they wanted to be. They lived their lives to be the person who would be accepted by others. In our world today, we value being accepted by others — how we look or dress, and how we talk or behave. In some cases, we spend time trying to impress people we may never meet again.

At the other end of the spectrum are our young adults. Sometimes, we call them emerging leaders, Generation X or Y. There is convincing evidence today that many of those who have graduated from college and are now in the workplace are looking for a change in their work life. When asked why, they shared that they incur debt to go to college, where they’re taught how to take tests, how to dress, what to say, and how to prepare resumes — but no one asks them what they want to do, what they’re passionate about, or what their gifts are.

As leaders, we need to accept accountability for these young adults’ plights. We are not helping our employees live better lives. But, we can change this through holding ourselves accountable to new leadership behaviors.

‘Behave Your Talk’

We’ve all heard the phrase “walk your talk.” At Datron World Communications and the Servant Leadership Institute (SLI), we believe we need to change this phrase to “behave your talk” to reflect the new mindset that is necessary to change the status quo.

New behaviors put the leader in a new light, with a new level of accountability. We need help to make this change in our behaviors. We need help from those closest to us, those who know us best. Do you have an accountability partner or group? Do you ask them to hold you accountable for your behaviors? We at SLI challenge you to reflect on what type of leader you are. If you’re truly a servant leader, you’ll be accountable to someone in your life for your behavior.

When you view your role in your job and in business as being accountable to and responsible for others, you’ll have a whole new perspective. You’ll find meaning and purpose in what you do. You’ll also find your leadership motives are aligned to help others, which ultimately serves the entire organization.

It’s a journey you’ll be glad you took when you look in the mirror every day.

Four Things We Must Hold Leaders Accountable to Do

When we talk about “accountability” in the workplace, it brings to mind performance evaluations and management assessments. But accountability is so much more—and with the prevalence of social media and social video sharing, corporate leaders are increasingly being taken to task for failing to demonstrate this all-important trait.

Take the recent (and viral) United Airlines debacle in which a security officer dragged a passenger off an overbooked flight, an action that United’s CEO initially defended. The incident is just one example of the question of accountability that spans the workplace and personal travel, and illustrates a real concern: How do we hold leaders accountable?

First, let’s define accountability. It’s not just taking the blame when things go wrong, but rather “delivering on a commitment,” writes Peter Bregman in the Harvard Business Review. “It’s about responsibility to an outcome, not just a set of tasks. It’s taking initiative with thoughtful, strategic follow-through.”

These days, it seems as if accountability is under-applied to the performance of leading. For our businesses and careers to thrive, however, that needs to change. Here are four things we must hold leaders accountable to do—well and consistently:

  1. Effectively Manage Change

It is a leader’s job to develop strategy and manage change thoughtfully over time. As I’ve said before, great leaders inspire, and then get out of the way. Leadership is about painting the bigger vision for what an organization can accomplish—and then providing the inspiration, guidance, and coaching to help talented employees make that vision a reality. Leadership is not about micromanaging or passive aggressiveness, which is especially true during times of change, which are happening more frequently as technology improves so rapidly.

  1. Support and Streamline Communication

Strategic leaders need to communicate effectively up, down, and across business lines—ensuring that everyone in the organization is on the same page regarding the goals they are trying to accomplish.

It is helpful for leaders to schedule monthly feedback meetings in which groups of a dozen or so employees meet with company leadership to review the organization’s mission, vision, and values. They use that time to discuss the practices that are consistent with those values–and the practices that aren’t. Employees then have the opportunity to suggest changes to foster greater alignment between mission and practice.

The feedback process forces leaders to be serious about their deepest beliefs,” says Dr. Roger Allen, a co-founder of the Center for Organizational Design. “As they do, they gain the trust, credibility, and loyalty of their employees.”

  1. Encourage Collaboration Among and Within Teams

Leaders must bring people together and build effective and efficient teams. This involves investing in team-building activities, and providing professional development opportunities to help employees learn how to better negotiate and communicate with fellow team members.

A key to effective collaboration is creating a culture of “Total Transparency” at work. A transparent organization “has the courage to see, face, and overcome its problems,” says Mike Henry, founder of Lead Change Group. He recommends companies adopt the “7 Rules for Total Transparency” outlined in his colleague John Bernard’s “Business at the Speed of NOW”

  1. Seek facts not blame
  2. Ask for and offer help
  3. Speak the truth, respectfully
  4. Think organizationally, act departmentally
  5. Engage fully
  6. Laugh and play
  7. Share leadership


  1. Develop Future Leaders

Coach, delegate, and develop leaders to ensure the company will be able to succeed in the future. Indeed, it is a leader’s responsibility to utilize forward-thinking when building a culture of accountability in his or her organization. This involves working together to develop a detailed strategic plan and then outlining action steps each team member must commit to on a quarterly basis.

When it comes to developing this culture of accountability, little things matter—so make sure team members arrive at meetings promptly and follow through on their deliverables by set deadlines. Make sure consequences are in place to ensure they keep their word, and that you aren’t inadvertently training your team members not to listen to you.

“If there is a pattern of broken agreements, confront the employee and consider asking them to take some time off, at their expense, to think about how they are ‘showing up’ now and how they want to show up in the future,” recommends Bill Dann, CEO of Professional Growth Systems.

Dann also recommends reviewing progress on commitments as a team to encourage accountability—since no one wants to be the one team member who isn’t getting the work done.

We are duty-bound to hold our leaders accountable for their actions. If we fail to do so, then the failures of our leaders become our failures, too–and we risk them making the big mistakes that will cost us tremendously in the long run.

Photo Credit: alkhaleej-online Flickr via Compfight cc

5 Leadership Toys For The Multigenerational Workplace Sandbox

The multigenerational workforce; you’ve heard about it. There are about six generations that live in America today – three to five of which are in the workplace, with another set to enter within ten years. You’ve probably heard most about Generations X (30-50 years of age) and Generation Y (Millennials, 11-29), with the occasional reference to Baby Boomers (51-68), the group arguably hit hardest by the recent Great Recession.

Please note that these age brackets vary from resource to resource but this gives you the general gist. Thanks to a global economy which stubbornly refuses to improve in any meaningful way for many anxious holders of 401Ks, we’re unlikely to see Baby Boomers retiring at rates previously expected.

The short story is this: at least three generations can be found in most workplaces, which not only is a potential source of workplace friction, but also a real puzzle for leaders, HR, brand marketers and talent management pros looking to humanize brands.

It’s really not something we can afford to ignore.

This shift in the meaning of brand is seismic, as they say. Where my parents bought a car for the brand’s reputation, and I wouldn’t buy a car for any one reason, my niece might buy a car if its infotainment system is seamlessly synchronized with her Bluetooth and iPhone (or Android).

For Millennials, brands must have social capability and social identity, or allow the individual to use the brand’s product in a social context. For Gen X, the brand must be multinational. And for Boomers, well, snob appeal still works – one measure of brand reputation. Note: I’m a Gen-Xer and I sometimes want each of these offerings above so it can be misleading to go on statistics alone. Honestly, I often think stereotyping generations can be very limiting in this way but it’s useful to gain a macro-perspective on just how much the world of work is transforming now.

In workplace brands, as with multigenerational teams, a lot of adaptation and flexibility is called for if success is the goal. As I wrote last week, Brand Humanization is of increasing importance. This holds for workplace brands as a well. If you’re a CEO, HR person or a hiring manager for new and retained talent, you’re probably wondering how to keep the wheels on the bus with three, potentially five, age groups on staff.

Here are five suggestions to keep your workplace and leadership brand aligned with the needs of three or four very different groups of workers:

1) Relevance: For all groups of workers, work must be relevant. This matters for someone who’s 60 as much as it does for a 23-year-old, although the meaning of ‘relevant’ might be different for each. Leaders always need to communicate a task’s relevance. If a task is relevant, it will make the brand relevant too.

2) Accountability: Some people are accountable by nature. They’re performers. Lots of other people have to be made accountable. A lot has been written about the lack of accountability in Millennials, but I think it’s more a question of communications again: leaders must be very clear about what it means to be accountable in the workplace. A 45-year-old may see his or her work as contributing to the bottom line, a 25-year-old may see it as a task and miss the big picture, and a 60-year-old may see a task as a dead end. Leaders have to show everyone why everything they do in the workplace counts and helps build a good brand. Mind, employees have a responsibility to look beyond themselves too, but that’s a topic for another day.

3) Motivation: First cousin of accountability and relevance, motivation can be a mystery for a leader. A conventional boss may see a paycheck as sufficient motivation, while a strategic leader will see motivation as the key to a productive workplace. Taking the time to understand what motivates workers is a huge investment, but it’s absolutely necessary. Unmotivated workers won’t care about the brand, and that’s the first step down the path to brand destruction.

4) Trust: As the work world becomes increasingly driven by social media and social technologies, trust becomes more important. Old-school companies and leaders may think trust is embodied in a paycheck, but it’s not. Trust is earned, like respect. Workers who trust management will also trust the brand.

5) Emotional connection: I’m a big proponent of the workplace value of Emotional Intelligence. The leader with emotional intelligence understands the need for an emotional connection with everyone in the workplace. No, you don’t have to be best friends, but you do have to be sensitive and aware to the emotional tenor of the workplace. Ignore emotional connection and no one will care about your brand, or your workplace.

Can we all just be happy in the multigenerational workplace? Not all the time, certainly, but it will be much more achievable if you’ve taken the time to humanize your brand. Your workforce will be a community, just like in real life, where the players are all at different stages but are working to stay more or less in synch with one another. The alternative? Look around you at the dead or dying brands, the legions of un- or underemployed and the dispossessed.

Attracting and retaining talent takes a lot of work and persistent effort to be better. So please get to it and start thinking about being a human leader.

A version of this post was first published on Forbes on 3/23/2014

Photo Credit: Knoll Inc via Compfight cc

Company Culture : The Magic Ingredient You’ve Been Missing

Company culture. Dozens of business articles highlight the importance of culture, how to diagnose the current company culture, and how to guide culture. Business owners and managers are encouraged to choose characteristics that will lead to a profitable company and encourage all employees to arrive at work with those principles in mind (see Creating A Company Culture Where Ideas Are Encouraged).

I work at a start-up. The managers spent months ironing out the principles that the company would incorporate into our workflow which would become the culture. They even devised a fun poem to remind us how we should be developing a culture of learning and pride.

Months passed. That culture didn’t develop. Not a surprise. Workers can’t be ordered to take pride in their work. And the overwhelming collection of low performers weren’t being encouraged to improve. Worse, no one was really doing anything to counteract those issues.

Many companies that decide to develop a culture stumble into this very issue. They determine what culture they want, they unveil their vision, they develop half-hearted measures, and then months later they wonder “what happened?”

Dr. Mark Allen, an MBA professor with Pepperdine University, presented a webinar on culture driven companies that reveals that fatal flaw of many culture initiatives: the failure to determine “who is responsible for culture in your organization.”

At the start-up I work with, the answer would probably vary. Some would attribute responsibility to managers, others to marketing, and some to everyone within the organization. That ambiguity is a problem. If everyone thinks someone else is responsible, then no one will actively work on cultivating culture.

As you contemplate who should be responsible, you might also want to consider Dr. Allen’s second question: “who is accountable for culture?” Many organizations might be able to provide an answer to the question who is responsible, but very few will also be able to adequately supply an answer to the question who is accountable.

The question of accountability shatters any illusion that the company I work for is really trying to shape the culture. We might claim everyone is responsible, but no one is accountable. No one is asked in their bi-yearly reviews, how much they have done to shape the culture or why the attempts to wrangle the culture has failed. No one is reprimanded or held accountable for that failure.

And that lack of accountability is a problem. Allen reminds us that “it’s very hard to accomplish anything in business without accountability.” Without accountability, developing culture becomes a fun, annoying, or complicated side project. Side projects get pushed to (well) the side when everyone, HR, marketing, or managers are given more vital tasks that will affect their standing within the company.

Accountability ensures that everyone put in charge of the task will bring their “A” game. Due to the very real potential to be reprimanded in some way over failure to instill a good culture, employees who are responsible for culture are more motivated to:

  • Make thorough game plans.
  • Enthusiastically tackle the plans.
  • Periodically evaluate how the culture has been incorporated within the company.
  • Learn from those failures.
  • Switch tracts if the current game plans aren’t working.

Responsibility and accountability are vital to successfully guiding a company’s culture in the right direction. As business owners, managers, and employees contemplate how to best incorporate a culture, they should start the process off right be determining who among them will be responsible for the culture and how they will be held accountable for their ability to implement that culture.

Photo Credit: Filip Federowicz (filu) via Compfight cc

Why Accountability Matters in the Workplace

A 2014 Partners in Leadership study on workplace accountability revealed some contradictory results: 82% of respondents said they had no ability to hold others accountable, but about 9 out of 10 employees cited accountability as one of the top development needs they wanted to see at their organization.

Employees want to keep their peers accountable to the demands of their jobs, in the same way they want to recognize them when they do good work. But when employees have no system of accountability in place, things can very quickly fall apart. This is why accountability matters, and why you need to invest in it.

‘Mistakes Were Made’

The phrase “mistakes were made” has been dropped by politicians so often that books have been written about it. It makes great use of passive voice, but it also speaks to a general lack of accountability in a system. Does the person uttering it want to cover their own skin, or are they part of a system that has no way of holding anyone responsible for their actions? Either way, it’s a cop-out. The phrase acknowledges problems only after they’ve been discovered, it holds no one responsible for them and it tries to move on from those problems without anyone actually having learned anything.

Why do I highlight this phrase? Because it’s a perfect example of why accountability matters. When employees (and let’s be fair, managers do this too) don’t hold themselves responsible for their actions, it prevents anyone from learning from them. This ends up perpetuating those problems until someone comes along and points these problems out. It also creates a culture of mistrust among employees.

For example, a 2013 survey found that 11% of managers said at least half of their employees avoid taking responsibility. Do half of employees really shrug off their mistakes? My point is that it doesn’t matter; what matters is that those managers believe they do, and that’s the distrust I’m talking about. That distrust will lead to bigger problems down the road unless something gets done. But what do we do about this?

Accountability Is a Culture Problem

I really can’t stress enough how much of a culture problem accountability is. When no one trusts each other to do the work they’re assigned, employee morale takes a hit. Employees feel like they can’t trust their bosses. They feel devalued. And when employees aren’t valued, they’re less likely to be engaged with their work; the American Psychological Association’s 2018 Work and Well-Being Survey found that 91% of employees who feel valued at their job are motivated to do their best, compared with 41% of those who don’t feel valued. So it’s a domino effect: Low accountability leads to mistrust, which leads to low morale, which leads to worker devaluation, which leads to low engagement, which leads to low productivity.

So the first step to creating more accountability in the workplace is to revamp your culture so that accountability fits within it. Make sure employees know that they’ll be accountable for their work by creating guidelines about how you’ll monitor their productivity. Set weekly goals and deliverables so that employees are motivated to complete tasks on a regular basis. Most importantly, make sure you’re following your own rules. Minda Zetlin offered some great advice: “Perhaps the best way to create a standup organization is to lead by example. Make sure employees understand what you expect of them, and that you’re holding yourself to the same high standard. Follow through on your promises, own up to your mistakes, and give feedback even when it isn’t easy.”

Balancing Accountability and Autonomy

Earlier I mentioned the need to monitor employee productivity, but the idea is important enough to expand upon it. Just how do you track someone’s productivity? Do you monitor their every action, making sure they’re always on-task and getting results?

I wouldn’t advise it. Being on top of your employees like that is a recipe for disaster, and is likely to cause even more distrust in the workplace. No one wants to be micromanaged. Plus, the second you have to leave on business they’re back to their old habits. So it really doesn’t fix anything.

The key to accountability is to passively track work without being overbearing. Have employees create to-do lists (whether they write them down or you implement a software solution) for the things they’re directly responsible for. Then leave them alone. Autonomy can be a productivity booster in the right situation, and accountability means nothing without it.

When you’re micromanaging that’s not accountability. Part of accountability is responsibility. Let them make mistakes. If they’re slacking, give them feedback on it. If their lack of work is a consistent problem, that’s when you address it.

Accountability matters because not having it means no one can be held responsible. Creating accountability, then, is about creating a culture where people value responsibility, and where people understand that accountability involves a certain degree of autonomy. Accountability is important, but when implementing it into your workplace, make sure you’re giving employees as much as you’re asking from them.

This post was originally published in October 2015. It was updated in July 2019.

Brain Surgery, Corporate Culture & Leadership Consistency

My husband, the love of my life, had brain surgery a few weeks ago.

The anticipation, wondering if it was benign or cancerous (it was benign), praying that the neurosurgeon would not suddenly get the shakes, being in a hospital away from home and having no family nearby all added up to make this one of the most stressful experiences I’ve gone through in a long time.

And while we were in the hospital, waiting for Marco to be admitted, something occurred to me.  This was a great opportunity to observe corporate culture.

  • First, I would experience it from the perspective of a customer (instead of as an corporate leader or HR pro or business coach).
  • Second, we would be exposed to all levels of employees: janitors, nurse’s assistants, charge nurses (responsible for all the activities in their unit during their shift), staff supervisors and doctors.
  • Third, we were going to be there for three nights and four days, 24/7.

It was the perfect incubator for observation. Would the corporate culture the hospital spent thousands of dollars and many man hours to create, translate into a consistent experience?


In the ICU unit, we had a nurse named Megan who explained everything to us. I’m not overstating this. From how each medication was going to help Marco heal, to showing me how to unfold the sleeper chair and set the locks on it so it wouldn’t roll away and everything in between. She made sure we were as knowledgeable about Marco’s situation as she was.

When she met us, she wrote her name and hospital cell phone number on the wipe-board so we would know who she was and how to get in touch with her.

She apologized for having to wake Marco up every hour.

When I asked her where the soda machine was, she asked me what I wanted, left the room and brought a Diet Coke back to me so I wouldn’t have to pay.

She lovingly patted my husband’s head when he was in pain and couldn’t have more pain killers.

She made sure we both understood that he was not to blow his nose for a month.

She brought extra blankets and pillows without us asking for them.

Watching Megan attend to my husband left me feeling comforted, safe and reassured. That was because of two things: She knew what she was doing and she genuinely cared about my soul mate.

Toni & Company

Toni was our nurse when we transferred from ICU to a regular floor.

In her first introduction to us, she wrote her name on the wipe board while explaining this was not her regular floor and that she was on loan from another floor. She didn’t write down her phone number.

We were transferred right around lunch time and my husband was ravenous. I asked Toni when we could expect lunch and her answer was “soon.” 45 minutes later, lunch had not arrived. I went to find her at the nurse’s station and inquired again. Her answer was, “It’s probably up on the ICU floor.” Another 30 minutes later, I left my husband to find her again and asked when his lunch was going to arrive. She sighed at me, asked all the other nurses where my husband’s lunch was and finally said, “I suppose I’ll have to go to ICU to get his lunch.” More time passed before we finally got his cold lunch.

Megan from ICU told us that if Marco got thirsty, extremely thirsty, we needed to call the neurosurgeon right away; it meant danger. The thirst happened during Toni’s shift. We told her five times over three hours what was happening, we told her the neurosurgeon wanted to be paged immediately if it happened. Each time I went to look for her (she didn’t come to us) she said, “Oh. Okay. I’ll call the doctor.” Finally, after 3.5 hours I went to the ICU floor, looked for Megan and told her what was happening. She immediately broke all protocol by leaving her floor to see Marco. She asked him a bunch of questions, her face got red and she said she was going to page the doctor right then. Five minutes later a sheepish Toni walked into the room ready to take care of him. She also told us that the neurosurgeon yelled at her on the phone.

It wasn’t just Toni either. None of the nurses on that floor wrote down their hospital cell phone numbers. When Marco got extremely thirsty he asked for Gatorade and another nurse said, “I’m sorry we don’t have any on this floor.” We weren’t asking for champagne for Pete’s sake! I asked several people if I could have a sleeper chair and the consistent answer was an apathetic, “I’ll try.”

Being on the ICU floor was like being at a Ritz Carlton. The last three days of his stay was like being at a charge-by-the-hour motel.

Organizational Consistency

What happened?  It was the same hospital system.  Each floor had the same motivational employee bulletin boards which reinforced the “competency of the month.”  The processes for responding to patients was the same on each floor.  And I’m sure they were operating from the same employee handbook.

Shouldn’t every employee take patient care seriously?

Obviously, the answer is yes. Yet I think one of the hardest things for organizations to nail down is consistency across their enterprise.  What happened last week reinforced three things every leader needs to understand and do something about:

  • An organization can have all the technical tools in place to create an incredible customer experience, but that is no guarantee that employees will use them.
  • Leaders, Recruiters and HR pros need to continue to focus their recruiting efforts on the technical and behavioral skills candidates present. One without the other is disastrous.
  • Great tools and employees with phenomenal technical/behavioral skills are lost without front line supervisors who know how and have the courage to hold their employees accountable.

It’s a three legged stool. Or is it? What other factors should be considered in creating a consistent experience? Why do you think there was such a stark contrast between ICU and the regular floor?