How Nemours Children’s Hospital takes engagement ‘deeper’

Employee engagement has long been top on the priority list for most modern HR leaders, who are eager to capture the enhanced productivity, satisfaction, creativity and many other boons that are byproducts of a strong investment in one’s workplace. To attain that elusive engagement, many organizations have turned to pulse surveys and then quickly pivot programs to meet the needs that are evinced in them.

“That’s all well and good,” says Nemours Children’s Health System CHRO Peter Adebi, “but I think of engagement as something much deeper.”

At the Delaware-based children’s healthcare network that employs more than 8,300 people, Adebi says, “engagement is about the emotional commitment that our associates have to the organization. It’s not a fad, it’s not transient, it’s a strong relationship between our employees and the organization. It’s a relationship that can withstand trials, pressures. It can withstand COVID-19 to give you an idea of how powerful it is.”

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Amidst all of the disruption, the state of Delaware asked the network to set up an overflow adult hospital within its facility, which frontline and middle managers accomplished in just 10 days and that now accommodates up to 100 patients.

Read all of HRE‘s coronavirus coverage here.

Nemour Children’s Health System CHRO Peter Adebi

“Our associates rallied and got everything ready: the beds, the equipment, the electrical supplies,” Adebi says. “I’ve been at Nemours over 18 years now and I’ve never seen anything like that before. It was powerful.”

One strategy that has helped to lay the foundation for such committed employees is the establishment of 10 Standards of Behaviors, which are designed to guide how employees interact among themselves and with patients and families. For example, the “Be in the Moment” standard dictates that employees are physically, mentally and emotionally present.

“They’ve really had an impact,” Adebi says of the Behaviors. “We’ve had people from outside of the organization comment on how powerful these behaviors are in our culture.”

Appreciation is also embedded in the culture, including through the Nemour kudos program, a recognition platform that enables associates to applaud colleagues in a shared setting. On average, 64% of employees use the platform every month; in April, more than 14,300 appreciative monthly messages were generated.

The organization’s continuous-improvement strategy encourages associates to always be in problem-solving mode, Adebi says, so the recognition platform allows the company to balance that mindset.

“There’s a lot of good happening in our system. You may come in one day and a kid is brought in on a stretcher and, three days later, you’re playing with the kid in the hallway,” Adebi says. “That’s a great feeling to see that, but there are people who made that possible who are working day, night and weekends to make sure that child is whole and leaves this system a lot better than when they came in. They deserve our thank you and our appreciation.”

Employees can also learn about their colleagues’ work through the Nemours Champions for Children podcast, released every Monday and edited by Adebi.

“That gives our employees the opportunity to talk about themselves, their experiences, how they’re having an impact on the organization and how their colleagues help and support them in executing on the mission of the organization,” he says. “One-third of our employees subscribe and listen on a weekly basis.”

Another program with significant employee buy-in is the Physician Leadership Development Program, a development program that Adebi says highlights the payoff of robust engagement efforts.

Four separate cohorts of the hospital’s 900 physicians participate throughout the year in the program, which covers a range of topics related to management and leadership. Organizers survey participants at the conclusion of each program to gauge its impact and how it met their expectations.

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Chief Learning Officer LearningElite recently honored the health system with two awards for its talent development work.

“There is a lot I’m really proud of our team has been able to do,” Adebi says.

Hear more from Adebi in our upcoming Insights from a CHRO feature.


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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected].