Unclear communication from managers is a top cause of employee burnout, which affects an alarming 76% of employees.
Exhausted healthcare workers are selflessly serving others through demanding, uncertain times — they need effective team huddles now more than ever before.
In our expertise, best-practice huddles keep workers aware, aligned and accountable — freeing them to focus on their work rather than try to figure out what leaders want from them. In turn, employee resilience, engagement and performance increase, which supports patient outcomes.
But leaders can’t approach huddles as just another check-the-box activity. If they don’t bring teams together and give employees clarity, the huddles are a waste of time.
Now, more than ever, healthcare leaders should take a close look at their health system’s huddles to ensure they strategically position their employees to succeed in an ever-changing environment.
Seven Questions Leaders Should Ask About Huddles
1. Are they efficient?
Huddles should be time-banded, agenda-driven and consistent. Quick huddles that meet at the same time and place encourage attendance and participation.
Leaders should formally communicate these expectations to team leaders and hold them accountable for doing their part to make every minute count.
2. Do employees actively participate?
Attending huddles is one thing — enthusiastically contributing, listening and sharing relevant information is another.
Leaders should require units to rotate huddle leaders to ensure that each team member has a sense of ownership and accountability. Teams with a clear agenda can readily transition from manager-led huddles to an active rotation that engages each individual.
3. Are they informed?
Daily huddle sheets can provide consistent messaging. Use the front page for companywide topics from major events, strategic initiatives, key performance indicators (KPIs) or education about the engagement question of the day. Use the back page for local news, celebrations, anniversaries or details about a major safety event.
Front-line leaders become a source for company information and facilitate two-way dialogue and feedback.
4. Do they include visual information tracking?
Leaders should ask teams to share goals and expectations through a central information hub after each huddle. A visual point of reference enables real-time updates, goal tracking and ongoing accountability for assignments.
Further, team members who visually track goals and KPIs can better celebrate successes and recognize one another.
5. Do they promote alignment?
Huddles should foster cross-shift, cross-department communication — and, in turn, a more consistent patient experience. Leaders can facilitate this companywide alignment by providing team leaders with clear expectations — and by being involved.
For example, leaders can periodically attend huddles during leadership rounding to share updates, reinforce desired behaviors and recognize team accomplishments.
6. Do they focus on today?
Outcome-driving huddles reinforce a unit’s plan for promoting patient outcomes and KPIs today — not in the future. That is, teams should discuss their strategy for the next shift rather than long-term goals.
Though huddles should bring problems to light, teams should avoid spending time problem-solving during huddles. The best huddles stay focused on preparing every contributor for performance excellence in the shift ahead.
7. Do they escalate problem-solving?
After each huddle, problems and concerns that came to light must be promptly brought to the appropriate individual’s attention. But employees need clear direction from leaders about the types of problems to escalate, how to do so and with whom.
Leaders must share formal protocols that streamline issue escalation, not slow it.
Here’s the bottom line for leaders: Be involved, and hold team leaders accountable. Employees take their cues from leaders — you have an opportunity to maximize huddle efficacy by championing huddles and communicating what you expect.
BY MIKE ELLRICH AND RICK VANASSE (Gallup.com)