You don’t know who they are
If you’ve ever stayed more than one day in hospital you’ll know that you can feel isolated, disconnected and uncertain. People in uniforms and white coats are bustling about. There is a hum of activity, and there is a purpose to the medical staff. But that doesn’t make you feel any better. Worse still, apart from the receptionist confirming your name when you walk in – in many hospitals none of the staff introduces themselves at all. So you see your consultant, your staff nurse and even your nursing assistant as they efficiently take your blood pressure, give you your meds and ask you the most personal questions. But you don’t know who they are.
The importance of the Human touch
The world of work can be like that. Huge sums of money and effort are poured into a business. The operation is slick, the systems are all in place, and the marketing is enthusiastic. But employees can feel like they’re a cog in a wheel, rather than a vital piece of a living, breathing organism. What many organisational leaders fail to understand is the importance of the human touch. They miss the fact that we are people first and professional workers second. Humans connect when they feel that they are part of a community, part of something meaningful, part of something that they can contribute to. And it doesn’t take much to make people feel engaged.
Lack of connection from staff
Dr Kate Granger is terminally ill. That’s the label we all give her now. But, before her illness, she was one of those bustling, professionals with a white coat and a stethoscope. As a highly trained, hospital consultant, she was one of those specialists who work their hardest to treat seriously-ill patients. She thought she was doing the right thing at the right time for the right people until – three years ago – she was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer.
Suddenly, she found herself on the receiving end of the line. At just 31, she is now dying of her cancer and has become increasingly frustrated by the lack of connection from staff. They all care for her effectively, yet tell her the most harrowing details about her condition without looking her in the eye. They have even announced that her cancer has spread and her condition is terminal, without ever introducing themselves.
“Hello my name is…” campaign
Granger has taken action. She started the “Hello my name is…” campaign to improve the patient experience in hospital. Her campaign reminds staff to go back to basics, build trust and make a vital human connection with patients by giving their names – at the very least. That simple act really makes a difference. As Dr Granger explained, when hospital staff failed to introduce themselves she felt ‘like just a diseased body and not a real person’. And when they did introduce themselves ‘it really did make a difference to how comfortable I was and made me feel less lonely’.
Her aim to create more connection has now become a national campaign – supported by more than 400,000 doctors, nurses, therapists, receptionists and porters across over 90 organisations, including NHS Trusts across England, NHS Scotland and NHS Wales. Big names are jumping on the band wagon too, including David Cameron, Jeremy Hunt and Bob Geldof. Finally, human compassion is coming back to hospitals.
And that’s what needs to happen in all organisations. It’s all too easy to think of your company as being a well-oiled, commercially viable and sustainable entity. But where’s the compassion for your people? Do they feel that you know them and like them? Do they trust what you do and say? Or do they feel caught up and dragged along by the business mechanisms inside an enormous company machine? They do what they are told to do; they do what they know they can do; but somehow it feels unconnected and unsatisfying.
If, like Dr Granger, you knew you were not going to be very long for this world, what would you want your business legacy to be? She wants patients to be treated with respect and dignity. As she said, ‘I really hope my legacy will be putting compassionate practice right at the heart of healthcare’.
We all know that human engagement not only creates fulfilled and comfortable workers; it also drives productivity and profit.
If Dr Granger can start a simple campaign that gets back to what is really important – putting the human back into healthcare, what steps can you do to get back to the basics – to what is really important in your organisation? And how can you make it mean something to every single employee?
‘It’s not personal. It’s just business’
The American TV Show, The Apprentice, Donald Trump has a strap-line, ‘It’s not personal. It’s just business’. Let’s show him how wrong he is. Let’s make it personal. When we make it personal, we get to the heart of what’s important to each individual. So here’s a challenge for all business leaders. Start a simple campaign today that takes one action to reconnect with something personal in your workplace. With this one action, you will be sending a vital message to your employees: that you are willing to give them the respect and dignity they deserve. And they will repay you with higher levels of engagement, more effective work and a sustainable business future.
Henry Rose Lee has been coaching and advising senior leaders in multinational corporations, global groups and national companies for more than a decade. Her special interest lies in new leaders and in particular, the specific challenges facing Gen Y rising stars. Henry Rose Lee can be contacted on LinkedIn