Measurement shows Cleveland Clinic whether messages are sinking in

Hand hygiene. Book signings. United Way drives. The hospital’s metrics help it sharpen communications—and ramp up manager participation and roadshows when needed.

For the last seven years, an internal group at Cleveland Clinic has pushed for continuous improvement, urging every employee to ask, “Where am I being inefficient in my work?”

The people behind the initiative came up with “a brilliant model” that breaks down the steps for improvement, says communications manager Kevin Kolus.

Formerly, communicators might have been reluctant to detail the multistep model in an email, because without measurement, they had no way of knowing whether they were successful.

“When you can start measuring,” Kolus says, “that allows you to take risks and see, ‘Was this better? Was this worse? Is it something we should replicate in the future?’ It helps you to innovate.”

The communications team at the world-renowned hospital broke the model down into bite-size chunks in an e-news format, demystifying a topic that previously may not have seemed immediately relevant to many employees’ workaday lives. This is something they never would have attempted in the past, Kolus says.

Cleveland Clinic was able to see that the message was opened, read and absorbed, and the leaders could see the effect on the organization. “It was a wild success,” Kolus says. “Managers loved it. They got a ton of feedback on continuous improvement, and it really helped get the word out.” Again, it demystified the information.

‘Are we being effective?’

Communication is a challenge in any organization with 43,000 employee caregivers, among them 11,200 nurses and more than 3,000 physicians and scientists. The clinic has 27 institutes providing care in 120 subspecialties, drawing patients from all 50 states and 133 countries.

The hospital’s staff is also spread out worldwide. In addition to its 167-acre main campus, there are regional hospitals and 18 family health centers throughout northeastern Ohio. The clinic has locations in Florida, Nevada, Toronto and Abu Dhabi.

Like the rest of the staff, communicators embrace the goal of putting the patient first and delivering superlative care. With that in mind, they ask themselves, “Are we being effective by being as agile as we can be? Is the message getting through?”

The hospital measures email metrics with PoliteMail, which enables it to measure open rates, click-troughs and other important factors.

These numbers help the team understand how effective their communications are, Kolus says. Though the clinic doesn’t send email as frequently as other most organizations, it targets specific groups of employees, such as physicians, managers and leaders, and others. Each has a distinct recap of the news and a call to action.

The ability to track opens and click-throughs “was really eye-opening to squash some skepticism about, ‘Are people really reading these emails? Are they reading them as frequently as we’d hoped?'” Kolus says.

Measurement doesn’t provide lessons for communicators alone. Let’s say employees aren’t embracing an emailed executive directive as had been expected. When you can prove that 75 percent of the audience did open the message, leaders can see that there must a different reason why staffers aren’t following through.

The next question is this: What can be done differently to create the outcomes you seek among your employees?

“Oftentimes it can be they really desire their manager to be interpreting and coaching the message,” Kolus says. “So, we can go back and say, ‘You might want to consider doing a roadshow at some of the leadership meetings around the organization.'”

Redesigned intranet

Cleveland Clinic recently redesigned its intranet to unify sites that had been created in willy-nilly fashion over the years, without an overall plan. With the help of Google Analytics, it can seek answers on who is reading stories or viewing content, Kolus says. Can pages be consolidated or transitioned elsewhere?

The clinic has also started using “scorecards” to judge the success of its campaigns, whether it is a plug for flu shots, a request to take the engagement survey, or a plug for the United Way campaign.

The scorecard requires communicators to state the goals of the campaign, which must align with team goals. These in turn must align with the organizational goals. What’s the effective message? Who is the intended audience? Is the message helpful? Did it inspire you?

Through its measurement tool, the clinic can take polls as well. “It was great feedback,” Kolus says. “It was feedback we never had before.”

Cleveland Clinic seeks to go beyond pure numbers to make sure staffers are prioritizing messages correctly. “We want to make sure that people to feel that hand hygiene is more important than one of the book-signings of our cafes,” he says.

This article is in partnership with PoliteMail.

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