A Four-Step Process to Build Employee Engagement

People putting puzzle together

Employee engagement is a very important aspect of business growth.

By Matt Slimming, PT, DPT

Private practice owners seem to spend most of their time on patient care, marketing activities, and getting a grip on the financial aspect of the business.

The pressures of competition, narrower margins, and regulations tend to drive us to these more urgent pursuits.

However, we should spend more of our time on things that will contribute most to the long-term success of our business. That means that we work on issues that are important, but not necessarily urgent, like employee engagement.

Why is employee engagement so important? Having a highly engaged team makes it much easier for your organization to:

  • Hire the right candidates
  • Retain the key employees that you want to keep
  • Provide consistently high-quality care
  • Engage strongly with your practice’s patients
  • Maintain high productivity and efficiency
  • Grow

So if you are challenged in any of these areas, consider implementing a long-term employee engagement program that includes these four elements:

Measure and Record

Possibly the easiest way to measure employee engagement is to use an online survey service such as SurveyMonkey (surveymonkey.com). Their easily customizable template allows you to enter specifics for your organization. You can then copy the survey link and share it with all your employees by email, text, flyer, or however you communicate with your team. Give them a deadline by which they should complete it (two days is a good time frame). Record the key results where you can easily refer back to them.

Compare to a Benchmark

Most online survey tools allow you to benchmark your results against a specific industry, such as health care. There are ways to compare more specifically to organizations of your size or type. However, the most important thing is to just pick one benchmark. Your goal will be to optimize your result over time, so as long as that is improving or at a very high level, it may not be worth spending additional time and money on getting the benchmark exactly right.

Implement a Plan

This is the fun part. Here is the process that we use that works really well for all full-time employees:

1. We perform some testing to identify the employee’s strengths and values. As we are leading that employee over time, we coach in a way that takes into account their strengths and values.

2. Every 6 months we have each full-time employee fill out a template that asks them about the following:

  1. What are their main motivations at work right now?
  2. What is their ultimate dream related to where they want to get to in their work (and personal life if appropriate)?
  3. What goals do they currently have?
  4. How well are they leading their direct reports?
  5. How well do they understand the company mission statement?
  6. How closely does that mission statement align with their personality and values?
  7. How much are they enjoying work right now?
  8. What is keeping them from enjoying work more?
  9. What are they doing well, poorly, and what do they think they need to start doing?
  10. What (in their opinion) is the organization doing well, poorly, and what do they think we need to start doing?

Every direct report then meets with their supervisor to review this template. In that meeting, the supervisor creates a six-month plan of things to be achieved relative to that employee. Some of these items are the responsibility of the employee, but some will be taken care of by the supervisor or another member of staff.

3. Every month, each direct report meets with their supervisor. At this meeting, they review this six-month plan to see what is getting done on that plan and what they need help achieving. It is crucial that this process is conducted in a way that shows honest care for the employee’s well-being. It is also important that there is an awareness that the six-month plan aligns the employee’s well-being and progress with aspects of improvement for the organization.

Reassess and Adjust

I recommend reassessing employee engagement via the survey format on an annual basis. As long as you are seeing improvement in what you are measuring, you are on a good track.

If you don’t find that the needle is moving in a positive direction, then look at what your employees are reporting as areas of dissatisfaction. Pick the one that you think is having the most negative effect on engagement. Then start to take action to remedy that issue. Make sure you share with your entire team what you are planning to do to help the issue. It may even help to ask them to hold you accountable for making a change.


Matt Slimming, PT, DPT, is a PPS member and founder and owner of STAR Physical Therapy and STAR Fitness, an eight-clinic physical therapy practice in the Greater New Orleans area. He can be reached at matt@starptclinics.com.