Revolutionizing Employee Engagement: A Success Story

I met Bruce Cutright in 2015 as he was leading the charge for improved employee engagement at Mary Lanning Healthcare. His efforts were so successful that MLH won the Gallup Great Workplace Award eight times in nine years.

Bruce is a certified MGSCC coach and since his retiring as MLH’s Chief Human Resources Officer, I’ve been fortunate to work with him professionally.

When Bruce got started on his employee engagement project, MLH was anything but great. Its ratio of engaged to disengaged employees was 2.5 engaged to 1 disengaged employee. Nearly 40% of all employees were not committed to contributing to the mission of the hospital. MLH had a 48% first-year turnover rate and nearly 25% left the hospital every year.

The transformation took approximately seven years. The engaged to disengaged ratio improved dramatically, from 2.5/1 to 22/1. First-year turnover dropped from 48% to less than 10% and overall turnover dropped from 22% to 8%.

I asked Bruce what factors were instrumental in this change. He explained that he and his team developed a long-game strategy with specifics that included:

  • Listening to employees and acting on the results. “Every year we conducted the Gallup Q12 Engagement Survey. We required our managers to share the results of the survey with employees and conduct meaningful conversations with employees to address concerns in the workplace. The message to leadership was loud and clear that these action-planning conversations were not optional.”
  • Hiring competent managers. “This was essential. We knew that we needed managers who were committed to making their individual workgroups better.”
  • Hiring right-fit front-line employees. “We started using the Gallup selection tool to assess the innate talents of candidates compared to others who were successful in like positions. The objective was to place people in positions where they could maximize their individual strengths.”  
  • Focus on employee well-being and strengths coaching. “MHL had seven trained professionals whose primary focus was to improve the overall well-being of our employees, including but not limited to physical wellness. These services were provided at no cost to employees.”

I asked Bruce about why he chose to become a certified coach and the role MGSCC coaching has played in his work. “I recognized that I needed to up my game as an HR professional. I had three decades of HR experience and had witnessed many managers fail because they didn’t have the opportunity to be coached. Through much of the journey at MLH, I knew talented leaders who lost their effectiveness because they were blind to how they were perceived by their stakeholders.”

During his last stretch at MLH, Bruce led a succession planning project. MGSCC played a role. “Coupled with a wealth of data I had on high-potential executive candidates, I used Stakeholder Centered Coaching to identify areas of improvement for the selected candidates. The 360 interview process gave me a three-dimensional perspective on selected candidates. In addition to talent assessments, department turnover data, and engagement scores, the 360 interviews provided a very clear picture of how candidates interacted with stakeholders. Stakeholder coaching provided credibility to the whole succession planning process. Instead of an approach mostly plotted by the opinions of a few, the 360 survey was much larger, leading to a more verifiable candidate assessment. 

“The training I received to become a certified coach provided me with tools I did not previously possess.  I prequalified candidates by reminding them that the process would take, as Marshall Goldsmith states, ‘courage, humility, and discipline.’ The stage was then set for growth-oriented discussions.

“I had one candidate who refused to complete the process. In my view, this was an affirmation that he lacked the courage, humility, and discipline to advance to the next level. In other words, he was uncoachable.”

I asked Bruce what recommendations he has for other organization leaders desiring to improve employee engagement. “In addition to the steps I described earlier, I would build in Stakeholder Centered Coaching concepts. Because managers are key to employee engagement, ongoing coaching is necessary to improve the professional growth of managers and leaders. This includes the entire executive team.”

I asked Bruce what recommendations he’d have for other HR professionals who may be considering coaching. “Coaching is a powerful arrow in your quiver of tools. As an HR professional, getting certified in stakeholder coaching will give you a competitive edge. Among other benefits, it will increase your ability to be a true partner with your CEO, the board, and other senior leaders because of a greater focus on the human dynamics involved in management.”



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