Employee Engagement when lives are on the line

Two days after Christmas, the hospital doctor told us to go ‘say our goodbyes’.

My fiance’s mother, Helen, is 89. She has congestive heart failure. Her vital signs weren’t looking good as she struggled for air, lying in the hospital bed in the ER. “The best we can do is make her comfortable. There’s not much else we can do for her,” said the doctor, as we mentally prepared ourselves for what seemed inevitable.

Gathered around her, we held her hand and stroked her forehead as far-away family members called to send their love. She barely had the strength to open her eyes, but she kept her sense of humor. “Say ‘I love you, too, mom,’” her son, Ray, coached his mother. “I love you, too, mom,” she whispered with a slight grin.

A new doctor arrived. A cardiologist with a realistic optimism crashed into the room like the Calvary. “She seems to be stabilizing. We have a 2-hour window of opportunity to airlift her to a larger hospital that can put in a pacemaker.”

In an instant, everything changed. I heard the helicopter land on the roof above us and nurses started preparing her for transport. We were on an emotional roller coaster, to say the least.

In walked two people from the helicopter who would ride with her to the hospital. As they started switching monitors, IV’s, tubes and wires from the hospital’s equipment to something more mobile, I saw something on the back of their flight suits. Large embroidered letters said, REACH.

I felt a sense of comfort and calm, (as much as one could feel in this situation, I suppose). Why? I work for a company called Waggl and one of our customers is REACH Air Medical Services. Waggl helps organizations listen to their employees. Active listening can lead to outstanding employee performance, learning opportunities, organizational improvements, and feeling connected.

Listening by itself isn’t a magic wand, though. Waggl customers take action on the feedback they get from frontline people; people who know what’s going on and have great ideas on how to make things better.

REACH Air Medical Services uses Waggl to listen to their people. In that instant when I saw their uniforms, I felt sure that these two people were passionate about their jobs, not disgruntled. I assumed they felt valued in their workplace and were not disengaged employees waiting for their next paycheck.

In a critical time like this, it was comforting to have her in the hands of people who were part of a company that cares about listening to their employees and acting on their insights.

She made the journey like a champ and the pacemaker was installed beautifully. Although the road is not an easy one, a month later she is working toward recovery. Thanks to the right people helping her at the right time, and her strong desire to see her son get married, she is making progress every day.

I’d rather not encounter the first doctor who threw in the towel with his “this is the end” approach. I prefer people who are on fire with passion for what they do because sometimes it a matter of life and death. Engagement matters.

Ps. Although we plan on getting married soon, we jokingly tell her that we’re waiting 5 years.

New Year’s Eve