Nursing Staff Engagement Key to Retention and Performance

Research consistently shows that sustainably engaged employees outperform their non-engaged coworkers. Even a small improvement in productivity can have a positive effect on your organization’s performance and competitiveness. ~ Towers Watson

It’s difficult enough to keep employee engagement at high levels during the best of times, let alone in times of massive change. We’re now nearly five years into the Affordable Care Act and many healthcare employees are experiencing ‘change fatigue’ in addition to the normal wear and tear that tough economic times has on people. For many healthcare providers, it’s a good time to use re-engagement strategies to boost morale, retention, and performance.

HR consulting firm, Towers Watson, has been studying workforce engagement in the healthcare industry for several years and has “consistently seen a strong relationship between higher levels of engagement and higher levels of retention.” Further, when employee engagement improves, so too does performance in the form of better patient outcomes, HCAHPS scores, and reduced safety incidents among other metrics.

Healthcare Reform

Highly Negative about Healthcare Reform

In one Towers Watson study, nearly 90% of healthcare workers reported that they held highly negative emotions about the long-term effects of reform. This is not unusual by any means because of the uncertainty involved with massive change. Alternatively, these same healthcare workers reported that they held a positive attitude towards their employers. The danger for healthcare employers is that the negative emotions, left unchecked, can creep up and overpower the positive feelings. It’s important, therefore, to employ re-engagement strategies to prevent workplace negativity.

Low-Cost Tips to Reengage Employees

Quint Studer, a healthcare performance consultant and author, offers several no- or low-cost strategies to reengage employees:

Uncertainty creates anxiety. In times of change, it’s important to keep employees informed about the challenges they’ll be facing. Secrecy leads to speculation which leads to rumors and misinformation. Honesty is the best policy.

Ask for employee input daily. Studer claims that this practice “may be the single most critical thing you can do to engage employees. When practiced daily, it improves staff satisfaction and decreases turnover. It also improves patient’s perception of the quality of their care.” Typical questions include:

  • Are there any problems today that I can help clear up?
  • Do you have everything you need to carry out your duties?
  • Is anyone performing exceptionally that should be recognized?

Address low-performing employees. If left unaddressed, low-performing employees will demotivate the rest of your staff. High- and middle-performers may become disengaged or leave the organization entirely. According to Studer, “The idea is to recognize and re-recruit high performers; reassure, re-recruit and develop middle performers, and move low performers either up or out.”

Choose supervisors carefully. The employee/supervisor relationship is critical to job satisfaction. It’s been said that, “most people quit their boss, not their job.” Frontline supervisors need to be well-trained in employee engagement to effectively perform their role.

Offer career growth opportunities. One of the top reasons nurses accept a job offer is for career growth opportunities. Not all employees will ask for the opportunity once employed. Management should be on the lookout for employee aptitudes that can lead to growth opportunities.

Set up a mentorship program. Employees involved with a mentor are twice as likely to stay with an organization as those that aren’t mentored.

Assemble a high-performance workforce. Of course, hiring self-motivated employees from the beginning is the best way to keep healthcare staff engaged. This can be difficult, however, with the ongoing worker shortage in the healthcare industry. Many believe you have to work long and hard to find high-performing employees. While that’s true to some extent, the Candidate Marketplace of healthcare professionals makes sourcing and recruiting top talent easier for recruiters.

Not only are ‘hard-to-find’ candidates easy to source in the Marketplace, we provide healthcare employers with a dedicated client service liaison, top agency partners in niche healthcare markets, and a 25-year track record of staffing performance success.





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