5 Ways to Improve Employee Engagement in Healthcare

5 Ways to Improve Employee Engagement in Healthcare

Engaged employees are critical for providing high-quality patient care. But only 44 percent of U.S. hospital workers are highly engaged. What can organizations do to improve employee engagement?


In the healthcare industry, an engaged workforce is key to providing high-quality patient care.

But over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on medical professionals — especially frontline workers. A 2020 survey from Mental Health America found that 93% of healthcare workers were experiencing stress, and 76% reported exhaustion and burnout. As a result, 1 in 4 American healthcare workers have considered leaving their current jobs since the beginning of the pandemic.

Even before COVID-19 was in full effect in the US, many healthcare workers were experiencing chronic distress and disengagement. A January 2020 report found that 42% of physicians were experiencing some level of burnout. And according to a 2013 Harvard Business Review analysis of a Willis Towers Watson study, only 44 percent of U.S. hospital workers are highly engaged.

Watch ⟶ Preventing Healthcare Burnout: Fostering Connection and Wellbeing in Healthcare Workplaces

The good news? By taking action to improve the employee experience, healthcare organizations can reduce staff turnover, better support their teams, and ultimately improve care quality. Now more than ever, it's important that organizations invest in creating an engaging work environment for their healthcare staff.

What is employee engagement?

Many people mistake employee happiness with employee engagement. But the truth is that they're very different things. So what is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is the level of connection between employees and their workplace.

While happy employees may be satisfied at work, engaged employees are truly committed to their organization's mission and values. Unlike employee happiness, employee engagement that has a direct impact on team performance.

In the healthcare industry, truly engaged employees have a huge impact on their organizations. Engaged healthcare employees lead to higher patient satisfaction rates, increased patient safety, and improved quality of care. A Gallup poll of 200 hospitals found that a higher engagement level of nurses resulted in lower patient mortality.

Investing in employee engagement can also affect a hospital's financial performance. Hospitals with the least engaged nurses pay more than $1.1 million annually in malpractice claims than those with the most engaged nurses.

Here's 5 ideas to help healthcare leaders better support their medical staff, boost employee engagement, and ultimately improve patient satisfaction and care.

1. Build a culture of listening.

One of the biggest impediments to employee engagement in healthcare is poor internal communications. When employees feel like their feedback isn't heard by leadership, they can easily become disengaged and dissatisfied at work. This leads to more turnover and a worse patient experience.

In order to increase employee engagement, healthcare leaders must conduct regular employee engagement surveys and create an action plan to address feedback.

An internal survey can give leaders valuable insights into how their employees are feeling and the roadblocks that might be getting in their way. And by taking time to identify the pain points and measure employee satisfaction, leadership can start to build trust within the organization.

2. Offer more opportunities for peer-to-peer recognition and manager-to-staff recognition.

Recognition has a powerful impact on staff motivation and turnover. A SHRM report found that companies with employee recognition programs saw a 63% increase in employee productivity and a 51% increase in employee retention.

Without consistent recognition and appreciation, employees can feel invisible. The solution? An employee recognition program. Employee recognition programs encourage employees to thank their peers for hard work, spotlighting heroic actions and making team members feel more appreciated. With an employee experience platform, like Cooleaf, employees can easily recognize and reward one another on-the-go through a web-based platform or mobile app. Not only can you spot-recognize your staff for excellent performance, you can also send special gifts for birthdays, work anniversaries, and holidays like National Nurses Week.

Give shout-outs to other team members with Cooleaf's recognition tool
Employees can easily give shout-outs to peers with recognition tools like Cooleaf.

3. Prioritize learning and development.

Offering learning and development opportunities for your healthcare staff has a measurable impact on employee retention. In fact, 70% of employees would be at least somewhat likely to leave their current organizations for a job that offers better opportunities for employee development and learning. Additionally, organizations with a strong learning culture enjoy 30-50% higher employee engagement and retention rates than those that don’t.

Healthcare organizations that prioritize staff learning and development see improved turnover rates and higher quality of care. Offering ongoing job training, as well as leadership training for managers and supervisors, can have a measurable impact on team retention. If you're using an employee engagement platform like Cooleaf, you can incentivize employees to complete training courses with automated rewards.

4. Offer increased peer support and mentorship.

Strong support and mentorship can make all the difference in boosting employee morale. According to recent research, 83% of employees participating in a mentoring program said that their experience positively influenced their desire to stay at their organization.

A coaching or peer support program can lead to strong professional relationships and happier employees. For healthcare professionals who are experiencing difficult challenges in the workplace, a listening ear can make a world of difference.

If you choose to create a peer support or mentorship program, be sure to measure the success through surveys and one-on-one feedback sessions. Gather ongoing feedback from participants and ask for ideas to improve the program.

5. Keep your organization's mission front and center.

Many healthcare workers are intrinsically motivated by a strong drive to help others. But unfortunately, they often don't feel that same level of commitment towards their organizations. Over time, this can lead to healthcare professionals feeling disengaged and unmotivated.

Healthcare leaders can drive higher employee engagement by highlighting their organization's core values and mission. Give team members examples of how your organization is making a difference will help your healthcare staff feel more connected to your organization's purpose, resulting in better patient care. And frequently reminding team members of examples of your core values in action will result in a more motivated, engaged team.

Fostering a workplace environment of high employee engagement is a challenge, but it's well worth the effort. In the healthcare industry, engaged employees are essential to providing high-quality patient care.

Want to learn more about how to improve the employee experience in your healthcare organization through pulse surveys, staff recognition, and virtual challenges? Chat with us!


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