What is the Price of Disengaged Healthcare Workers?

By Erica Doherty, healthcare industry and solution strategy director, Infor.

Erica Doherty, SHRM-SCP
Erica Doherty

You may be familiar with the Gallup study that identified—across industries and organizations—that 68 percent of employees are not engaged in their work. That is not only disheartening, but scary, especially when talking about workers in the healthcare industry.

Overall, the price tag of disengagement is calculated as a $400 billion hit against employers. There is no doubt the health system revenue chain depends on employee attendance, retention and patient satisfaction scores. However, there is something much more important at stake, which is that nurse disengagement puts patient lives at risk.

There are three top indicators of mortality risk in the healthcare setting: nurse engagement level, the ratio of the number of nurses to total patient days, and the percentage of overtime hours per year, according to a Gallup study of more than 200 hospitals. Beyond safety incidents, Gallup also showed that a high level of engagement across all types of workers leads to a 21 percent higher productivity rate and lower turnover rates.

But what is engagement? Put simply, engagement is an emotional commitment to an employer and its mission. That is obviously an important factor for bedside caregivers, who are called on to offer patients more than experience and education, but also the soft skills of compassion and personal attention. Truly, all employees in healthcare impact the patient directly or indirectly. The engaged hospital worker listens, is helpful and conscientious about the entire patient experience and has been found to make fewer errors.

What healthcare leaders can do to improve employee engagement

So how do you, as a healthcare leader, create more engagement and a culture of continuous caring? Identifying the most effective technology for your organization is a key piece in solving the employee engagement puzzle. Using technology, you can discover underlying causes of disengagement.

Identifying a human capital management (HCM) solution that impacts employee engagement will have the biggest impact on your organization’s employee engagement levels. Several factors should be considered. An HCM solution that streamlines and automates key HR data contributes to keeping caregivers focused on the bedside and leaders focused on their employees—not administrative tasks. For example, one way to address disengagement is through a solution that utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) to automate, inform and augment work by answering simple questions like an employee’s PTO balance, or even identifying an employee who may be a flight risk and offering suggested activities about how to retain them.

In addition, what creates a meaningful work environment for one employee may be different for another. Figuring this out starts with the hiring process. Technology can understand the behavioral DNA of an employee and then match them to the best fit position and the culture of their employer. The next step is to provide those behavioral insights to managers so they know how to create an atmosphere that creates happiness for that employee and suggests how to lead them in a way that fosters meaning and appreciation.

Where is the career path?

Another primary driver of disengaged employees is lack of visibility into career development opportunities. Employees want to work for organizations that provide career paths and ways to get there. Also, younger workers, such as those in Generation Z, do not want to wait months or years to know how they are performing. Disengaged employees lack an emotional commitment to the mission of their employer, so leaders should look for ways to identify technology that aligns employee goals to the organizations’ overall mission and then ensure that these are visible to the employee.

Many healthcare workers are on the move and they should be able to use their mobile device to monitor these goals to keep them feeling connected to their employer. Bottom line? Do not wait for a year to tell employees how they are performing against goals, but rather provide continuous feedback, which means recognizing your employees often. You should be able to use technology to easily recognize employees and have that recognition become part of the employee’s performance discussion.

Finally, when it comes to staff burnout, identify a workforce management (WFM) solution that is ideally part of your HCM software to provide one consistent experience. Leverage analytics to help identify areas for improvement and reduce staffing complexity so you can align skills to need and cut down on dissatisfiers such as too much overtime. It can also empower nurse managers to more strategically approach scheduling, even match schedules to the wants and needs of individual nurses, and align nurses based on patient acuity.

Ultimately, we are fortunate to be in healthcare. We have many opportunities to better engage our workers, because doing so not only improves employee morale, but boosts patient care, satisfaction, and, ultimately, outcomes.

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