A rather unnerving study found an eight-point decline in the percentage of workers who are extremely satisfied with their workplace.

Source: Gallup

And of that, healthcare workers had the greatest engagement decline of a whopping nine points.

Yes, it does sound alarming. Especially when it comes to an industry where the major issue has always been maintaining an adequate number of employees. But with the right set of strategies and a clear understanding of the problems behind the issue, we can increase staff engagement in healthcare, no matter how bleak the situation looks right now. And that’s exactly what we are going to do in this blog. 

Why are healthcare employees always so disengaged?

When we take a list of industries where employee engagement is the lowest, healthcare sector somehow always manages to come on top of it. But when we think about it, the high pressure work environment and poor work-life balance are not doing anything to help better the situation anyway. Before getting into the solution part, let us quickly analyze the reasons for low employee engagement in healthcare industry:

1. Employee Burnout Is Real

Mental Health America conducted a survey which showed that around 93% of healthcare workers were under stress and another 76% of them were on the verge of burnout. Healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, and support staff, often experience high levels of stress due to the emotionally charged nature of their work, long working hours, and the pressure to deliver quality care. This chronic workplace stress can lead to burnout, identified by physical and emotional exhaustion and a sense of detachment from work.

Burnout not only impacts individual well-being but also significantly diminishes overall employee engagement in healthcare. Well, not just in the healthcare, but hey, we know much the frontline healthcare employees get burned out. Burnt-out healthcare employees are more likely to disengage, leading to decreased productivity, lower morale, and compromised patient care. 

93% of healthcare employees face stress, leading to burnout, affecting well-being and patient care.

2. Limited Opportunities For Growth

Healthcare workers, like any other professionals, seek opportunities for career growth and development. When healthcare organizations do not provide avenues for skill enhancement, training, or career progression, employees may feel stagnant and undervalued. The absence of a clear career path and skill development initiatives leads to dissatisfaction and low engagement among healthcare professionals.

3. Unhappy Nurses Dent The Statistics

Gallup recently found out that the level of engagement of nurses was the biggest factor when it comes to predicting mortality. Patient care relies a bit too heavily on nurses to manage many jobs, handle emotional circumstances, and communicate with doctors. They're crucial to patient health. High patient-to-nurse ratios and tough shifts sometimes overwhelm nurses owing to manpower shortages. 

This intense workload might cause role dissonance when their duties don't match their qualifications and experience. Nurses who feel overburdened and underappreciated may withdraw from the scene. The lack of acknowledgment for their crucial function and limited assistance also lower their participation levels. Addressing nurse-specific difficulties and supporting them can boost healthcare workforce engagement.

4. Is Work-Life Balance a Myth in Healthcare?

The demanding schedules, long hours, and emotional toll of healthcare jobs can severely disrupt work-life balance. Without proper support systems in place, such as flexible working hours, counseling services, and assistance for managing stress, healthcare workers struggle to cope. The absence of mechanisms to balance the demands of work and personal life leads to fatigue, decreased job satisfaction, and ultimately, low employee engagement.

5. The Problem Of Not Being Heard or Seen  

Healthcare workers often perform heroic feats under challenging circumstances. However, the lack of acknowledgment and appreciation for their hard work and dedication can lead to feelings of unimportance and disengagement. Regular recognition programs, feedback mechanisms, and a culture of appreciation are crucial to maintaining high morale among healthcare staff.

6. Everyone Needs Mental Health Support

Healthcare organizations often operate on tight budgets, leading to a lack of investment in essential employee well-being programs. The demanding and emotionally charged nature of healthcare jobs requires robust mental health support, stress management initiatives, and resources for employees. Without adequate funding in these areas, healthcare workers face burnout and exhaustion, resulting in low engagement levels.

7. Misalignment in Values 

When healthcare workers' personal values and beliefs are misaligned with the values of the healthcare organization they work for, it can lead to disengagement. For instance, if a healthcare institution prioritizes profit margins over patient care, employees who are deeply committed to providing the best possible care may feel disillusioned and disengaged.

Such misalignment can create ethical dilemmas, erode trust in the organization, and cause employees to question the meaningfulness of their work. When there's a disconnect between personal values, organizational values, and the actual practices within the workplace, it can lead to frustration, decreased level of morale, and ultimately, low employee engagement. 

8. Staffing Is Still The Biggest Problem

Persistent staff shortages in healthcare facilities put immense pressure on existing employees. High turnover rates, often exacerbated by the stressful work environment and lack of resources, lead to an overwhelmed workforce. Constantly having to cope with the loss of experienced colleagues intensifies the workload and demoralizes the remaining staff, contributing to low employee engagement.

9. No Autonomy Whatsoever

Empowering healthcare professionals to make decisions related to patient care can boost their confidence and job satisfaction. However, a hierarchical or bureaucratic organizational structure that limits autonomy and decision-making power can stifle creativity and engagement. When employees feel their opinions and expertise are undervalued, their motivation and engagement diminish.

10. Cumbersome Administrative Process

Excessive administrative tasks, paperwork, and complex procedures can overwhelm healthcare workers. Spending significant time on non-clinical tasks detracts from patient care and can lead to frustration and disengagement. Streamlining administrative processes and investing in efficient technology solutions can alleviate this burden, allowing employees to focus on their core responsibilities.

Is there any way we can fix this?

Of course there is. A recent study of the healthcare industry revealed a not-so-obvious fact: the happier the employees, the happier the patients. And the happier the patients, the more financially stable the healthcare organization will be. So for the sake of the patients, the hardworking employees, and the healthcare industry itself, let us look at some of the possible solutions to employee disengagement.

Here's a step by step approach

  1. Engagement Survey: Launch a tailored engagement survey targeting hospital staff.
  2. Feedback Analysis: Dive deep into the feedback to understand root causes of disengagement.
  3. Pulse Check: Regularly monitor the mood of the employees through pulse surveys.
  4. Engagement Metrics: Identify and monitor engagement levels to pinpoint engaged and disengaged staff.
  5. Feedback Action: Implement changes based on feedback, focusing on critical pain points.
  6. Adopt Engagement Software: Use an employee engagement platform for a structured approach.
  7. Recognition Assessment: Evaluate if current recognition practices resonate with staff's expectations.
  8. Adopt Recognition Platform: If gaps are identified, introduce an employee recognition platform.
  9. Celebrate Achievements: Regularly recognize and reward milestones, big or small.
  10. Regular Check-ins: Maintain an ongoing dialogue to keep the momentum and ensure continued engagement.

Now let's get into the details and specifics.

1. Recognition is The Foundation To Employee Engagement

Implement an extensive healthcare staff appreciation program. This program should include peer-to-peer recognition, spot rewards, and public acknowledgements during team meetings or internal communication channels.

You can also construct a "Wall of Gratitude" or digital platform where patients, their families, and coworkers can share their good experiences and thank you for excellent treatment. Commemorate job milestones and anniversaries. Recognition doesn't necessarily have to be big. Even a heartfelt thank-you or public recognition can boost staff morale.

2. Show Them There Are Opportunities For Growth

Invest heavily in healthcare workers' ongoing training. Create customized training programs that improve technical and soft skills like communication, empathy, and stress management. Provide online classes, seminars, and conferences related to their interests.

3. Invest in a Good Mentorship Program

Recently, 83% of mentorship program participants indicated their experience made them want to stay at their company. Implement systematic mentorship programs in healthcare where experienced personnel advise less experienced colleagues. Mentorship relationships guide, encourage, and assist new hires as they navigate their responsibilities and the healthcare environment.

Encourage elder healthcare workers to volunteer as mentors to promote knowledge exchange and friendship. Mentorship programs help new hires onboard and build community inside the company.

4. Make Sure To Listen To Your Employee's Concerns

Promote an organization where active listening is a core value. Healthcare employees' problems, thoughts, and criticism should be heard by leaders, supervisors, and colleagues at all levels. Town hall meetings, focus groups, and suggestion boxes allow employees to voice their opinions.

5. Trust Your Employees and Help Them Trust You Back

Building trust in healthcare institutions is crucial. Positive workplace relationships depend on trust, which fosters open communication, cooperation, and respect. Leaders and managers should model transparency, honesty, and integrity in their behaviors and choices.

Communicate organizational goals, developments, and issues clearly. Address issues swiftly and honestly, acknowledging triumphs and failures. Admit faults and collaborate to solve problems. Encourage fairness and accountability by applying policies and decisions uniformly to all employees.

Low Employee Engagement is Totally Fixable

Just like how good things take time, one needs to be patient enough to see the rise in employee engagement. But there are ways to make things speed up and increase their pace. One of the ways to do so is to find a strategy that fits your healthcare organization like a glove. We at ThriveSparrow have been at this game for a long time now and have mastered the art of finding the perfect roadmap to increasing employee engagement. If you ever feel like your employee engagement efforts have hit a wall, make sure to give us a call or drop us a message. Let’s fix this together.