Employee engagement is a brass ring that employers are always striving to achieve. The phenomenon has been linked to numerous studies showing more productivity, higher profits, better customer service and even lower turnover.
But in an industry like healthcare, where the primary concern of providing quality care to patients has to be balanced with more economic issues such as managing the bottom line, the importance of engagement becomes even more prevalent. When your business is helping people recover from illness or injury, you want your employees to be as engaged as possible. In fact, one study has suggested that happier, more engaged employees can translate into happier, more satisfied patients.
Researchers explore relationship between engagement and patient experience
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater and Northwestern University published a recent report inspecting if and how engagement among health care employees affects the patient experience. For the purpose of the study, the researchers defined "engagement" as, "a heightened emotional connection that an employee feels for his or her organization, that influences him or her to exert greater discretionary effort to his or her work."
The report outlined that health care traditionally has a problem with engagement, especially when it comes to nurses, many of whom may have had bad experiences with hospital administration. Cost-cutting measures designed to maximize revenue rather than patient comfort have also been cited as a driver behind the engagement problem.
What makes for engaged employees?
The healthcare industry may have an issue with low employee engagement, but what can be done to turn the tide and help hospitals and clinics better engage their practitioners? Healthcare Informatics indicated that the industry is shifting toward a goal of improving patient satisfaction, but mastering employee engagement is the first step on the road to that goal.
The Northwestern/Whitewater study identified three common characteristics shared by clinics that reported a higher-than-average level of employee engagement. These elements were accessible leadership, frequent communication and employee empowerment to satisfy patients. All of these factors can work in tandem to create an environment where nurses, doctors and clinicians feel like they have the tools and freedom to provide their patients with the best possible care. As a result of that engagement and autonomy, care quality is likely to rise.
One key way to help employees feel more engaged at work is to involve them in more of the day-to-day decision-making operations. By doing so, administrators can reinforce the fact that nurses are an integral part of the hospital, and express the value of these employees. The study highlighted a direct correlation between higher involvement in decision-making and greater levels of engagement and job satisfaction among nurses.
Management also plays a key role in boosting engagement. Recent nursing shortages caused in part by the explosion of health care accessibility have left clinicians understaffed and overworked in many instances. While these staffing decisions may be necessary to ensure the hospitals can keep running, introducing nurses into the decision-making process can go a long way toward encouraging a feeling of ownership and engagement.