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Engagement Matters: Meeting the Unique Challenges of the Healthcare Workforce
Oct 16, 2018
Oct 16, 2018
By Martin Wright, Director, Strategic Consulting, and Kristopher Morgan, PhD, Director, Workforce Analytics
In most industries, the value of an engaged workforce is typically discussed in terms of operational outcomes: increased productivity, improved retention, reduced turnover, enhanced recruitment, workforce safety and better overall business performance. In healthcare, the impact is even more expansive, encompassing patient safety, care quality and the overall experience of care. And the stakes are higher: patients’ lives.
The factors that influence workforce engagement in healthcare are similarly differentiated. While some engagement drivers and detractors are universal—such as flexibility, autonomy, transparency, career development opportunities, diversity, inspiration, communication, recognition, resource availability, stress and workload—others are unique to healthcare. These include personal alignment between individuals’ work responsibilities and the caring mission of their chosen profession; their sense of connection with the health system’s mission and vision; and the degree to which they feel their work contributes to that mission and vision.
A deep understanding of these relationships—and of the uniqueness of the healthcare workforce—is critical to a successful and sustainable engagement strategy. Following are some of the health care-specific considerations that should inform the design and implementation of such a strategy.
Taken together, these considerations highlight the need for comprehensive, healthcare-specific strategies for collecting, analyzing and interpreting workforce engagement data and implementing improvement efforts that target the needs of employees by function, role and department.
Measurement, as noted, provides essential feedback to guide a comprehensive engagement strategy. It is a diagnostic tool for assessing an organization’s cultural health overall and the engagement of all segments of its workforce. As with any diagnostic tool, the output of engagement surveys is information, and information directs action.
To fully understand the culture of the organization, the insights from the engagement survey must be coupled with a cultural assessment to gain a deeper understanding of the organization’s current talent strategy, leadership buy-in and change readiness. This assessment identifies barriers to achieving the desired business outcomes and allows for strategic improvement planning. Tying the collected engagement data with this boots-on-the-ground assessment ensures that organizations are able to target their improvement efforts to address the specific needs of each department and unit across the organization.
In this regard, the key to a successful engagement strategy lies in the ability to translate the collected data into a set of realistic, meaningful and sustainable actions and behaviors that specifically address the unique needs of the healthcare workforce. Doing so requires the right measurement tools and post-survey resources. It also requires an enterprise-wide understanding that engagement is not an isolated HR process or promotional exercise. It is a strategic imperative that cuts across the organization and drives high performance on all healthcare delivery measures.
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