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Employee Recognition

11 Way to Improve Employee Engagement in Healthcare 

engagement in healthcare

In this guide we’ll explore employee engagement in healthcare, analyzing the current state of the sector and offering advice on the measures you can take to improve the happiness of your people. 

Engaged employees are a wonderful thing. 

When your employees are engaged they enjoy their work, but they also work harder, learn faster and are more resilient. There’s a clear link between employee engagement and successful businesses, which is why so many leaders are investing time and money into ensuring that their people are happy in their roles. 

So it’s no surprise to see that the healthcare sector is following suit and exploring the benefits that employee engagement can deliver. Especially given the challenges the industry has faced in recent years. 

It’s clear that this is a key issue, but how can leaders improve employee engagement among healthcare workers? 

In this guide, you’ll learn…

What is employee engagement?

The current state of employee engagement in healthcare

Why employee engagement in healthcare is so important

Telltale signs that your employees aren’t engaged

Strategies for improving employee engagement in healthcare

Tools and techniques to help monitor your employee engagement

employee engagement in healthcare

What Is Employee Engagement 

Before we get started we should define exactly what employee engagement is. 

Put simply, employee engagement is a term used to represent the level of enthusiasm that your people feel for their work and your organization. It’s a measure of how motivated they are to come in and perform the role to the best of their abilities, or to go above and beyond in order to help your business to achieve success. It’s also a sign of commitment, a barometer for their happiness and an indicator of whether they will stay in the job or search for employment elsewhere. 

There are two very important caveats to the definition we’ve outlined above, however. First is that employee engagement is fluid. It’s constantly changing, ebbing and flowing along with your employees’ day-to-day lives. Second is that employee engagement isn’t just defined by your people, it’s also impacted by the actions your organization takes, the way your leadership team operates and the kind of culture you have built. 

The Current State Of Employee Engagement In Healthcare

In the wake of COVID-19 healthcare workers across the world have been hailed as heroes. And rightfully so. From physicians and nurses to technicians and hospital support staff – healthcare workers worked on the frontlines of one of the greatest crises of our lifetime, giving their all to provide essential care and life-saving services for patients. 

But the pandemic took its toll. 

An industry that was already struggling due to levels of stress and burnout has found itself pushed to the edge. Record numbers of healthcare workers are now leaving their roles, with many more considering their futures. And this is from a sector that already ranked poorly in terms of employee engagement and which was experiencing record-breaking levels of staff turnover before the world had even heard of COVID-19. 

Clearly, healthcare has an employee engagement problem, but the knock-on impact of this is creating a snowball effect that poses a stark challenge to the entire industry. Record numbers of unfilled vacancies show just how acute the retention and recruitment problem is. But there’s also the issue of employee wellbeing and stress. Healthcare is also suffering from a skills gap as experienced employees move away from the sector. And to add to this there’s also a growing focus on the level of patient care that is being delivered. 

It may sound like an uphill struggle, but there is good news for leaders. By taking action to improve employee engagement, organizations can reduce turnover, boost wellbeing and ultimately deliver better outcomes for their patients. 

Those who choose to become doctors do it because they have to heal.

– Alexandra Fuller.

employee engagement in healthcare

Why Employee Engagement in Healthcare is so Important

The current state of play in healthcare means that organizations need to do everything in their power to ensure their people are happy in their roles. Not only will this help to stem the current exodus of employees away from the sector, but it can also drive additional benefits across every aspect of the industry. 

Employee engagement matters because it leads to benefits across patient care, safety, costs and absenteeism. Here are just some of the ways that employee engagement in healthcare is so important… 

1. It improves patient care

One of the most important impacts of improved employee engagement is that it doesn’t just help your people, it also helps to improve patient care. Evidence outside of the healthcare setting shows that engaged employees are better at their roles, that’s because they’re motivated to perform at their best when they’re at work. The same is true for the healthcare industry too. Whether they’re physicians, nurses or support staff, engaged employees deliver better patient outcomes.

Employee engagement in healthcare in healthcare is also far more likely to help reduce the number of complications that patients may experience and even reduce mortality rates. It’s been shown that a small (1%) increase in employee engagement leads to a 3% reduction in hospital-acquired complications and a 7% reduction in hospital readmissions. That can have a huge impact not only on patients but also on healthcare organizations that are increasingly stretched thin in terms of resources. 

2. And patient perceptions

Today organizations are gathering more information than ever before on the experience that patients have when they are in their care. This data allows us to examine the full spectrum of patient perceptions, but one thing that it tells us is that there is a direct correlation between highly engaged staff and an excellent patient experience. That’s because engaged employees are happier, more motivated and more committed in their day-to-day work. 

Despite advancements in technology healthcare is still a people-intensive industry and in an environment where patients are present that translates to exceptional care – the kind of attentive, professional and compassionate behavior that leaves a lasting impression. Put simply, when your people care more about their jobs they care more about their patients too.

3. It can cut costs

At the same time that it’s driving healthcare quality, investments in employee engagement can also help organizations to cut costs. With spiralling expenses forcing leaders into delicate budgetary balancing acts, employee engagement can make a real difference. Whether it’s reducing turnover and the costs associated with recruitment, lower patient re-admittance or simply reducing absenteeism – there’s a tangible ROI on every benefit that comes with employee engagement in healthcare. 

4. It enhances safety 

Healthcare environments can be fraught with hazards for both patients and caregivers. Not only can safety incidents cause physical harm, but they can also lead to financial and legal issues too. This means that safety is a key concern for organizations and something that should be front of mind for every employee. 

That’s where engagement comes in. When your people are more engaged they’re more aware of their surroundings and more committed to best practices surrounding workplace safety. That’s why highly engaged workers typically create and maintain safer environments where there are fewer errors

employee engagement in healthcare

5. It boosts retention

Replacing a nurse, doctor or another healthcare professional is an expensive process. It involves considerable costs when it comes to searching for the right candidates, selecting those that are the best fit and then providing the training they need to perform in their new roles. Then there are the costs associated with staff shortages and skills gaps that arise when your people leave.

The impact for patients, personnel and organizations alike can be huge. But staff turnover can also hit healthcare companies in their bottom lines too. Some estimates put the cost of replacing doctors at a staggering $1 million, and across every aspect of healthcare the dollar figure associated with replacing employees is often higher than those in traditional businesses. But they’re costs that can be avoided. That’s because when your employees are engaged, they’re less likely to leave, saving your organization from the escalating costs of unnecessary turnover. 

6. And reduces absenteeism 

Absenteeism costs healthcare organizations billions every year. And in an industry where budgets are increasingly being squeezed, it’s a cost that providers can ill afford. There are a number of reasons why people miss out on work, but two of the key drivers are disengagement and wellbeing. 

You see, if your people aren’t happy in their roles then they’re not going to be motivated to come into work. Perhaps they’re frustrated by the state of the industry, they’re constrained by budget cuts or they simply aren’t feeling like they’re giving patients the care that they deserve – whatever the cause of their unhappiness it’s going to degrade their commitment to their roles. 

Another cause of workplace absenteeism is wellbeing, or more accurately, a lack of it. When people are stressed, exhausted and burned out they’re unable to perform their roles forcing employees to take time off as a result. In healthcare settings, the risk of burnout can be high and the impact it can have is far-reaching. Employee engagement can once again help. While it can never remove the triggers that make healthcare one of the most stressful professions on the planet, it can help your people to cope with the pressures that come with the job. 

7. It encourages teamwork 

Anyone who has worked in a healthcare setting understands the power of teamwork. Working together is key to delivering patient care, and it takes contributions from a wide spectrum of professionals to truly make a difference to someone’s life. This teamwork is increasingly being eroded by the current state of the industry, however. 

Stress, frustration and disengagement can have a negative impact on collaboration as it leads employees to question their ability to make a difference rather than investing their effort for the greater good. That’s why engagement and teamwork go hand-in-hand.

8. It strengthens resilience

Healthcare environments can be challenging to work in. Operating on the frontlines of patient care your employees are faced with emotional turmoil, the growing specter of cuts and worryingly, an increasing threat of violence. It’s an industry that demands resilience and through improved engagement, you can ensure that your healthcare employees are ready to meet the challenges they will inevitably face during their working lives.

engaged employees vs disengaged employees

How To Tell If Your Healthcare Workers Are Disengaged 

As we’ve explored above, the positive impacts of employee engagement in healthcare are potentially transformative. But it works both ways, and unsurprisingly if you have disengaged employees it can have the opposite effect on your organization. 

Disengaged employees can be harmful to your organization, impacting morale and productivity across entire teams. Thankfully it’s possible to spot the signs of disengagement and take steps to rectify the situation. 

What Are Disengaged Employees 

Before we look at how you can spot them, we should define exactly what disengaged employees are. 

In essence, if engaged employees are people who are happy, motivated and committed to their roles, then disengaged employees exist at the opposite end of the spectrum. 

Disengaged employees are not emotionally committed, they’re not motivated and they’re not proud of their jobs. They don’t bring the same kind of passion, energy and commitment to the workplace as their engaged counterparts which has a negative impact on the organization.  

When it comes to engagement, it’s really difficult to hide how you truly feel about your role. That’s good news for employers who will be able to spot those employees who may have mentally checked out. 

To help you spot disengaged employees in your organization, here are a few telltale signs you should look out for. 

A downturn in their work 

A surefire sign of a disengaged employee is if you begin to see a downturn in their work. Perhaps their productivity is slumping, they’re regularly missing deadlines or the quality of their care is diminishing – whatever the warning sign the bottom line is that if your employee isn’t performing like they used to then it’s something that you should look into.  


If your employee was once a social member of the team but has stopped engaging with their colleagues in the same way, then it could be a sign that they have become disengaged. Whether they’re less communicative, avoiding social engagements or simply spending more time by themselves – it could suggest that they’re no longer feeling connected to the company. 

Rising absenteeism 

If you’re experiencing an uptick in absences it could mean that your employee isn’t as engaged as you might like. This is a definite red flag because it means that your people already have one foot out of the door. 

Deteriorating behavior 

A sure sign that you’ve got a disengaged employee is when their attitude begins to deteriorate.  Whether they’ve lost some of their enthusiasm, their output has dropped or they’re simply not engaging with their colleagues the way that they used to – when your people stop meeting your expectations it might mean that they have checked out. 

Shirking responsibility 

Engaged employees want to push themselves. They’re always open to learning and taking on new challenges. That means if your team members are shying away from taking on new responsibilities or adding to their workload then it could mean that their engagement is starting to wane. When an employee has no interest in progressing professionally it suggests that they have no desire to push themselves to go above and beyond in their current roles. 

To do what nobody else will do, in a way that nobody else can do, in spite of all we go through…that is what it is to be a nurse.

– Rawsi Williams

employee engagement in healthcare

11 Strategies To Improve Employee Engagement In Healthcare 

Now that we understand what employee engagement is and the impact that it can have on healthcare organizations it’s time to explore some of the strategies that you can employ to boost motivation among your teams. 

Of course, every organization is different. That means that the combination of tools and tactics that you use to boost employee engagement will be as unique as you are. However, there are proven strategies that provide a great starting point for organizations that want to make an immediate impact on employee engagement. 

Here are 11 ideas to help leaders support their staff and improve employee engagement in healthcare… 

1. Open lines of communication

One of the biggest barriers to improving employee engagement in healthcare is poor communication. If your people don’t feel like they are listened to by management or that their ideas aren’t acted upon then they can become disengaged. Creating a two-way dialogue between senior figures within the organization and workers at all levels is key to ensuring that everyone feels like they are a part of a team, something that is bigger than themself. 

This fuels motivation and employee engagement in healthcare but it can also lead to invaluable insights for healthcare organizations. After all, who better to provide information on pain points and roadblocks than the people who are operating on the frontlines of patient care? If you want to open up lines of communication then consider drop-in sessions, staff forums and employee engagement surveys as tools that can be employed to give your people a voice.

2. Action employee feedback 

Listening is one part of the equation, but if your employees do offer feedback on things that you can to improve their working lives then you need to ensure that you act upon them. This makes your people feel heard, that their voices matter and that their thoughts and feelings are valued by their employers. In a healthcare setting, this can lead to better engagement and better patient care, a win-win for everyone involved. 

3. Tap into their intrinsic motivation 

Unlike many other industries, healthcare workers aren’t driven by bigger paychecks, company cars and corner offices. Most are intrinsically motivated by a desire to help others and to make the world a better place. Over time, people can lose sight of that, so tapping into this purpose can be your secret weapon in the battle for employee engagement. Reminding your people why they come to work can be a powerful driver, one that shows your employees that they matter and that their jobs, however difficult, are making a difference to people’s lives. 

4. Make your mission visible 

It’s not just their internal drivers that employees need to be reminded of, it’s your organization’s goals too. We all have bad days, and in healthcare, those bad days can make people question their purpose. By making sure that your organization’s mission is front and center, you can ensure that your employees don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. So, take time out to show them how their actions contribute to the bigger picture and remind them what that bigger picture is. It can have a huge impact on employee engagement. 

employee engagement in healthcare

5. Optimism is essential 

The healthcare industry can be tough, but right now it feels harder than ever for those working within it. These are challenging times for healthcare workers and it’s easy to get mired in a spiral of negativity about the state of the sector. But if you want your people to feel engaged you need to show them that there is light at the end of the tunnel. By building a positive environment you can ensure that your people come to work with an optimistic outlook that boosts morale and energizes them to do their best day in and day out. 

6. Find opportunities for flexibility 

Your people aren’t robots, they’re human beings. What we mean by that is that they aren’t just influenced by what happens in work, but what happens outside of it. By taking steps to support employees away from the workplace you can build the kind of trust that fuels engagement when they are at work. 

There are many ways you can start to forge these connections. For example, you could offer your people the flexibility to adjust work schedules around their needs, helping them to manage things like childcare. This kind of flexibility has been proven to drive employee happiness and boost morale, ensuring that your people are focused and engaged by their work rather than worried about what is happening away from it.

7. It all starts from the top 

Where your senior figures lead, the rest of your organization will follow. Great leaders inspire the people below them. They serve as role models that encourage people to bring their A-game and deliver the best patient care they can. But if your leaders are out of touch or unliked, negativity can quickly spread through your ranks. So, if you want to improve employee engagement, then start at the top, otherwise your efforts to improve morale in other areas of your organization will be wasted. 

8. Prioritize career development 

Offering career development opportunities has been proven to help boost engagement and employee motivation. That’s particularly true of younger talent that is entering the healthcare sector. Indeed research suggests that the majority of Millennials believe that a clear path to career progression is a key factor in keeping them engaged and motivated in their roles.

By investing in your employees, healthcare organizations can improve engagement and provide a higher quality of care. Giving people on-the-job training, offering incentives to complete training courses, or offering mentorship opportunities are proven tactics that can be employed to offer a clear pathway for career development. Not only does this boost engagement levels in the here and now, it also helps to upskill your workforce – ensuring that you have the expertise in place to tackle any challenge the future might throw at you. 

9. Recognition and rewards

One of the most powerful tools your organization can employ to improve employee engagement in healthcare is a company recognition program. Recognizing people is a powerful tool that in the right hands can be used to increase motivation, boost engagement and send your productivity soaring. Without an effective rewards and recognition program people will feel invisible or that their efforts don’t matter.

In an industry that can be as challenging as healthcare, a recognition program shows them that their hard work is appreciated and that their efforts are valued by your organization. Thanks to modern recognition and rewards platforms like Bucketlist Rewards you can tailor your program to suit your workers. Not only can you offer spot prizes for people who demonstrate excellence, but you can recognize career milestones, personal anniversaries and even tie your rewards in with organization objectives like safety or patient satisfaction. 

employee engagement in healthcare

10. Embracing diversity, equity and inclusion 

In healthcare, teamwork is essential. Your employees can only succeed if they feel like they belong, and they can only belong if they feel like they are included. Today diversity, equity and inclusion isn’t a “nice to have” it’s a business imperative. You need to take action to ensure that there are no barriers within your organization and that you have systems and processes in place to ensure that everyone has a place within your healthcare team. Get it right and you show your healthcare employees how much you care, it’s a simple act that adds up to make a big difference when it comes to engagement. 

11. Focus on wellbeing

Wellbeing is a big deal for healthcare organizations. But we’re not talking about patients here, we’re talking about your employees. Stress and burnout are commonplace in the industry, which means that combating these issues should be at the top of your priorities list. If you truly want to support your people and encourage engagement through wellbeing, then you’re going to need to invest in it. 

The problem is that traditional benefits packages don’t meet many healthcare workers’ needs. So leaders will have to get creative, looking beyond the confines of traditional benefits to find new ways to support employee health and wellbeing. Varied benefits that include access to mental health support, childcare and dedicated health support can be genuine game-changers if they’re deployed as part of a comprehensive program. 

How To Measure And Maintain Employee Engagement In Healthcare 

Once you’ve taken steps to improve employee engagement in your healthcare organization you can’t just sit back and relax. Instead, you’ve got to consciously work to measure and maintain your employee engagement levels. 

So how do you actually measure employee engagement in the first place? 

Employee engagement surveys 

When it comes to something as important as your workforce you can’t base your decisions on hunches, or hearsay. Instead, you need cold hard facts. And the only way that you will get an honest assessment of your current engagement levels is through a survey.

What is an employee engagement survey? 

Employee Engagement Surveys are an invaluable tool to help you measure your people’s commitment, motivation, purpose and passion for their work. These surveys give your employees a platform to anonymously share their open and honest feedback – that means you won’t only get to hear about what your organization is doing right, but also what it needs to improve upon. 

Conducting your surveys on a year-to-year basis is a good way to benchmark your results and ensure that your activity is constantly focused on improving your engagement. But you can also conduct spot surveys to measure engagement during challenging times or periods of change. 

How employee engagement surveys can help maintain engagement 

Regular employee engagement surveys give you valuable insight on the current state of motivation within your healthcare organization. But they can also be key to maintaining your efforts over time.

If you haven’t already done so, then make conducting an engagement survey your top priority. This will give you a baseline that will let you know what level your engagement is at right now. You can then use this to measure your progress over time. Are your strategies working? Do you need to do more to address employee engagement? These are the kind of questions that regular surveys can answer.

Once you have this data you can make informed choices about the actions you need to take to either maintain engagement levels or work towards increasing. A combination of regular monitoring and continuous improvement is the key to success. 

engaging employees in healthcare

Frequently Asked Questions About Employee Engagement In Healthcare 

What is employee engagement? 

Employee engagement is a measure of how committed, motivated and energized your people are at performing their roles. 

What are the benefits of employee engagement in healthcare? 

Healthcare organizations that focus on improving employee engagement can expect higher productivity, better quality of work, improved teamwork, high retention rates and a boost to morale. 

Can employee engagement impact patient outcomes? 

Yes. High levels of employee engagement has been shown to improve patient experience, minimize readmissions, enhance safety and even reduce mortality. 

How can I improve employee engagement in healthcare? 

Strategies such as open communication, recognition and rewards, flexible working, employee wellbeing and inclusion initiatives have all been shown to have a positive impact on employee engagement. 

How can I measure employee engagement in a healthcare setting? 

Employee engagement surveys are a vital tool to help measure and maintain levels of employee engagement in healthcare organizations. 

What happens if my employees are disengaged? 

Disengaged employees are less productive, less proactive and more likely to be absent from work. This has a negative impact on patient care in healthcare settings. 

engaging employees in healthcare

Meeting The Challenge of Employee Engagement 

Addressing the issue of employee engagement in healthcare can be challenging, but it’s something that organizations must face if they are going to navigate the current crisis that’s gripping healthcare. 

Following on from the impact of the pandemic and the retention and recruitment issue that’s faced the industry, leaders are working harder than ever to keep their employees onside. 

Thankfully employee engagement can help.

By taking the time to measure employee engagement levels then acting to address concerns and improve peoples’ working lives, you can have a huge impact on your organization. Highly engaged employees don’t just work harder, they stay in their jobs for longer and ultimately deliver better patient outcomes. And that’s something we can all get behind. 

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