3 employee engagement myths hospitals can forget

Healthcare workers gathering by a window in a hospital
More engaged employees can improve the patient experience. (Getty/Jochen Sands)

Hospitals and health systems can toss out three myths about employee engagement to improve the patient experience, according to a new report from the Advisory Board. 

The Advisory Board's report found that for every 1% increase in employee engagement, hospitals improved ratings on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) by 0.33 points. Each 1% increase in engagement was also linked to a 0.41-point increase on the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's Patient Safety Grades.

 "As hospitals and health systems undergo large change management initiatives around transitioning to value-based care and reducing unnecessary care variation, they should not overlook the role of employee engagement," John Johnston, national partner in consulting at Advisory Board said in an announcement

RELATED: How WellStar Health System improved staff engagement 

The report also dispelled some myths about staff engagement:

  1. There are significant barriers to engagement. Healthcare organizations shouldn't assume that "traditional demographics," like lack of a union, can hold back engagement. The report found that hospitals with a union averaged a 45% engagement rate, while those without averaged a 43% engagement rate. There also wasn't significant variation in rates across different types of healthcare facilities. 
  2. Hospitals should settle for engagement rates that are found in other industries. Healthcare employees are already nearly twice as engaged as staff members in other industries, according to the report, so hospitals should use healthcare-specific benchmarks for engagement performance. 
  3. Some departments are "hopeless" for engagement. The departments with the greatest room for growth in employee engagement are laboratories, surgery and nursing. Targeting these groups should be a key strategy for hospitals. 

Believing these three myths can hold hospitals back from truly engaging with their staff members, according to the Advisory Board. And it's important that providers put emphasis on engaging employees: Staffers who are disengaged are twice as likely to leave within a year following an engagement survey.