The best strategies for hospital staff engagement

Hospitals and health systems can drive results by improving their employee engagement strategies, argues a Forbes column.

Even as the march of technology continues, writes Forbes contributor Kevin Kruse, healthcare remains a human-centered industry, particularly with increased emphasis on patient satisfaction and outcomes, with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services taking actions such as penalizing more than 700 hospitals for their rates of hospital-acquired infections. Hospitals must improve in these areas, which means investing in patient engagement, Kruse writes.

Part of the problem is that leaders often think employee engagement is interchangeable with employee satisfaction or happiness. Satisfaction sets too low a bar, Kruse writes, as employees can perform their basic duties, be satisfied with their jobs and still leave as soon as they get a better offer. A happy employee, meanwhile, is not the same as a productive employee who addresses patient needs.

Employee engagement, as Kruse defines it, means employee goals and commitments are aligned with that of their organization. Engaged employees make what he calls discretionary efforts, which manifests as actions such as making eye contact with all visitors, escorting lost family members to their destination,  adhering to proper hand- hygiene guidelines and IV checks, and listening to patients' questions about discharge orders and medication without rushing them.

As for how to improve employee engagement, Kruse writes, research shows three strategies are the best drivers:

  • Growth to help employees learn and advance within their organizations
  • Trust to provide employees with optimism about the future of their organizations
  • Recognition so employees realize their organizations appreciate and value them 

The benefits of employee engagement are tangible, Kruse writes, citing a 2005 Gallup study that found nurse engagement levels to be the number one predictor of mortality rates, beating out factors such as staffing levels. Similarly, a 2012 study of the effect of engagement on clinical outcomes in the United Kingdom's National Health Service found methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus cases fell by 0.57 cases per 10,000 bed days for each 10 percent increase in engagement. A 2014 report also found a direct correlation between staff engagement and patient satisfaction.

To learn more:
- here's the column