Doctors, nurses, medical techs, and other frontline employees in the healthcare industry are expected to deliver quality care and save lives. No matter how acutely funding is cut. No matter how scarce resources become. No matter how brutally a pandemic ravages a hospital.
New rules, policies, and regulations can’t disrupt the flow of care. The employee experience takes a back seat to the patient experience for obvious reasons. Does that mean that fostering employee engagement should be a low priority for healthcare facilities that are also battling COVID-19? Not at all.
Employee engagement matters whether you’re in the ER or the exam room because working in the medical field is inherently stressful, and burnout is an epidemic.
And the current pandemic has a “severe impact” on the mental wellbeing of healthcare professionals all over the world, with burnout and anxiety rates skyrocketing: new YouGov polling for the IPPR think-tank found that 50% of 996 healthcare workers questioned across the UK said their mental health had deteriorated since the virus began taking its toll.
72% said their general health was being put at risk, and one in five claimed they would be likely to leave their job after the pandemic.
And this January – before the pandemic was in full effect – 42% of physicians reported burnout.
Those stats aren’t surprising at the best of times; after all, healthcare is an industry where one small mistake can be deadly. COVID-19 has increased this pressure tenfold, not least because workers often lack the PPE equipment required to keep themselves and their patients safe. But that doesn’t mean facilities shouldn’t take steps to combat mental health, burnout, and disengagement.
Today, healthcare workers worldwide are making substantial personal sacrifices to save the lives of those infected. Some have come out of retirement and returned to work. Others have found themselves in new departments, having to catch up with unfamiliar routines and protocols as they go. Now more than ever, it’s crucial that the healthcare frontline is protected, equipped, and invested in.
What’s getting in the way of employee engagement?
One of the biggest barriers to employee engagement in healthcare settings is ineffective internal communications. In many healthcare facilities, employees can’t get the information they need without disengaging from their primary caregiving tasks.
They have to go to the nurses’ station, stop by a bulletin board, go to a meeting, or go to a computer and log into the facility intranet. Finding out about changes to critical processes and procedures, updates to key initiatives, or changes to timetables or staff schedules means stopping everything.
Many people across industries find that task-switching is frustrating not only because it interrupts the day’s flow but also because it becomes increasingly difficult to re-engage with primary responsibilities after each work stoppage.
Promoting employee engagement with a mobile tech solution
Given how big of a problem internal comms can be, removing the barriers getting in the way of employee engagement can be as easy as investing in a customizable employee app like Blink (blink software). A mobile app is a better choice for healthcare workers because they are seldom found sitting at a desk. Improving the employee experience should be reaching employees where they are versus asking those employees to meet you halfway.
Blink recently ran a pilot program in one of the UK’s largest private hospitals, which gave employees across departments (a group that included nurses, porters, receptionists, cleaners, and security guards) access to crucial information delivered by internal comms in our customizable mobile app.
It cost £2 million less than building a native application but still gave all the facility’s frontline workers an easy way to get the resources they needed while on the move. The results were staggering. The hospital saw a 30% increase in engagement with internal communications, and patients received better, faster care from a more satisfied and engaged staff.
The bottom line is that when a facility is using a mobile platform, employees can access whatever information they need. Comms can share vital messaging without any of that communication interrupting the flow of care.
Four tips for increasing employee engagement with an app
Improving the employee experience at your facility and increasing engagement among staff can be a matter of taking small steps that add up to a significant impact.
- Be the change you want to see
Remember that employee engagement hinges on communication, and communication is a two-way street. Asking employees to use your internal communication app is not enough. You need to make yourself accessible. Take the lead, populate the app with lots of useful information, direct people to check the app when questions arise, and spend time on the app yourself, answering questions, sharing, and giving feedback. When employees know they can get the information they need in your app, they’ll be excited to use it.
2. Don’t get in the way of employee flow
Face-to-face meetings are sometimes necessary, but consider how much disruption meetings can cause in a frontline worker’s day. When you’re tempted to call a meeting, consider whether staff could address the issue at hand in your employee app. Curate information ruthlessly so only important updates reach your team — and then only the staff members who need to see those updates. Make sure everything you share is clear, so there’s not a lot of follow-ups necessary. Disseminating information effectively should mean respecting your employees’ roles and their time.
3. Commit to keeping everything in one place
The staff bulletin board has survived into the digital era because people know they can go to it for the information they need when they need it. Not being able to find that information is hugely frustrating. If your internal comms team is committed to keeping as much information as possible right there in your employee app, your staff will begin to rely on the app.
Not sure what needs to be in the app? Have comms review old communications challenges to determine what should (and shouldn’t) be in your employee engagement app moving forward. Make this the year everyone in your organization can find the resources they need whenever and wherever they need them.
4. Set clear goals, track them, and reward compliance
Your employees will be more engaged when they understand what’s expected of them — not only when it comes to their primary caregiving responsibilities but also internal tasks. When you let your employees know that what they’re doing is both seen and appreciated, they’ll feel valued and, as a consequence, more connected to your organizational goals. Regular feedback should be a big part of your employee engagement strategy.
Engagement is about more than employee satisfaction
Employee engagement is essential in every industry, but it’s particularly vital in healthcare, where mistakes can result in grave injuries or even death. We all want happier employees, but everything you do is for your patients at the end of the day. They know when a caregiver is genuinely engaged, and that knowledge can affect not only the patient-caregiver dynamic but also outcomes. Patients who trust providers because they sense that they aren’t just there for the paycheck are more likely to be full participants in their care.
How can you tell if your employees have what they need to provide this kind of engaged care? The simplest thing you can do is ask. An internal communications assessment may open your eyes to gaps you never realized existed and can give you valuable insight into what types of communications your workers prefer. Do your employees feel like they’re making a valuable contribution? Do they feel like they have a voice? What roadblocks are keeping them from doing the best possible job?
Fostering an environment of high employee engagement is a challenge, but it’s not an impossible one. Suppose you communicate effectively in a way that doesn’t feel like an interruption, pay close attention to your staff’s contributions, give them what they need to succeed, listen to what they have to say, and recognize their accomplishments. In that case, your employees will respond by doubling down on their dedication to providing the best possible care to your patients.
Healthcare professionals have already responded to COVID-19 with dignity, bravery, and compassion. They are working long hours, constantly revising how they provide care, and putting their lives at risk to protect us. Their employee experience must be protected at all costs because, without them, we are powerless.