Happy Nurse with Patient

Why employee engagement for frontline healthcare workers matters (now more than ever)

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. So, does that mean that fostering employee engagement should be a low priority for healthcare facilities who 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 is having 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.

Nurse in scrubs pushing trolley.

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 by 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 around the world are making huge 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.

Doctor resting with head down.

What employee engagement looks like in healthcare

Engaged employees are aware of what they should be doing at any given time, have the resources they need to complete that work, and feel like they have an important part to play in the fulfillment of your facility’s goals.

They feel empowered to share their concerns and ideas with management, and they sense that their contribution is valuable and valued. Employees who are engaged are less likely to look for outside opportunities or to accept unsolicited opportunities because they derive great personal satisfaction from and are emotionally invested in their work.

It looks like better patient outcomes

And as you might expect, what’s good for employees is good for patients. A Gallup study of more than 200 hospitals found that the engagement level of nurses was the biggest predictor of patient mortality rates. Research by Harvard Business Review shows a direct correlation between measures of patient experience and measures of employee engagement.

Engaged employees are more likely to hold themselves to the highest standards of patient care, whether that means double checking a patient’s medication list or sanitizing their hands more frequently.

Young family smiling at new born.

It looks like money saved

What may be more surprising is that what’s good for employees is also good for a facility’s bottom line. In healthcare, turnover is a huge problem — with an overall rate greater than 20% — and that turnover takes a big financial toll on organizations.

Retaining good employees saves money and increasing employee engagement is one of the simplest ways to reduce staff turnover. In one Gallup case study, a hospital that raised its engagement score simultaneously saw a7% reduction in turnover — saving $1.7 million.

They also found companies with high engagement are at an increased advantage, and more resilient, over the course of the pandemic.

Is the highest possible level of employee engagement a lot to shoot for – especially during uncertain times such as these? Absolutely. But one of the most persistent myths in the healthcare industry is that there are certain insurmountable barriers that make improving the employee experience truly impossible.

According to Advisory Board research, healthcare industry workers are already twice as engaged as employees in other industries. That means healthcare facilities can actually set higher employee engagement goals across departments and, given the right tools, expect to meet those goals.

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 kind of task-switching frustrating not only because it interrupts the flow of the day, but also because it becomes increasingly more 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. A mobile app is a better choice for healthcare workers because these employees can seldom be found sitting at a desk and part of improving the employee experience should be reaching employees where they are versus asking those employees to meet you halfway.

Doctors looking at mobile phone.

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 key 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 and 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 big impact.

Doctor smiling with patient.
  1. 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, populating the app with lots of useful information, directing people to check the app when questions arise, and spending 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 absolutely 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 the issue at hand could be addressed in your employee app. Curate information ruthlessly so only vital updates reach staff — 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 up necessary. Disseminating information effectively should mean respecting your employees’ roles and their time.

3. Commit to keeping everything in one place

The reason the staff bulletin board has survived into the digital era is that 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 absolutely 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, and 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 when it comes to 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.

Close up of person typing on laptop.

Other employee engagement tools

Chanty is a collaboration and communication hub that connects remote employees and teams via simple yet powerful AI-powered chat.

Think of it as a virtual office that allows you to chat privately or in groups and communicate with the entire team. This productive platform features a user-friendly interface that lets you organize and filter conversations by topics, projects, or other relevant metrics.

It allows easy access to documents and files, as it lets you collaborate with the right people on-the-go. You can also manage tasks for your teams and reach them via a voice call, text message, or a video call.

However, more importantly, Chanty is good at ensuring that these chats stay private and secure, keeping vital information from getting scattered or lost. It also gives managers the ability to keep a check on the team’s activity in Teambook.

On the whole, it stimulates effective employee communication and also ensures seamless collaboration between departments.

Engagement is about more than employee satisfaction

Employee engagement is important 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 at the end of the day, everything you do is for your patients. They know when a caregiver is truly engaged, and that knowledge can affect not only the patient-caregiver dynamic but also outcomes. Patients who really trust providers because they sense that they aren’t just there for the paycheck are more likely to be full participants in their own 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 insurmountable one. If 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, 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 d-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.

Ready to get started? Blink is an employee engagement app that can do all the things you wish your company intranet could do and more. Try it out today!