Although buzzwords like “The Great Resignation” aren’t thrown around as often anymore, that doesn’t mean the buzz has come to a screeching halt. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of workers who quit as of June 2022 was at 4.2 million. This figure remains the same as previous months, as there has been little change in the deep-seated issue of employee satisfaction with their work and/or workplace culture. This was particularly evident during the pandemic, especially in industries focused on serving people. In the health and social care sector, where doctors, nurses and social workers are overworked, underpaid and at direct risk of contracting the virus, turnover has increased from 673,000 in May 2021 to 728,000 in May 2022.
Anyway, recent studies shows that despite the high cost of employee turnover and record high attrition rates, many organizations are still not prioritizing employee engagement. This not only jeopardizes the reputation and efficiency of an enterprise; if allowed to continue, it can cripple the very capacity of the enterprise.
So how can the healthcare industry deal with employee engagement and turnover amid the stress of an ongoing pandemic?
Align values with strategy
As the past three years have shown, companies can no longer limit their focus on improving shareholder value. In the healthcare business, the mission extends to improving the health and well-being of the local community. But a good cause is often not enough to keep employees burned out by heavy workloads and poor work-life balance.
Most people want to feel like they are part of a bigger picture – and many people enter healthcare and related industries for this very reason. Connecting this higher sense of purpose to business strategy helps people connect with the difference they are making in their communities and within their organization. While this connection alone won’t offset extremes of stress and burnout, an individual’s connection to purpose does increase people’s resilience—meaning they’re better equipped to deal with cycles of stress. Knowing exactly how the work they do affects the health and well-being of the community in which they live matters and builds loyalty.
Communicating this message and highlighting the difference people make can happen in many forms. From emails and newsletters to captions used in printed materials and employee badges and wall signs. Going deeper, the relationship between strategy and values can be a major part of employee meetings and individual reviews. The important thing is that it be conveyed authentically, transparently and consistently. Engaged employees are employees who feel trusted and respected.
Redefine culture and structure
Building engagement doesn’t have to stop at the mission. Equally important is fostering a culture and transforming the organizational structure to be more employee-centric.
Organizations must recognize that employees have every opportunity to leave them. Creating open forums for communication can help an organization connect with its staff, discuss what keeps them there and what changes could create a healthier work environment. In other words, by building engagement into culture and function, organizations can create a more personal connection with their employees and make a huge difference in retention and satisfaction.
Of course, communication means little without action to back it up. Part of the transition to an employee-centric culture and structure involves recognizing that, after all, employees are people first. Employees eager for work-life balance should be given the tools and resources they need to work from home and/or work flextime. This obviously has to be balanced with the need to get the job done, but the pandemic has proven to us all that there is much more flexibility in most scenarios than we thought there was.
While building personal connections is difficult in the age of remote work, it is possible and important! After all, humans are pack animals and the bonds between us keep us healthy. Equipping managers with the skills and knowledge they need to foster strong and productive relationships with their teams goes a long way toward stopping burnout. Great managers understand the strengths and priorities of their teams and make sure they regularly connect with employees in a way that fosters genuine communication and connection. Additionally, adopting an open-door policy of open communication, knowledge sharing, and feedback can contribute to a more favorable setting, providing employees with a “safety net” and making them feel more valued by the company and their leaders.
Create an efficient IT infrastructure
Employees are not first and foremost just people. They’re also people who interact with some of the most convenient and impressive technology around. As consumers, a huge number of us are used to an Amazon-like experience. We expect the tools and technology we use to be fast, intuitive, and provide us with things we never knew we needed. We also expect this technology to be seamless across all devices and available wherever we need it. The more IT is designed to support the specific needs of healthcare workers, the more those individuals can focus on patient care.
Creating technological ways for teams to share information and seek feedback in real time accelerates responses. Self-healing systems prevent outages. Chat and automated help features reduce wait times. These are all examples of technical support that not only gets the job done, but also contributes to the satisfaction of the workers themselves. Combine this with the use of advanced technologies to support patients and their caregivers – such as virtual health and concierge services – and your infrastructure will become a star in both employee engagement and patient satisfaction.
You don’t have to be alone in providing these types of support for your workforce. The pandemic showed us that hospitals that partnered with each other and with private partners were able to provide extended support for their communities. Partnerships allow the healthcare sector to leverage the strategic strength of other companies to provide them with advanced technologies at scale.
Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all, magic solution to attracting and retaining your best workers, but there’s one place where it all starts—and that’s with employee engagement. Listening, really listening to the needs of your workforce and involving them in creating the solutions to the most pressing challenges is always the right place to start. From there, authentic, transparent and consistent communication can help your entire workforce know where they stand and what’s important to both the organization and its leaders as people. Now is the time for healthcare organizations to embrace many of the “future of work” concepts already in place in other industries.
Photo: Andry Djumantara, Getty Images