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How Employee Engagement Hits the Bottom Line(s) in Health Care

Engaged employees are a precondition for the success of any organization. As the link between people and performance becomes increasingly clear in health care, employers are looking for new and better ways to strengthen this tie. We are continuing to learn more about the positive relationship between improved levels of employee engagement and organizational outcomes, ranging from quality of care to cost reductions to retention.

There are several variables that affect employee engagement in health care. As a recent report from Healthcare Quarterly explains, these include the size of the organization (small hospitals experience a slight advantage), the type of care being provided (non-acute facilities fair moderately better), demographics (workers between the ages of thirty and fifty-nine are the most engaged), length of employment (the “newness effect” of a job/position offers a one to five-year surge in engagement), and the nature of employment (part-time and temporary workers are more engaged than their full-time coworkers). Much of this, of course, is well beyond the control of the organization. So what can employers do to ramp up and sustain engagement amongst their staff?

The aforementioned report helps to shed some light here. Specifically, it outlines the top work environment drivers of engagement based on the Ontario Hospital Association-NRC Picker Employee Experience Survey of over ten thousand health care employees from across the province. Most notably, the top three are as follows:

  1. A sense of transparency and trust in the organization
  2. Having the opportunity to make improvements in work
  3. A sense that the organization values the employee’s work

As the report indicates, improvements in these key areas are ultimately tied to several positive outcomes for healthcare organizations. For example, rates of retention have been shown to improve dramatically with higher levels of engagement. While nearly 50 percent of disengaged health care workers will actively search for new job opportunities in the near future (twelve months), it is estimated that the number drops to 10 percent amongst highly engaged staff.

Another significant benefit relates to improvements in patient-centred care and patient safety. Specifically, the study found that 46 percent of highly engaged employees scored in the top quartile of Patient-Centred Care Work Environment (PCWE) scores, while only 21 percent of disengaged employees scored in the top quartile.

Yet another positive correlation can be seen between improved levels of engagement and service quality as well as employees’ perception of their organization’s service quality. For instance, approximately 66 percent of highly engaged employees stated that their work units “always provide top-quality service,” whereas a mere 20 percent of disengaged employees responded with the same confidence in their work unit’s quality of service.

The results of the survey show a strong and consistent positive correlation between improved levels of engagement and a number of critical health care organizational performance outcomes.

From looking into all of this, it becomes clear where employers ought to focus their efforts in order to drive engagement — building trust through transparency and accountability, giving employees the opportunity to contribute to and participate in process improvements and other incremental innovations, and finally, demonstrating that they value their employees’ work and their efforts to better the company’s services.

Harness the power of employee ideas.