Guest Columns

Employee engagement: What story does the data tell leadership?

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Martie L. Moore, RN, MAOM, CPHQ
Martie L. Moore, RN, MAOM, CPHQ

The first time I used the words “resilience” and “engagement” was with my leadership team at the time. I asked, “What can we do to advance engagement and help people to be more resilient?”

Suddenly, everyone around the table had important emails to read on their phone. In essence, this immediate phone reading signaled an uncomfortable discussion — and their avoidance level.

This was a time when we as an organization measured employee satisfaction and not engagement. Employee satisfaction typically measures the level of happiness an employee feels toward their current job and conditions. It does not measure how much effort the employee is willing to expend. 

Employee engagement is the measurement of an employee's emotional commitment to an organization; it takes into account the amount of discretionary effort an employee expends on behalf of the organization. Engagement is consistently being challenged by the vortex of healthcare in today's environment. (I break down the difference between employee satisfaction and employee engagement, and explain how to curb the consequences of burnout, in the video clip below.)

If you just look at Google search results, it's a telling conclusion: Burnout is a major issue for care providers. As a matter of fact, Google has more than 91.7 million things to say about burnout and stress. It is an issue!

Burnout causes the following in the workplace setting: 1) Feeling overworked or under-appreciated, 2) compassion fatigue, 3) disengagement or lack of enthusiasm about work, 4) constant fatigue and illness. 

Recent studies show employee engagement scores have been on the decline but what has surprised many is that leadership scores also are taking a similar path. In a study done by consultant/research company Advisory Board, leaders cited issues as the following:

1.  Constant Connectivity — Proliferation of smartphones, tablets and laptops means leaders are connected 24/7, 365 days a year.

2.  Acute Margin Pressures — Reimbursement changes mean higher pressures with fewer resources.

3.  Increased Pace of Change — Rapidly changing protocols, procedures and regulations leave leaders feeling tired, stressed and burned out.

4.  Uncertainty of the Future — Leaders feel uncertain about the future of their organization and their own job security.

Lastly, Mergers and Consolidations are also major contributors to leaders staying engaged and being able to provide the organizational guidance and energy needed through major transitions.

In the midst of declining employee engagement scores, emerged research demonstrating why employee engagement is not just a Human Resources concern but also an organizational issue. The studies have shown statistical correlation between high engagement and improvements in productivity, outcomes and overall job satisfaction. Job involvement and trust are the primary determinants of organizational effectiveness. 

Further studies have advanced the understanding of how quality and employee engagement are intertwined. That is right; there is direct correlation of high engagement scores and high quality performance and outcomes. That includes hand hygiene. 

In the coming articles, I will share experience, science and practical actions that leaders can take for their own selves and those they serve. One of the first steps is to measure employee engagement, contributors or deflectors within the culture of the organization. Check out what the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has to say about measurement here

It's time to return to purpose and employee engagement is a way to re-spark that passion among staff and leaders.

Martie Moore, RN, MAOM, CPHQ, is the chief nursing officer at Medline Industries Inc. and a corporate advisory council member for the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel.

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Guest columns are written by long-term care industry experts, ranging from academics and thought leaders to administrators and CEOs.

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