Keeping your caregivers happy: 5 ways to boost employee morale

It’s the reality that in nearly every organization there are employees who seem to suck the energy from whatever room they enter.

They are known to be complainers and radiate pessimism. More than likely, managers can call to mind a couple of these individuals, and they know how this unhappiness and discontent spreads like a disease to their teams and departments.

HR and nursing leaders understand and feel the effects of unhappy employees: disengagement, decreased productivity, and ultimately, turnover. Disconcerted staff are not only a financial strain on the organization, but they are also emotionally draining – disrupting team morale and possibly decreasing quality of care. While keeping employees happy may seem like a tall order, there are steps an organization can take to make sure morale stays positive and employees are engaged. Below are five ways leaders can help ensure team morale stays positive and employees are engaged.

Setting clear expectations through standardization
It’s amazing how the simple concept of standardizing practices across a hospital or health system can make such a difference when it comes to staff morale. Standardized practices that are consistently applied across all departments and are well communicated to staff can calm the chaos that happens when staffing and scheduling practices vary unit to unit and shift to shift. Employees respond favorably to clear expectations and managers who hold their staff (all staff) accountable to them. Standardized policies and practices also help facilitate the ideology that the hospital functions as one cohesive team and not fragmented entities.

Adopt an enterprise staffing culture
Fused to the point above, aligning practices across the organization fuels an enterprise staffing mentality. Hospitals have become conditioned to operating in silos – functioning as “every unit for themselves.” This not only increases an organization’s labor costs, but it also creates barriers between units and generates issues when circumstances call for employees to be floated off their home base. Setting expectations from the beginning that staff are a shared resource and will help out all areas in which they are competent creates the mentality that the organization is one team working together in the best interest of the patient.

Ensuring your unit is staffed appropriately
One of the greatest factors contributing to staff satisfaction and top of mind for many provider organizations is determining if they have the right amount of staff to keep up with demand. The nursing shortage has been a pain point for organizations for the past few years now, and continues to be a concern. Staff who are constantly working extra hours or overtime are quickly going to become burned out and disengaged. Organizations can assess their staffing levels and make sure they have the right resource layering that is appropriate for each unit.

While there is no perfect number or ratio of core and contingency resources, each unit should have a mix that allows for core to consistently work up to their FTE commitment with minimal extra hours and overtime. Contingency resources – such as enterprise float resources and PRN – should fill the gaps once all core staff have been scheduled. Using workforce analytics will help you find the right balance of resources, and will significantly improve staff satisfaction.

Offering a variety of scheduling methods for staff
It’s kind of a given that individuals working in healthcare like to have a feeling of control. And newer generations of caregivers appreciate being able to balance their work life with their personal life. With advancements in technology, organizations can offer a variety of scheduling methods for staff while still meeting patient demand. Self-scheduling, open shift management, and mobile technology are ways organizations can enhance and let employees pick up shifts when it fits into their schedule.

With automated scheduling software powered by predictive analytics, practices such as self-scheduling and open shift gives employees some ownership over their schedules. With an effective open shift program, shifts are automatically posted according to predicted patient demand, typically 30 days in advance. If incentives are tied to open shifts, best practice is to attach higher amounts to shifts 30 days out, and then decrease incentives as the days tick by and shifts are picked up. This allows employees to maximize their income by committing to shifts further in advance, solidifying staffing plans sooner.

Stop seeking consensus for everything
Leaders tend to genuinely care about their employees and want to make their employees happy. This often means listening to a variety of opinions. It’s only natural then that when faced with a decision that could bring about significant change, managers want to gather opinions in hopes of reaching a consensus before a decision is made. This is a rabbit hole that many managers fall into and typically does not result in a positive outcome. Seeking consensus inevitably means that some people’s ideas were not accepted, which can cause them to be unhappy.

The reality is that a manager cannot bend to make every employee happy all the time. One of the tasks of leadership is to make tough decisions – no matter how popular or unpopular they may be. Once a decision is made, it should be clearly communicated to all staff with an emphasis on why the change is occurring and how individual accountability leads to organizational success.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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