By Jennifer Larson, Contributor
This has been a challenging year for everyone in the healthcare industry, from the C-suite to the nursing staff and everyone in between.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, people’s energy levels are also flagging. Earlier this year, a Gallup poll found that 78 percent of healthcare workers believed the coronavirus would have a “somewhat negative” or “very negative” effect on their workplace.
Leaders, are you focused on keeping your medical staff engaged and encouraged?
According to the Gallup organization, this is a critical time for leaders to safeguard their employees’ needs and ensure that staff members know they are supported by management and administration.
“Medical team encouragement is paramount to everything from patient satisfaction to the revenue and profit of the business,” says Kyle D. Bogan, DDS, a speaker and consultant on medical office culture. “During the stressful and uncertain times that healthcare providers find themselves in today, employers should be doubling down on employee engagement.”
Here are some key strategies to keep in mind when determining what your approach will be.
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5 Leadership Strategies to Keep Staff Engaged
1. Show your support
You must be deliberate about showing your employees that you support them. Be deliberate about acknowledging the challenges that everyone has been going through--and may be continuing to go through.
In fact, acknowledge that it’s a challenging time for you, too, suggests Christine Kiesinger, PhD, vice president of development and lead trainer of conscious communication and emotional intelligence for Studio BE. This kind of honesty can foster trust and respect among your employees and help keep them engaged.
“It has got to start with you,” says Kiki Orski, MBA, RN, founder of Peak Performance Consulting. “The leader has to set the stage and set the tone.”
The rest of your organization’s leadership team also needs to be on board—and be visible about their desire to support their employees.
2. Talk toYour Staff
Don’t hole up in your office or rely on others to communicate for you. Get out there and talk to your employees. Let your team know that you’re listening and that you want to hear from them.
“They need to be sure they’re getting an accurate picture of what’s happening on the front line,” says Orski.
Cory Colton, principal executive coach with Inflection Point Coaching, suggests increasing the frequency of leader rounding, when leaders walk the floors and take time to speak with employees.
“Senior and executive leaders should use this opportunity to connect genuinely with the staff to let them know how much they are appreciated, recognize their meaningful work and understand issues the staff are facing,” says Colton.
3. Ask Your Employees to Communicate with You
Good communication, of course, is a two-way street. Encourage your medical staff to communicate with you and the rest of the leadership team. Make multiple pathways available for them to submit feedback. Ask them how you and the rest of your organization’s leadership can better support them in a meaningful way.
After all, your medical staff are the face of your organization, notes Orski. You want to know how they’re feeling, because they’re the ones communicating with your customers and the community.
Establishing a flow of communication may take some time to achieve, however, so be prepared.
“If your organization has not been a communication-friendly zone in the past, your team will not turn on a dime to break down those barriers that have been in place,” says Bogan. “They may still fear that speaking out will cause them to lose their position. A regular and reinforced cadence of meetings and other communication opportunities will slowly break down the barriers of the past.”
4. Make Sure Staff Members are Taking care of Themselves, and Each Other
Keep tabs on how your staff is doing. Kiesinger suggests that you consider these questions:
- Are your employees taking the time to care for themselves?
- Are they staying connected to each other?
- Are they receiving praise and affirmation for all their hard work?
“Leaders should remind staff of the role that social support plays in navigating stress and transition,” notes Kiesinger.
For example, you could encourage staff to schedule regular gatherings where they can talk about anything but work, suggests Kiesinger. For now, those gatherings might have to be socially distanced or virtual. You could also ask them to schedule short daily check-ins so they always have an opportunity to request any extra support they might need that day.
5. Don’t Make Decisions in a Vacuum
It doesn’t do much good to improve communication if you’re not going to take your medical staff’s feedback into account when making decisions. Make sure to establish a way to get input from your employees who are close to the work. Then find a way to incorporate that input.
“Frontline leaders and staff should be included in the process when possible,” says Colton.
Something else to keep in mind: it may be more cost effective to implement new strategies to maximize employee engagement than not to. Replacing an employee lost due to lack of engagement is costly, notes Bogan, and the cost tends to get higher the further up the chain that employee worked.
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