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Why employee engagement is essential in health and social care – and 5 ways to improve it

The health and social care sector is under pressure. In the UK alone, the number of unfulfilled roles in adult social care is at its highest since records began and one in three carers plan to leave the industry within the next five years.

There are a number of reasons workers are looking elsewhere:

1. Staff shortages
As mentioned above, the health and social care sectors are facing a chronic shortage of skilled and qualified staff, which makes it difficult to provide adequate care and support to patients and clients. This shortage is leading to high stress levels and burnout among employees.

2. Workload and stress
Healthcare professionals are often required to work long shifts under high pressure or in physically and mentally demanding environments, which can have a damaging impact on their own health and wellbeing. In one government study, the NHS reported it had lost 560,000 days due to anxiety, stress, depression, or another psychiatric illness. There is no doubt this has a negative impact on engagement levels not just for those employees off work, but for those left to cover them – leaving them feeling overwhelmed and disengaged.

3. Salary
Many workers in the health and social care sector sectors struggle to reach the Living Wage rate, which for the UK is £10.90 per hour outside of London and £11.95 inside. This can lead to financial stress and a lack of motivation for existing staff. As a recent survey reported, some 80% of people recognise care workers are underpaid, further compounding the challenge for employers looking to attract and retain skilled workers into the sector.

4. Career progression
There’s a perception that, in many health and social care organisations, opportunities for career progression and development are limited. This can lead to a lack of motivation and engagement among employees who feel they’ve reached a stalemate in their careers and have no option but to leave the industry if they’re to feel more fulfilled.

5. Recognition
With many care professionals working in dispersed, deskless roles across a variety of shift patterns, they can often feel disconnected from their wider team, managers or leaders. These emotionally tough, high-pressured conditions can leave employees feeling undervalued and unappreciated. This, in turn, decreases their engagement levels and has a negative impact on retention. In fact, 41% of sector workers say they’ve left a previous role for exactly this reason, with a further 31% saying it made them seriously consider quitting their existing role.

All these challenges are making it difficult for health and social care organisations to retain and engage their employees, fill vacancies, and provide consistent service levels for their patients and clients. Not only that, such challenges also have commercial implications – high levels of employee turnover mean greater time and money spent on recruitment and training, for example – and have an impact on health and safety and external ratings.

DISCOVER MORE: Employee engagement in health and social care

What can health and social care organisations do to boost employee engagement across their workforce?

1. Competitive pay and benefits
Sometimes it’s not all about the money. Our own research has shown that often, a lack of recognition and wellbeing supersede salary when it comes to the reasons people leave their roles. Ensuring salaries match local competitors is one thing, but have you considered your current benefits package and looked at potential non-monetary motivators you could implement? Take a look at our recent article with 10 great ideas to encourage employee engagement without breaking the bank.

2. Training and development
Providing opportunities for career development and training can help employees feel valued and motivated. Many care organisations are creating clear career pathways and supporting their employees to progress through these defined journeys. Training also doesn’t have to be costly. Yes, you can offer paid courses and tuition reimbursement schemes, but you can also look at existing resources within your own workforce who many be able to offer on-the-job training, shadowing or mentoring, as part of their own development goals.

3. Supportive work environments
Despite it being a people-focused occupation, caring can sometimes be a lonely role. Creating connections for your employees is essential to boost engagement and helps reduce stress and burnout. Developing opportunities for your employees to connect in person with other care teams – either within your organisation or in the wider industry – can add a welcome enhancement to more structured schemes such as flexible shift scheduling, employee assistance programmes or workplace wellness programmes.

4. Recognition and reward
Recognition doesn’t always need to be about monetary reward. Creating moments that matter across your employee lifecycle is a great way of boosting motivation and engagement, and it helps attract and retain staff. Sometimes this really can be as simple as an in-the-moment “thank you” from a line manager. The key is to understand what’s important for your employee population and build authentic moments on this basis.

5. Communication
Open and transparent communication can help build trust and create a positive work culture, but communications need to suit your employee demographics. A one-size-fits-all approach will not work. With many deskless workers, health and social care organisations need to consider the best methods for reaching all employees at the right time, in the right place, with the right message. For more insights on this, take a look at our article: 5 tips for engaging deskless employees.

If you’d like more ideas around creating a world-class employee experience in your health and social care organisation, read our thoughts: Improving the employee experience for care workers.

Measuring your engagement

To increase your employee engagement, you need to listen to your employees. And one of the best ways to do that is through an employee engagement survey platform – just like the one WorkBuzz provides.

Having a flexible, easy-to-use, cost-effective listening tool will help you understand what’s positively and negatively impacting your key employee engagement drivers, and how they in turn are affecting your recruitment, retention, service levels and commercial outcomes.

While it’s sometimes a difficult pill to swallow, you’ll get real insights into the sentiments within your workforce that you can then turn into actions and productive outcomes for your organisation.

At WorkBuzz, we support a range of organisations across the health and social care spectrum listen to their employees, increase service levels, drive positive change and improve CQC ratings.

“Working with WorkBuzz provides us with a huge amount of insight into our operation, helping us to improve CAREGiver engagement and retention, and client satisfaction.”
– Helen Jones, Communications Manager at Home Instead

If you want to know how we can help you achieve your employee engagement goals, simply request a demo below.

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