8 Simple Ways to Boost Employee Engagement in Long-Term Care and Senior Care

April 25, 2019

Employee engagement can provide a competitive edge for senior care and long-term care providers. Engaged employees feel connected to a higher mission, understand the impact of their work, and realize how it helps them grow. As a result, they provide higher quality care and boost your reputation while reducing turnover.

After extensive research and polls, Gallup concluded, "Engaged employees make it a point to show up to work and do more work -- highly engaged business units realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity. Engaged workers also are more likely to stay with their employers. In high-turnover organizations, highly engaged business units achieve 24% less turnover. In low-turnover organizations, the gains are even more dramatic: Highly engaged business units achieve 59% less turnover. High-turnover organizations are those with more than 40% annualized turnover, and low-turnover organizations are those with 40% or lower annualized turnover."



The following practices can help you better engage long-term care and senior care employees and reap the benefits a highly engaged workforce delivers.

1. A Comprehensive Engagement Strategy

In the long-term care and senior care industry especially, where burnout is often a job-related hazard, it's even more important to make sure your employees feel you understand their needs:

  • Feeling valued. Research confirms all workers want to be valued, have their voices heard, and feel connected to a higher mission. They also want tools and information that help them alleviate unnecessary frustration and work efficiently. Otherwise they may see “greener pastures” elsewhere. 
  • An inclusive and collaborative workplace connects employees with one another and the mission. The sense of teamwork increases productivity as well as morale. Determine the culture change needed to foster an inclusive and rewarding workplace.
  • Meaningful-work. People want to know their efforts matter. Connecting employees to the mission and making sure they recognize the significance of their work requires active participation from all leaders. Leaders must consistently solicit and act on employee comments rather than just ensuring they are doing their work.

Before you start drafting an engagement strategy, assess your employees, culture, and working environment. Consider the best ways to apply core engagement concepts to suit your environment. Keep in mind, "approaching engagement as a business strategy yields clear and better results," Gartner reports.

Start with recruiting

“The most important recruitment factor is workplace culture,” according to a LinkedIn’s Talent Trends report.

Promoting engagement through the hiring process is two-fold:

  1. Establishing your brand and culture to candidates.
  2. Determining if candidates would fit into the engaging culture you’re building.

Share engagement-related values with candidates from their first interaction and reinforce them throughout the hiring process. For example, your online presence, job descriptions, and job applications should reflect these values.

Leverage every opportunity to evaluate how the candidate's objectives and workstyle support yours. Consider using an automated applicant tracking system that lets you ask open-ended why questions in the application to enhance your screening process and customize application questions among different long-term care and senior care facilities.  See how an applicant tracking system helps Oriol Health Care.

See how the applicant’s background reflect their values. In addition to having hands-on experience, employees who’ve worked extensively in long-term, post-acute or senior care demonstrate loyalty and commitment to caring for a vulnerable population. 

When you personally connect with candidates, talk about your culture and your mission and the important role the prospective employee would play. Look for signs these elements resonate with candidates and discuss intangible objectives (why they chose a career in long-term care and senior care) as well as salary and benefit packages.  

2. Strong connections between managers and workers   

Make sure your strategy encompasses your entire workforce and includes regular personal interactions. Managers should have regular one-on-one conversations with each employee that cover career goals, motivations, and emphasizes each person’s valuable role in fulfilling the facility’s mission. Listen to their feedback and look for ways to satisfy their concerns or complaints.  See How Company Culture and Happy Employees Go Hand in Hand

Remember when  managers inadvertently invalidate employee feelings, they promote disengagement, which can lead to turnover. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, “the cost of turnover is 6-9 months salary of that employee.”

3. Demonstrating Employees Matter 

Recognition and connecting employees to a higher purpose go hand in hand.  While top management sets the culture, department heads and middle managers are tasked with creating a positive work environment. They can start by showing appreciation for employees and encouraging team members to do the same.  

In some long-term care and post-acute care facilities, top-level managers lead by example and truly enjoy connecting with their staff. Mordechai Finkel, Director of Human Resources at Greek American Rehabilitation & Care Centre, personally meets with each of his 200-plus employees every two weeks to see how things are going. He said one of his goals is to ensure everyone has a good sense of mission.

4. A Culture of Recognition 

Engraining recognition into your culture requires consistent efforts across the workforce. When you see someone do a good job, such take an extra measure in caring for a resident, you may think this is obvious to the employee. Rest assured, it probably isn’t. Taking a moment to show appreciation then and there will go a long way in keeping them engaged and reducing turnover. Remember, in the moment recognition is much more effective than periodic call outs.  “Recognition helps employees thrive as 78% of employees say being recognized motivates them," according to Officevibe.

Develop personalized rewards programs to fit specific circumstances in your long-term care or senior care organization and look to meet the unique needs of the employees. Take note, when a worker comments on a favorite place or activity and respond with a corresponding gift card to recognize a job well done. You can also consider needs that fit your environment, such as transit passes, gas cards, and gift cards to see a favorite team play.  

Routine and meaningful recognition is worth abundantly more than it costs. Frustrations grow when workers are unrecognized in a meaningful way. Taking care of elderly and sick individual is often difficult and draining, which can disengage employees even in the most positive long-term care and senior care facilities. Remember positive and negative emotions are contagious.

“Workers who are on the receiving end of incivility decrease their work effort by 48 percent, quality of work by 38 percent, and commitment to the organization by 78 percent; 25% admitted to taking their frustration out on customers. Source, Professors Christine Porath and Christine Pearson “The Price of Incivility” in Harvard Business Review.

A word of recognition given with understanding can turnaround a negative experience.

5. Career Paths and Development Opportunities

When you invest in your employees’ careers, you invest in their future and prove you care. Offer a corporate training program to help employees expand their skills set and position them for promotions.

Promote often. Promoting from within not only provides a clear path to greater compensation and responsibility, it also helps employees feel integral to the facility’s success. Meanwhile in-house promotions also encourage employees to work harder and reduces turnover as they are less prone to look for these opportunities elsewhere. Don’t forget to train them on new tools that help them work more efficiently.

6. Two-Way Communication

The key to success is making communication a two-way street. Top-down-only messages don't engage employees because they don't allow them to air their thoughts and concerns. Mobile devices let you reach employees wherever, whenever and communicate in a way that suits an on-the-go long-term care and senior care worker.

7. The Right Technology

Although there's nothing like human interaction to promote employee engagement, the right technology can alleviate stress and help workers balance life and personal responsibilities.

As the fastest growing segment in your workforce Millennials crave both positive feedback and the use of technology to solve problems.  They expect technology to immediately connect them with what they need and find manual processes frustrating. This is especially true for healthcare workers who continually rotate between patients, units, and even facilities. Workforce management systems enable you to offer employee-friendly scheduling and easily solicit input on the shifts that best support their life—easily and automatically.  

Go mobile 

Mobile apps can be a wonderful way to foster two-way communication with long-term care and senior care employees. Consider their impact on scheduling. You can use a mobile app to automatically notify workers of open shifts, scheduling changes, and  responses to requests. Enabling employees to quickly respond on the app, is a win-win. They can help you close open shifts quickly and work the shift they want. You even save money by targeting employees not projected to incur overtime.  

Give easy access to key data

Mobile apps can also give employees access to information they want. By enabling a  mobile app for timesheets and approvals, paystubs, and employee schedule requests, you can significantly reduce friction in workers’ lives. Since according to IDC, employees spend about 20% of their time looking for information, a good mobile app could prove empowering by helping them manage work and personal responsibilities. Keeping workers connected, especially remote staff, increases loyalty and retention. Learn how to improve employee engagement and productivity with SmartLinx Go

8. Stop Micro-Managing Frontline Staff

While it's wise to keep your finger on the pulse of frontline staff, you don't want to micro-manage them. You need to respect their professional judgment when it comes to resident care. If you second-guess their decisions, they'll assume you don't trust them. However, if you give them reasonable autonomy, they'll feel respected and valued. Pairing autonomy with increased and flexible communication strikes the balance that will energize staff and improve resident care.

In addition, implement process, people and software tools to motivate, develop, and grow your current workforce, leaving them happier and more likely to go above and beyond.

An effective employee experience strategy combines personal touch, constant communication, a degree of autonomy, and appropriate use of technology. Engaged employees, in turn, will provide optimal patient care and help you combat turnover.

“High engagement and enablement improves employee performance by 50 percent, reduces employee turnover by 54 percent, increases customer satisfaction rates by 89 percent and increases five-year revenue growth by 450 percent,” according to KornFerry Hay Group.

 

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