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What the NHS Can Teach us About Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is a concept that has become more and more frequently talked about in recent years. As evidence grows to suggest that engaging employees has positive outcomes, employers are increasingly starting to consider employee engagement strategies a priority.

An ‘engaged’ employee can be defined in several ways, but summed up as “A positive attitude held by the employee towards the organisation and its values. An engaged employee is aware of business context, and works with colleagues to improve performance within the job for the benefit of the organisation. The organisation must work to develop and nurture engagement, which requires a two-way relationship between employer and employee.” (Institute of Employment Studies).

Employee Engagement: The Research

A recent employee satisfaction survey by a large pensions and investments company revealed a number of useful and interesting outcomes of increased levels of engagement. It found that the employee value proposition is breaking down.

Not only are employees feeling more positive about their employers, they are talking about them in a more positive way and striving to perform better for them, which goes some way towards explaining why those companies who invest in engagement strategies as part of the employee lifecycle outperform those average companies who don’t. The survey also found that three key drivers of increased engagement were career opportunities, managing performance and organisational reputation.

A further recent study by the IPA examining the engagement of employees within the NHS revealed that levels of employee engagement can be strongly linked to patient satisfaction, employee wellbeing and even important clinical outcomes, such as mortality rates.

Put simply, engaging employees is an essential step in ensuring the continued success of any organisation.

It seems a number of lessons can be learned from these findings. Not just within the health sector, but for the business world in general.

The report, commissioned for Healthcare People Managers Association and NHS Employers identified effective engagement approaches used within eight trusts, all considered to be high performing.

Recommendations

Outlined below are strongly transferable and can be employed in most industries:

  • Strong Organisational Values – A set of clear values, developed with, not for, employees. To enable full integration, these values should be communicated constantly and must form the foundation for HR processes. Managers and senior leaders must be seen to adhere to these value through their actions and decision making processes.
  • Senior Leadership – A variety of channels must be open to allow employees to engage with senior leaders at all times.
  • Line Managers – Must be on hand to support employees through appraisal, barrier removal and team building.
  • Employee Voice – Employees must feel able to communicate concerns and make suggestions for improvements. They must feel an integral part of the decision-making process.
  •  Partnership Working – Establishing a culture of partnership working across the board, based primarily on trust, is another key strategy.
  •  The sooner employees become ‘engaged’, within the employee cycle, the better and more effective the process will be. Strategies should be instigated at every level and be long-term.
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