Employee engagement is a buzzword that gets a fair amount of attention these days, and savvy nurse managers and executives would be wise to give this notion its due.

According to a 2004 study by Gallup, hospital nurses rank significantly below other professionals in terms of employee engagement, thus these findings confirm the fact that engaging nurse employees should be an important aspect of the healthcare management landscape.

What is employee engagement?

According to a Forbes article, "employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals."

Defining an "engaged employee," Wikipedia states that this individual "is one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organization's reputation and interests."

Words that are consistently used to describe this phenomenon of engagement include commitment, satisfaction, loyalty and enthusiasm.

What can organizations do?

Every organization wants employees to feel committed, satisfied and enthusiastic about their work and loyal to their place of employment, so it seems plausible that savvy and thoughtful organizations would thus be interested in promoting employee engagement. But if they do anything about it, where should they consider focusing?

    Communication: First and foremost, it seems that communication is one of the keys to employee engagement. Employees who feel their employer is secretive or withholding may not necessarily feel terribly loyal. Misinformation and gossip are powerful engines that can undermine an organization's morale and culture, so open communication with staff is a significant key in the movement toward improved engagement.

    Team-building: The idea of team-building is also a widely recommended strategy for creating a culture of inclusion and satisfaction. Organizations can take different paths in terms of team-building, and there is no shortage of consultants, resources and opportunities in which healthcare organizations can invest in order to improve satisfaction, enthusiasm, commitment and organizational cohesion.

    Onboarding: The onboarding of new employees is also seen as an area where many healthcare facilities can choose to begin on the right foot, engaging new employees from the beginning with management protocols and practices that contribute to enthusiasm and loyalty.

    Recognition: Often cynically viewed as nothing more than a platitude, recognition is another area where organizations can utilize positive reinforcement by valuing nurses' professional achievements and innovations. Nurses who feel valued and recognized are certainly more likely to have increased loyalty and enthusiasm for their workplace. The above-mentioned Gallup article also states that nurses score quite low on the recognition scale, "as if no one cares whether they do a good job." This is food for thought.

    Nurse managers: It's been said that one of the prime reasons employees love or hate their jobs is their manager, and nurses are no exception. Nurse managers need to be kind, compassionate, caring, tuned in, aware, attentive and sensitive to the needs of their direct reports. A nurse manager can make or break the morale and cohesion of a unit or facility, and there is little doubt that a stellar and engaged nurse manager will engender stellar and engaged employees.

Employees as ambassadors

Employees are absolutely crucial ambassadors between the public and a healthcare institution, but also between current employees and potential employees. Retention and attrition of staff is worthy of focus, especially since onboarding and attrition are costly budgetary categories for any healthcare organization.

As stated in The Guardian, a British newspaper:

"Employees make the best ambassadors for any organization, and, in a culture in which the credibility of messages from top executives is under significant scrutiny, word-of-mouth and social media channels among employees are playing a key role in decision-making for job seekers. Constructive internal stakeholder engagement is therefore not only the right thing to do on its own merits, but a vital part of the management of external reputation."

Engagement is key

Employee engagement is key to individual satisfaction and organizational achievement. Those organizations that take employee engagement seriously will reap many rewards from their investment, whereas organizations that pay more attention to profits will certainly lose out in the end.

Keep your nurse employees engaged, solicit their opinions, listen to their needs and recognize their achievements. This will go a long way toward collective and individual success.