Employee engagement is often confused with employee satisfaction. The latter refers to how happy employees are, with no regard to their performance. Employee engagement is the “emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals,” measured at least in part by the amount of “discretionary effort” an employee expends on behalf of the organization. In short, engaged employees are those who routinely go above and beyond without being asked.
Unfortunately, engaged employees are probably a small percentage of your workforce. Current levels of workplace engagement are low. A recent Gallup study reported that only 29% of American workers are engaged in their jobs. Worse, another 18% of employees are “actively disengaged,” meaning that they dislike their jobs, are unproductive, and spread their negativity to others.
Gallup research also found that companies with an average of 9.3 engaged employees for every actively disengaged one beat their competition by 147% in earnings per share (EPS), while those with fewer engaged employee have substantially lower EPS. Another study by Towers Watson finds that engaged employees have much lower turnover: 18% versus 40% for the disengaged. They also have lower rates of absenteeism: 3.2 versus 4.2 days per year.
This situation is particularly critical among senior care communities, which report annual caregiver turnover rates of up to 51%. In total, turnover is costing the long-term care industry $4.1 billion per year. What’s more, this doesn’t even count the intangible but very real cost of poor morale and lost productivity among disengaged and disempowered employees, along with its inevitable impact on quality of care.
Did you know that most turnover happens in the first 90 days? The tenure of an employee, and therefore the success of your entire workforce, hinges on their experiences in the three-month window after they are hired.
Give us a few quick numbers and our handy calculator will tell you how much you're spending on employee turnover.
Engagement is formed through mutual trust: it is a tangible value that can be managed. It represents an implicit and often unspoken commitment to transparency, fairness and understanding between employees and the organization. According to organizational expert Edward Lawler, employee engagement revolves around providing employees with power, information, knowledge and rewards. However, simply making a verbal commitment to values like these – or even putting them into a mission statement – are not enough. What’s required are employee engagement practices that turn these values into action within day-to-day corporate and community activities.
"Employee engagement revolves around providing employees with power, information, knowledge
-Edward Lawler, Organizational Expert
Consider the following five practical steps to increase employee engagement among your communities. Each step offers proven ways to empower your employees, so engagement increases and your staff stability grows, leading to higher quality throughout operations.
Learn what Delta, Hilton & others are doing to attract & retain staff & how their strategies can be applied to senior care.
Onboarding is one of the most critical parts of facilitating engagement among employees, right from the start. Employee turnover is the highest during the first 90 days of employment. This is especially true in long-term care and senior living, which has historically struggled with high turnover.
If you could just clone those employees who are considered your best and brightest, you’d be good to go, right? That’s exactly what a mentor or team coaching program is intended to do – take the skills, attitude, and habits of your best employees and make them available for other staff members to adopt.
To get started, work with your director of nursing or care director to determine a short list of mentor candidates among your staff. Base your short list on technical skills, customer service ratings and work attendance. Remember, a mentor can’t just be good at one thing – they need to be good at everything.
Once you have identified a pool of mentor candidates among your employees, they must be interviewed. Confirm your initial findings and determine if the candidates have the “extras” needed to become an effective mentor. These “extras” are based on the capacity, attitude and disposition of the candidates.
Instituting a mentor program is like having a proactive support line for your staff. Mentors play a huge role in engaging new and current staff members alike by routinely checking in to answer questions, teach and encourage them. And the bonus? These programs keep your mentors engaged through recognition of their expertise and their valuable feedback and input into key staffing practices and other community processes.
Mentor engagement is valuable to new hires because they are available to show them the ropes, answer questions and introduce them to other staff members. Mentors accelerate the process of new employees becoming self-sufficient and successful in taking care of residents. They also help ensure new employees are not overwhelmed.
Treat a new employee like a special guest. A simple act like hanging a welcome sign is a powerful gesture that will leave a lasting impression on new hires. In addition, open the lines of communication from day one between staff members and leadership. Leadership should have an active role in general orientation by welcoming staff and having lunch with the new hires.
Job orientation is done, but is your new hire ready to fly solo? Mentors can help assess the capabilities demonstrated during the orientation process to determine if the new hire is ready. Remember, it’s okay if the new employee is not ready. The job of a mentor is to help employees be successful and their feedback is necessary in making this happen.
Use employee engagement software with onboarding dashboards that monitor new employees’ work performance – such as punching in and out on time and not calling off - to correct any issues and promote retention.
Once new hires have demonstrated the skills to handle their own work load start them off slow and try to eliminate “curveballs.” Start new hires with two to three residents to care for and ramp up to a full work load once comfortable.
After 30 days, the new hire’s supervisor should conduct a formal review to assess performance and establish goals to make sure they are both on the same page. It’s also a good idea to have the executive director or administrator check in to see how the new hire is doing. “Schedule a coffee meeting with new staff members after 30 days for one-on-one time to get their perspective on how things are going. This goes a long way in creating an open line of communication between staff and management" says Shelly Szarek-Skodny, CEO, Century Oak Care Center. Mentors should continue with weekly touch base meetings to talk, answer questions, and provide the guidance and support new employees need to be successful in their role.
Turnover is a massive problem, with costs reaching $5,000 to replace each lost employee, while also risking the care and service your residents receive. Download our latest whitepaper to learn tips and tricks to better onboarding in the first 90 days.
When a parent is trying to get their child to eat their vegetables, one simple question often does the trick: “Which do you want, broccoli or carrots?” When people feel a sense of control, it’s much easier for them to buy in. The same principle applies to scheduling and your staff: if you give them a voice in the process and effectively communicate options, they will feel much better about the outcome.
How do you find out how engaged your employees are? Simple: you ask.
Conducting staff surveys allows you to see your organization through the eyes of your staff members. Surveys are critical in obtaining ongoing feedback from staff and improving internal processes. Your survey can be sent weekly or bi-weekly after each employee’s shift, as long as you are consistent in. your cadence. The question can be as simple as “how was your day?” with a rating scale of 1 to 5.
Measuring survey results is critical in pinpointing engagement levels among your workforce. Sounds simple enough, right? Except that it isn’t always that simple. What do you measure? How good is “good?” What do you do with this data?
These questions underscore the importance of using a formal survey to assess your level of employee engagement and tracking these results over time. Pay close attention to the ratings and look for trends in your data.
According to a study by Xerox and Bain and Company, customers who rate a business “4” on a scale of 0 to 5 are six times more likely to leave for a competitor. In the same way, the goal of employee engagement is for survey items to have perfect scores. The worst thing you can do is settle for being average. Explore and troubleshoot areas where people rate you below the top score.
A subtle but important metric is the number of people who rate you with all perfect scores, particularly with a short survey. If the number of people who give you top scores across the board starts to drop, it deserves your attention – even if your overall numerical scores do not drop much.
Consider mapping your engagement scores to patterns of employee work habits. For example, look at employees’ histories of calling off or even not showing up for shifts. Review your open shifts and how they get filled. How many of your employees have been willing and at the ready to help out when a shift opens up? Comparing survey scores to shift patterns and behaviors may uncover meaningful issues that are impacting your employees’ engagement with your organization.
Allow staff to freely express their opinions by providing a comments section in the survey. Show them that you value their feedback by following up on these comments and working with employees and management to fix any issues expressed.
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Use the information gathered from staff surveys to identify actionable areas to improve your business. Once you have identified the area of need, get staff involved to help address and resolve the issue by creating a problem-solving task force. When employees have a role in solving an issue, they tend to have greater buy-in – particularly when it is an issue they deemed important.
When creating a task force, select members representing multiple departments to provide a wider range of perspectives. Also, keep the group to about five members to enable you to keep meetings focused and productive. Rotate task force members every quarter so you are able to include a wide range of employees in this valuable process.
Task force meetings should occur monthly for 30 minutes. This should be plenty of time to identify an improvement plan. Just stay focused. The administrator or executive director should be present to oversee and provide guidance when appropriate.
“It’s valuable to have the chance to act on employee feedback gathered in OnShift. Before OnShift we did not have a standard method or tool to consistently connect with our employees to measure their satisfaction, until we started to use OnShift Engage."