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Disengaged staff trends in the healthcare industry

Staff engagement in the healthcare industry is in crisis. Research by Quantum Workplace ranked healthcare last among 17 industries surveyed for employee engagement. When it comes to Canadian healthcare professionals, engagement rates dropped an average of 10 points between 2016 and 2018. Since quality of care goes hand in hand with staff engagement, this is a troubling trend that impacts everyone and an urgent concern for healthcare leaders.

The first step in addressing the issue is gaining a nuanced understanding of the workforce. As Quantum Workplace reported in HuffPost, the trend is connected to three groups that currently comprise the healthcare workforce and the patterns connected to their roles. Knowing how to keep these groups motivated and productive will help counteract the decline in staff engagement and make care facilities stable and resilient in the face of cost reductions and ongoing industry change.


Millennials – that generation of people born between 1979 and 1994 – currently make up half the healthcare workforce. They’re also far more open to changing their careers than earlier generations of employees. A recent survey showed over a third of millennials had plans to leave their workplaces within two years. Such high turnover rates can be devastating to health, senior and child care facilities, lowing morale and taking a financial toll in temporary staffing and onboarding costs.

Millenials taking a selfie

To retain millennial staff, healthcare management needs to lean into generational differences and discover what makes this demographic tick. Millennials are not motivated solely by their pay cheques, but care deeply about the values and missions of the organizations they work for. Studies show they’re concerned about making their communities and the wider world better places to live and want those ideals to be reflected in their work contributions. When millennials grow disengaged, they’re sensing a disconnection between the vision and stated goals of a healthcare facility and its delivery of care.

Leaders know to ask their millennial employees what the facility could be doing to bring the best care to clients and patients. This reassures millennials that their voice is heard and demonstrates that their growth within the organization is part of the organization’s long-term goals. Since millennials are equally focused on and value personal development, internal training that caters to self-improvement can do a lot to boost morale and aid in retention.  

CEOs and Senior Management

With nearly 1 in 5 CEOs stepping down in 2019, the healthcare industry is facing an increasingly high rate of senior management turnover. The need to standardize and reduce costs in line with healthcare policies has meant more healthcare mergers and acquisitions and the departure and replacement of of CEOs. Whatever the catalyst, shifts in senior management tend to unsettle everything below, and the impact on employee morale ripples all down the line.

2 CEOs and Senior ManagementTo lessen negative repercussions from turnover at the highest levels, it’s important to find out how staff are being impacted, then act swiftly and assuredly to ease the effects. Exit surveys are crucial to get a handle on why key people are leaving, and interviewing staff during transitional moments is necessary to show support, restore faith, and actively encourage retention.

At the same time, saying farewell to upper management in healthcare is a natural part of growth and renewal. The most stable organizations prepare for transfers and retirement through succession planning and workplace management. Cultivating new leaders from existing staff is a way of committing to a smooth course ahead and strengthening employee engagement today.


As operating costs rise and funding gets harder to come by, the introduction of cost-savings measures and tools can leave nurses feeling overworked and underappreciated. At the same time, nothing has changed on the patient side – nurses need to provide the same quality care. A recent study showed that one in five nurses in Canada leaves their position every year, costing healthcare institutions an average of $25,000 per employee in replacement costs and decreased productivity. In Canada, one in five nurses leave their position every year, costing an average of $25,000 per employee in replacement costs and decreased productivity. 

Just how important is nurse engagement? A Gallup study showed that higher levels of nurse engagement results in reduced patient mortality rates, meaning nurse engagement is a matter of life and death. Engaged employees observe rules and safety procedures – such as sanitizing hands, checking IVs, and carefully administering medications – while overworked and disengaged nurses are less likely to point out safety issues or errors for fear of being disciplined.

For nurses to remain emotionally engaged, they need to know they are a valued resource. One way of demonstrating everyday support is through a recognition system, which lets management and staff boost and champion each other with notes of gratitude, likes and helpful comments. Most importantly, nurses need to know their work is not being assessed primarily in terms of time and cost savings, but that the integrity, compassion, and innovation that they bring to their roles are in step with the organization’s core values.

With so much demanded of healthcare personnel, it’s not surprising that staff disengagement and turnover are persistent issues. However, solutions and strategies will depend on the particular makeup of the workforce and the larger healthcare context. It’s important to stay abreast of trends and get to know your healthcare workforce so you’re preparing for and implementing the right re-engagement strategies when necessary.

Learn how BookJane helps health care facilities improve shift fulfillment by 40%, dramatically decrease their time to fill shifts, and significantly reduce burdensome scheduling and administration time.


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