When employees are unhappy or disconnected from their duties, your clients may suffer in the long run. Poor employee morale contributes to higher operating costs in health care settings, and it can result in higher risk for complications and taking unnecessary health risks in caring for those with disabilities, explains Kevin Kruse of Forbes magazine.

In fact, 721 hospitals, including psychiatric and rehabilitative facilities, suffered cuts in Medicare payments as a result of hospital-acquired conditions (HACs) and excessive readmissions. Providing the best care possible during the first stay is critical to ensuring the future of financial funding. Ironically, many of the cases in these funding cuts directly relate to the skills and performance of employees. So, improving employee performance and engagement could be the answer to this growing problem.


1. Get Feedback From Those on the “Front Lines”

As a C-level executive, human resources director, social worker or services director for those you serve, it is easy to make assumptions on the best way to approach employees’ job performances and satisfaction. In reality, those in service-level positions may not be apt to share unsolicited information. Moreover, the annual company outing or picnic has been shown to be an ineffective strategy for getting employee feedback, explains Chris Cancialosi of Forbes magazine.

In a recent study, the data collected during these annual outings tend to grow stale and useless. The data are too old, too numerous or too exhausting to manage, resulting in generalizations about the level of employee engagement. In addition, some preliminary studies estimate up to 68 percent of staff may have been unengaged and dissatisfied with their positions in 2015.

It is critical to solicit and welcome feedback from all staff members on an ongoing, frequent basis. This may be as simple as biweekly “check-ins” via email or during staff meetings. Since your staff members bridge the connection to your clients, you need to hear what is and what is not working to help those you serve.


2. Define the Driving Forces of Employee Engagement

To enact changes in employee engagement, you need to understand its driving forces. According to William Craig of Forbes magazine, some of the most notable driving forces of employee engagement include the following:

  • Creating a supportive work environment.
  • Offering fun perks to employees, and creating a sense of community.
  • Creating goals that matter to staff members, as well as upper-level management.

It may also be helpful to collect data on the driving forces of employee engagement when obtaining feedback from employees, reports Maren Hogan of LinkedIn Talent Blog. For example, the following sample question may be used in an email:

“What do you feel would be the best boost to improve collaboration and help you serve our clients?”


3. Be Visible

What all takes place in the course of your normal working day? Do you have multiple meetings? Do you arrange to meet with liaisons from the Department of Aging and Disabilities Services? Rather than spending this much time contemplating the daily nuances, ask yourself, “When was the last time you spent more than one hour with your staff while they were working, not during a staff meeting or company event?”

The answer to this question is essential to creating a path toward better employee engagement. Your staff members want to see you in the field, not just behind a desk or as an idea somewhere in corporate management, asserts Tim Eisenhauer of Entrepreneur.com.

You need to make being visible to all staff members your top priority. Obviously, you have to navigate your job duties and spending time with your employees, but if you neglect spending time with your staff, you will have no idea what is really going on.


4. Lead by Example

Even when you do not realize it, your employees are watching you for examples of how to behave. If you are using a smartphone in the clinical or home setting, why should an employee be forbidden from doing so? This is similar to the issue of visibility, but it deals more with privilege versus duty. In other words, any use of smartphones should be directly related to work.

For example, automated notifications sent to personal email for required training modules infers checking work-related personal emails may be acceptable.

Try to limit all smartphone usage to appropriate settings, such as during lunch, on break or in smartphone-applicable training courses. Ultimately, you have to be willing to go against the “no-phones-whatsoever policy if you do not want your employees to look at you as a person with a sense of privilege. If you do abandon the archaic principle, your employees will see smartphone use in appropriate settings is acceptable and not a punishment act, which will boost morale and engagement simultaneously.


5. Focus on Hiring Assets, Traits and Behaviors

In clinical and nonclinical settings, hiring any applicant can be difficult. You have to verify background information, credentials and fitness for work. However, you should avoid hiring applicants based solely on these merits. Instead, consider hiring a variety of staff members who bring specific assets, traits and behaviors (ATB) to your organization. For example, this hierarchy shows an ATB-based hiring program.

  • Assets mean you need to look at an applicant’s credentials. This is the first step to determining the qualifications of an applicant. If credentials are not present, can you train the applicant to perform the necessary duties? If so, move to the next step.
  • Trait-based hiring practices revolve around hiring employees who have a positive attitude and persona, which will contribute to the sense of employee engagement and positive morale.
  • Behavior-based hiring practices are those that follow the track records of applicants. For example, does the applicant have a positive attendance record with a prior company? For behavior-based hiring, think of past work experience.


Where Do You Go From Here?

Providing a better standard of care to those you serve can mean the difference between continuing to receive funding or paying financial penalties to authoritative organizations. Improving employee engagement is not something you only need to focus on once; it is a set of practices and actions that must exist throughout your organization and act as a beckon to improving the lives of your staff and those you serve indefinitely.