Leaders in hospitals and health systems have consistently been challenged by the pursuits of both clinical and operational success in a very competitive industry. Healthcare reform has added to this challenge by focusing on provider preventable conditions, readmission rates, and overall patient satisfaction. Despite the advances in medical technology, healthcare remains a people-intensive business, and success requires leaders to focus on human capital—specifically, on employee engagement.

Does employee engagement have value in healthcare? It’s not uncommon to confuse employee engagement with employee satisfaction or happiness. This isn’t the case and isn’t where the real value lies. Someone can be happy at work, but that doesn’t mean they are working productively on behalf of the organization. When your employees are engaged in what they do, they give discretionary effort—the more engaged you are, the more effort you’ll put forth in your job. This applies even more so in the healthcare industry, where the effort of the employees directly affects the quality of the patient experience.

A Gallup study of 200 hospitals found that the level of engagement of a facility’s nursing staff should be the first priority for quality control ahead of increasing staffing levels. This study showed that for mortality and complication rates across hospitals, nursing engagement emerges as the number one quality priority. Another study, at the NHS in England, also showed a link between clinical outcomes and engagement of employees and a strong correlation to reducing staff turnover and absenteeism.

Daily staff engagement is also linked to patient satisfaction, advocacy, and loyalty—which all have a direct impact on hospital financials. Revenue inevitably climbs when you combine increased staff retention and a decrease in absenteeism with a high-level of patient quality of care.

With such strong links to financial success and patient satisfaction, how can you improve staff engagement? Gallup reported that more than 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement is tied to the manager—meaning it has little to do with company-wide appreciation parties, gifts, and even compensation. To successfully nurture engagement of employees, managers must be trained to foster growth, recognition, and trust with their teams. Human capital is an important investment that can’t be ignored in the healthcare industry and is vital to patient satisfaction, quality of care, and overall success of the health system.

Read our article about ways to foster employee engagement to start building the foundation of long-lasting staff engagement.