Healthcare workers still think about quitting often, even on well-staffed teams

Some telling new statistics from the Qualtrics XM Institute’s latest research on customer-facing employees show healthcare workers are less likely than the global average to say their teams are understaffed (7% versus 11%).

But these workers are also far more likely to report they think of leaving their jobs multiple times per month, even with adequate staffing levels (32% versus 21%).

Qualtrics surveyed full-time or part-time employees who interface in their roles, as well as managers of customer-facing teams, in Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, the UK and the US with 200 or more responses from each country.

The researchers compared results reported by frontline healthcare workers across all regions with the global averages.

Beyond staffing levels, the report found some other factors contributing to workplace dissatisfaction:

  • Not being asked to provide feedback and thinking of quitting multiple times per month – 43% of healthcare employees versus 37% of customer-facing employees across sectors.

  • Indicating that they have not received a raise and find it hard to keep up with living expenses – 74% working in healthcare versus 67% across all industries.

  • Reporting workloads have increased – 53% of healthcare workers surveyed versus 44% of all workers surveyed.

Qualtrics researchers said it’s essential to demonstrate that leadership is investing in customer-facing teams.

“When workers don’t believe their company leaders invest in their team, they are more likely to seriously consider quitting,” they said. “In fact, more than half of workers who do not feel supported by leadership are likely to think about leaving.”

We asked Dr. Adrienne Boissy, chief medical officer at Qualtrics (and former chief experience officer at the Cleveland Clinic), for her thoughts on the healthcare-specific statistics in this new study. She also spoke about employee satisfaction trends beyond those highlighted in Qualtrics’ 2023 Healthcare Experience Trends report, released in January.

Q. What does this new data suggest about what employees need?

A. A staggering 52% of frontline employees in healthcare do not believe leaders are investing in their team.

The industry asks caregivers to show up as their authentic selves each day and provide “patient-centered,” or what I prefer, “person-centered” care, that is high quality and safe, and organizations are working hard to invest and connect with the team doing the work.

A thriving and healthy workforce must also be one rooted in an environment wherein employees feel safe – physically and emotionally – and engaged in their own solutions. Healthcare entities that listen with intent, deeply understand emotions and effort, and then act on what they hear at scale are bringing this to life. I often refer to this as empathy operationalized; caring must be ingrained in processes, systems and moments.

Employees want to be heard – and want to know what organizations have done since the last survey they filled out – whether it’s implementing meaningful solutions to staffing shortages like AI-powered technology for optimized staffing and patient flows (46% of respondents said their team is understaffed and they think of quitting multiple times a month); identifying opportunities to spark joy and instill a culture of gratitude (47% feel emotionally drained from work); or co-creating solutions with employees that are targeted to their needs (57% received a raise and said it’s harder to keep up with living expenses).

Healthcare must communicate through multiple channels about what is being done, move faster and get more creative to keep the amazing people we have.

Q. Last month’s report offered three ways forward to address healthcare employee satisfaction – create value for employees in order to retain top talent, ease the burden on employees by eliminating process inefficiencies, and design inclusive environments with holistic listening strategies.

Going beyond that, what are some best team-building practices that can improve employee satisfaction among nursing staff? Clinicians?

A. In some of my own work, I’ve found teamwork is strongly associated with the likelihood to recommend. I remember rounding on nursing units during the pandemic and asking how employees were able to show up every day, and invariably they told stories of how they didn’t want to let their team down, and they knew their leader and colleagues had their back. It was beautiful.

Research tells us the most effective teams share behavioral norms, have psychological safety, optimize the unique talents on the team and, in my experience, they care for each other.

Effective leaders articulate values and team rules – then model them. This might look like asking teams to come up with rules of engagement that everyone agrees to. This is simple and yet an often skipped step in forming teams.

Very tactical gestures like starting meetings with a mission moment that connects to the team’s purpose and values, or doing a quick head check before diving into agendas make people feel … well, a bit more human. Remembering birthdays or drafting a personal note to acknowledge work anniversaries have a similar impact. Finding quick ways to talk about the emotions people have, so everyone knows it is okay to have them, sounds simple, yet can have a profound impact.

Everyone in healthcare is working so hard right now that sometimes they just need some support in making it all a bit easier. Programs can work to support the lives of these individuals and meet them where they are, whether it’s childcare support, free mental health services or cost-effective benefits for employees and their families.

Be humble enough to know that some of the best ideas come from patients and employees. Team-building can also look like crowdsourcing ideas – no one knows what employees and patients need more than they do!

Q. What can leadership do to change the numbers you mentioned – specifically, the 48% that think about quitting multiple times a month and also report not feeling supported by leadership?

A. There’s no question that hospitals and health systems are in a tough spot financially. And yet I still see organizations with disconnected listening programs, legacy technology that isn’t optimized or doing what it promised, and buckets of unstructured data that is untapped.

None of that equals an effective people-centered strategy, much less a financially viable one. It is imperative that healthcare leaders implement singular listening platforms that connect patient and employee experience, and that drive action and value, not dashboards. We honestly cannot afford to wait any longer.

I am constantly surprised about what “being supported or valued” means to different people. At times the way we think people feel supported is not what they would say if asked. At some point, I started to write down different ways people wanted to receive gratitude to try to get more personal about how I recognized my team. Regardless, the truth is we don’t capture this type of information effectively to be able to act on it. And we can and should.

Traditionally, healthcare has an annual survey, which takes months to distribute, collect data and analyze, much less act on. Advanced experience management technology provides the capabilities to listen with intent across channels, uncover actionable insights from massive amounts of data and automate workflows that teach us about how people feel, what support looks like to them, and then get much more consistent about delivering it.

Andrea Fox is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Email: [email protected]

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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