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Improving Healthcare Worker Retention and Engagement

Engaging Healthcare Employees

Truly engaged and satisfied employees are vital to hospitals and healthcare systems. They are a powerful asset with the ability to shape not only the organization’s culture and success as a whole — but also patient outcomes. Research has shown that their impact is directly tied to:

  • Quality of patient care. Engaged employees are linked to an 87% decrease in infection rate, along with lower patient mortality and complication incidences.
  • Retention rates. There is a direct link between high healthcare employee engagement and low turnover rates.
  • Financial performance. With the costs associated with high employee turnover, malpractice suits, and hiring fees, engagement levels have undeniable financial implications.

How can hospital administrators identify engaged healthcare workers? In general, these individuals are happy, motivated, and enthusiastic about the work they do each day. They exert a heightened level of effort, are willing to learn and accept constructive criticism, and are committed to the organization’s goals and successes. They lead by example and have a tremendous impact on fostering a positive culture and work experience.

Unfortunately, despite the advantages of high healthcare employee engagement, disengagement is rampant in the industry. A recent global workforce study found that less than half (44%) of the U.S. hospital workforce overall is engaged; the rest are disconnected from their organization and its goals. For an industry that’s highly dependent on the commitment and dedication of its employees to ensure a positive, quality patient experience, this is a critical problem that requires an urgent solution.

Diagnosing the Problems

Increasing healthcare employee engagement levels and fostering a vibrant, performance-oriented culture begins with an accurate diagnosis of the issues contributing to disengagement. To obtain this diagnosis, healthcare administrators need a consistent and effective way to communicate with and elicit feedback from their employees. This dialogue creates an opportunity to measure current staff engagement levels and identify the precise drivers that affect those levels for various groups within the organization.

Although the specifics will vary depending on the hospital, we have found that the following factors tend to emerge as strong drivers of optimal healthcare employee engagement:

  • Leaders that are concerned with employee wellbeing and open to new ideas
  • Tools, resources, and opportunities for personal and career development
  • A healthy work-life balance and manageable levels of stress
  • Employees who feel invested in their organization’s goals
  • Employees who have access the support they need to thrive

The above drivers offer a terrific starting point for determining which changes will increase your employees’ happiness levels. However, it’s important to keep an open mind regarding alternatives and look to the data for guidance. Depending on your hospital’s staff, other factors that aren’t included on this list may heavily influence their engagement and satisfaction.tow

Once you’re aware of the factors that are tied to engagement in your hospital, you also want to identify what’s driving your staff’s disengagement. Again, the specifics will vary and data is key to a definitive diagnosis, but research has shown that industry changes and high rates of employee turnover are significant causes of low engagement levels in many healthcare organizations.

To obtain the measurable engagement data you need to understand the core issues facing your hospital and transform its culture, you will need to adopt a deliberate, data-driven approach. We recommend starting with CultureIQ’s targeted surveys, which are designed to uncover:

  • What optimal engagement looks like for your organization
  • Current levels of employee engagement, satisfaction, happiness, and motivation
  • Insight into the employee experience, from motivation to career development
  • Why certain groups of employees are unhappy and disengaged
  • How disengaged employees in your organization think and behave
  • The outcomes of disengaged employees (e.g., high turnover, low productivity, increased absenteeism, etc.)
  • The specific changes that will help doctors, nurses, administrators, and other staff members improve their performance

The information generated by your surveys will foster a deeper understanding of the pulse of your organization, as well as the engaged and disengaged employees that comprise your workforce. And once you understand your hospital’s work experience and the different types of individuals on your staff, you can address the core issues that are driving disengagement and begin effecting tangible change.

Addressing the Issues


Once you’ve identified the underlying problems contributing to disengagement and dissatisfaction among your staff, you can begin implementing targeted solutions. After collecting the actual data, this is the most important part of reshaping your hospital or healthcare organization’s culture. By taking action after measuring engagement, you demonstrate to your healthcare workers at every level that you are actively listening to their concerns and taking impactful, sustainable, and strategic steps to meet their needs.

This is where CultureIQ’s strategy team becomes one of your most valuable assets. Based on the feedback generated by your surveys, your personalized strategy team will analyze the data to identify insights and action steps that can be taken to improve engagement and employee happiness in a way that directly correlates to the outcomes that matter most to your hospital, such as retention, quality patient care and other benefits. You’ll also receive access to healthcare culture best-practices, our unparalleled expertise in hospital culture initiatives and program execution, and a team of healthcare culture experts dedicated to addressing the challenges within your organization and shaping a more engaging and effective workplace environment.

Measuring Progress

As in medicine, treatment of culture and engagement challenges is not a one-time project. For long-term, sustainable success, an engaging work experience needs to be woven into the very fabric of your organization. Every employee, at both the hospital and department level, needs to be looking in the same direction and working toward the same, shared goal.

As such, you’ll need to continue measuring your progress on an ongoing basis to ensure that engagement levels remain high and any downturns are identified and remedied right away. At CultureIQ, we routinely monitor progress and analyze engagement levels for the hospitals and healthcare organizations we collaborate with, reviewing key metrics and identifying areas for improvement before they have an opportunity to lead to negative outcomes. In addition, we continually collect data about culture initiatives and programs in an effort to keep tabs on their effectiveness and ensure that the right changes are prioritized to keep your staff engaged, satisfied, and delivering quality patient care.

Healthcare Employee Retention Strategies

It’s undeniable that turnover is extraordinarily expensive in the healthcare industry. For example, when a nurse leaves her position, her shift is often filled with expensive overtime hours put in by colleagues that are already overworked. When a permanent replacement is finally found, the new hire has to be trained and brought up to speed with a costly onboarding process. With all of the expenses associated with employee turnover in this industry, it’s no wonder employee retention in healthcare was rated as the top staffing concern among U.S. healthcare recruiters in 2015.

Adding to the dismal picture of employee retention in healthcare is the fact that salaries don’t seem to have much of an effect on employee churn. Despite an 8.2 percent increase in executive compensation in 2015, the turnover rate was 19.2 percent across the healthcare industry that same year.

Fortunately, one of the biggest benefits of strengthening healthcare employee engagement levels is the profound effect this improvement has on retention. A recent survey found a strong relationship between an employee’s engagement level and the likelihood that the employee would remain with their current employer. The survey revealed that just 17 percent of highly engaged hospital workers were interested in other employment options, compared to 43 percent of the disengaged group. To that end, by investing in employee engagement programs and initiatives, hospital administrators can essentially solve one of the biggest problems facing today’s healthcare market: retention.

How Culture IQ Can Help


At CultureIQ, we help hospitals and other healthcare systems understand their staff better, so that they can increase workforce happiness and engagement levels. This invariably leads to higher retention rates, improved financial performance, and optimal patient care.

When you partner with CultureIQ, we make sure you have everything you need to successfully reshape your hospital’s culture and foster a more engaging work experience. Our benchmarked surveys, intuitive software, and seasoned strategy team will provide you with unparalleled insight into what’s happening in your organization, plus industry-leading guidance on exactly where to focus next to drive engagement and create a more effective culture.

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