Even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the workplace was changing, and with it so were employee expectations. Fast-forward nearly two years and the pandemic has only further exacerbated previous concerns about healthcare professionals’ working arrangements.
Whilst the majority of industries have adapted to a “remote working” environment, this obviously isn’t the case for frontline healthcare professionals. Despite this, they will likely have experienced a series of “temporary” changes to the way their organisation operates, causing additional working upheaval and potentially further impacting their employee experience.
Many non-healthcare professionals have experienced greater flexibility, work-life balance, and autonomy throughout the pandemic. These are all things that employees have demanded for decades but have not been able to achieve until recently. The events of the past two years have only accelerated the inevitable.
This has further opened the door to individuals leaving healthcare, with a recent parliamentary committee’s report quoting a survey from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) suggesting that 36% of respondents were considering leaving in the next year.
Now that the door is open, healthcare employee expectations have shifted drastically – and it’s unlikely that they will ever go back. If the healthcare environment experience you offer cannot meet these expectations, employees will eventually look for work elsewhere, potentially leaving the industry altogether.
However, remaining conscious of these developing employee expectations will enable you to both engage and retain top talent:
Provide professional development opportunities
Today’s healthcare employees are focused on building their own career resiliency. If they feel their skillset has become stagnant or their public / private healthcare employer isn’t providing them with new opportunities for career development, they will move on. These employee expectations have been amplified by the pandemic. In the face of uncertainty, they are doing all they can to ensure their professional marketability. As a result, offering professional and skills development should always remain a priority – this is especially true when you do not have the budget for salary increases or promotions.
Ensure support from leadership
Hand-in-hand with the previous professional development point, Richard Branson famously said:
“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough, so they don’t want to.”
A crisis can trigger a range of emotions from your staff, especially if they feel a lost sense of security and normalcy. During these times, employees may be feeling heightened anxiety around the state of their jobs and the health of their families. This is where compassionate, approachable, and transparent leadership can make all the difference.
By tuning in to your own feelings, you can help staff manage their own and set the right tone for a successful recovery. Remember, whilst specific situations may be momentary – your response is likely to be long remembered.
Seriously consider employee wellbeing
Promoting and supporting employee wellbeing should be at the heart of your aim to champion better work and working lives because an effective workplace wellbeing programme can deliver mutual benefit to people and organisations. After all, healthy workplaces help people to flourish and reach their potential. This means creating an environment that actively promotes a state of contentment.
There’s now a much broader understanding and application of holistic health and wellbeing approaches in many workplaces. However, it’s also clear that there’s an implementation gap, with many organisations not yet embracing the health and wellbeing agenda to full effect.
Investing in employee wellbeing can lead to increased resilience, better employee engagement, reduced sickness absence and higher performance and productivity. However, wellbeing initiatives often fall short of their potential because they stand alone, isolated from the everyday business. To gain real benefit, employee wellbeing priorities must be integrated throughout an organisation, embedded in its culture, leadership and people management.
Create an environment of trust and recognition
If asked how they would describe their organisations culture, the first response many healthcare professionals might not give is ‘trusting’ or ‘trusted’. Whilst we might work in nice environments and enjoy working with our colleagues, the organisational culture created by leaders can often be described in a very different way.
The Edelman Trust Barometer 2019 shows trust in organisations has improved, currently at 58% (trust in my employer for information). Whilst this improvement is good news, there is still some way to go to unlock the productivity tied up across organisations, and leaders play a pivotal role.
One effective way to build trust is to implement an employee recognition system. This key staff incentive can be an integral part of your culture. It’s a way of demonstrating appreciation to employees for their hard work, which in turn promotes goodwill and leads to high levels of staff satisfaction and loyalty. Once established as an important value to your business, employee recognition should grow organically and become reciprocal, encouraging staff to recognise, respect and support each other’s efforts.
Offer an improved work / life balance
Reducing stress to increase performance in all aspects of life, including one’s job, is the ultimate goal of work-life balance. Adapt your employee benefits to address the needs of your workforce, and watch as stress is reduced, work-life balance is enhanced, and satisfied, happier employees are driven to succeed in their roles.
However, be sure to cater for the full spectrum of employees when considering said benefits. For example, happy hours and supportive childcare do not cater to the needs of older employees, who are often accustomed to the earlier, more traditional workplace culture that was less oriented towards serving its employees. If the benefits are unbalanced in favour of a particular subset of your workforce, this will create a disconnect that can exacerbate any generational gaps.
Why does this matter? Because the UK workforce is ageing. Therefore, the best way to retain an engaged workforce is to serve the needs of your employees so that they can best serve your organisation. With simple, individual-specific rewards, the ideal work-life balance can be achieved for all.