employee engagement in healthcareAs the nursing shortage continues to grow, healthcare talent managers need to focus on employee engagement and employee satisfaction if they wish to both recruit and retain nurse leaders today, as well as inspire the next generation for tomorrow.

The starkest reminder of this comes from a December 2017 Advisory Board study that surveyed more than 10,500 nurses — including nursing leadership and management — to determine if they were happy at work. According to the research, while up to 98 percent of respondents say they’re happy they became nurses, only about 20 percent said they’d do it again if they had the chance.

That number doesn’t just paint a bleak picture of the present, underscoring the lack of engagement among healthcare workers today, but it also shows that the next generation of nurse leaders might not have their predecessors for inspiration when considering the profession.

This latter point threatens to make the future for healthcare talent managers even more difficult than it is today.

Is Healthcare Still a Family Affair?

Healthcare, like practicing law and teaching, is rarely a career path people pursue on their own. In fact, it seems cliché when we hear medical professionals talking about the “long lines” of doctors or nurses from which they came.

Consider “For These 3 Women, Medical Careers Are a Family Affair” by Story Corps, a national nonprofit whose interviews and conversations with everyday Americans are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. The piece takes a look at how Ruby Bragman’s perseverance in becoming one of the first black nurse practitioners in New York state inspired her daughter, Sharon, to pursue medicine and become a physician. Sharon’s career then helped inspire her daughter Jenna, Ruby’s granddaughter, to pursue a career in healthcare as well. Jenna is now finishing a dermatology residency.

Similar stories of doctors and nurses inspiring their children with their pursuits of medical careers are found everywhere throughout medicine. They create a sense of duty and inspire a pursuit of a life that serves others.

But as 28 percent of nurses consider early retirement due to a lack of employee satisfaction, according to that Advisory Board study, and with many new graduates finding front-line nursing roles devalued, it’s hard to see where the next generation of nurse leaders will come from.

Recruiting and Retaining Nurse Leaders Through Employee Engagement and Employee Satisfaction

Talent managers are having difficulty recruiting and retaining nurse leaders for two main reasons. First and foremost, a talent gap that is expected to hit 1.2 million by 2022 means fewer nurses are looking for work today, creating a tighter talent market. Secondly, as talent markets get tighter, job seekers can become pickier about where they work — meaning healthcare organizations that excel with employee engagement, and therefore employee satisfaction, are more likely to attract, hire, and keep the best available talent.

If you’re a healthcare organization that ignores employee engagement and employee satisfaction, then you’re not only losing top talent to your competitors, but you’re probably not generating quality hiring referrals, as your nurses are more likely focused on early retirement than helping you fill the empty roles.

Further, with a disengaged workforce, you’re more likely to offer a poorer quality-of-care for patients, increasing the chances of negative patient outcomes and therefore lowering the organization’s reputation and its ability to attract quality talent.

To avoid these pitfalls, consider focusing your attention on employee engagement and employee satisfaction tactics like these:

    • One-on-One Meetings: The importance of coaching and mentoring can’t be understated. Research from the Wharton School shows that team members are more engaged when they feel a strong connection with their leader and the organization. Research also shows that leaders think they connect and communicate far more than their employees perceive they do. One-on-one meetings between nurse managers and employees, therefore, present an opportunity for you to bridge that communication gap and increase employee engagement.


    • Employee Satisfaction Surveys: When talent markets are tight and job seekers have their pick of employment opportunities, healthcare organizations must pay attention to the details if they’re going to attract top talent. When employee satisfaction is high, nurses are more likely to talk positively about the organization and suggest quality referrals, making your organization a more attractive option. The easiest and most effective way to improve employee satisfaction is through employee satisfaction surveys which help you see where you succeed and where you can do better. Management teams can use these results to meet with each department and develop action plans to improve upon any areas negatively affecting employee well-being.


  • Career Development: As HealthcareSource Chief Marketing Officer David Wilkins writes in the eBook, “10 Steps to Growing Your Own Healthcare Leaders, Or How to Fill Your Critical Roles,” recruitment and retention are intimately intertwined. Nurse leaders are difficult and expensive to replace, and therefore they are best grown from within. To do that, you need to be able to identify lower-level employees with leadership potential and then provide them with the career development needed to make the jump from their current position into nurse leadership and management. Facilitating this type of growth, especially as it relates to leadership development, inherently helps increase retention rates.

Attracting, Engaging, and Hiring the Next Generation of Nurse Leaders

Healthcare talent managers are in a difficult position. The industry is growing at an unprecedented rate, and so is the demand and need for quality nurses. Without current nurses encouraging more people to join the profession, talent managers will only continue to face fierce competition in trying to staff their healthcare organizations to meet patients’ and clients’ needs. The best way to reverse this trend is to focus within, improving employee engagement and employee satisfaction, raising the profile of your organization, increasing retention rates, and making it a more desirable destination for the next generation of nurse leaders.

Learn more about how HealthcareSource can help you Hire, Keep, and Grow quality talent today!

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About Salvatore Trifilio

Salvatore Trifilio is a content marketer and former journalist who has written extensively on talent management and technology. Recently, Sal has focused almost exclusively on topics around recruitment marketing, talent acquisition, and employer branding for a wide range of industries and verticals. When he isn’t hammering away at his keyboard, Sal enjoys brewing beer and watching baseball.