6 Ways to Create a Highly Motivated Healthcare Workforce

6 Ways to Create a Highly Motivated Healthcare Workforce
Senior Director of Marketing

Boosting motivation across an employee population can be tricky, as motivations are personal and can be as unique as people themselves. Motivating healthcare employees can be an even bigger challenge, as research shows they tend to find their motivation from intrinsic sources, which can be difficult to manage through external measures.

“Motivation is a surprisingly complex, multifaceted topic and many theoretical behavior models have been developed by psychologists to explain it,” says Nicholas Newsad, Co-Owner of Healthcare Transaction Advisors. “There is no one single factor or thing you can do to improve motivation.”

Because motivation is such a personal experience, HR leaders need to take a broad approach in healthcare employee motivation, says Natasha Alexeeva, Founder and CEO of GoGoHealth. “Some people get motivated by an opportunity to advance their career, while others seek a life-and-work balance.”

With that in mind, here are six ways to create a highly motivated healthcare workforce.

Show How Roles Fit With Goals

People are motivated when they know what they do matters, says Paul White of Appreciation at Work. That includes understanding how their work helps the organization achieve its goals, so make it clear to employees how their tasks and roles help serve patients.

“That’s important for any employee, whether they’re a member of the housekeeping staff or the director of volunteers, or the director of development, or a cafeteria worker,” White says. Front-line staff members, in particular, may not know how their work serves the greater purpose.

Hearing about the overarching effects of the organization’s work can also help, White says. For example, announcing that a hospital served 50,000 children in the past year can help all employees feel like they’re making a difference.

Recognize a Job Well Done

Employees like to be recognized, and healthcare employees are no exception. White recommends establishing a “feedback loop” that provides ongoing feedback to people to reinforce positive behaviors, such as:

  • Positive work habits: “Thanks for getting here early and making sure things are going well.”
  • A supervisor’s priorities: “Thanks for getting that report done early; now mine will be early as well.”
  • The organization’s priorities: “Thanks for getting here early so we can get a jump on that project.”
  • Patients’ needs: “Thanks for staying late and helping that family get through a hard time.”

Get Out of Employees’ Way

“If you want to motivate them, you want to get out of the way,” White says. Make it easy for employees to do their jobs by minimizing barriers and obstacles. Healthcare organizations often require piles of forms to make changes or get supplies, and White recommends looking into whether all of those are really necessary.

Physicians may be especially frustrated by requirements to use technology for record-keeping and other administrative tasks. “Doctors spend a decade in medical school and residency because they are passionate about helping and caring for people,” and HR leaders should ensure technology doesn’t stand in way of that goal, Alexeeva says.

Consider Taking a Survey—and Acting on Its Results

With the physician employment model becoming more prevalent, healthcare organizations may want to try a physician engagement survey, Newsad says. “Periodic physician engagement surveys are an effective way to assess the individual and collective perceptions, attitudes and beliefs of physician employees in a nonjudgmental way.” You can’t just do a survey, though; you must also respond to the survey’s findings.

Manage Motivation Over the Long Term

Managing motivation isn’t something you do once; it’s something you need to work on over time with the help of a strategy and measurements. Motivation can be affected by individual perceptions of barriers to success, the costs and benefits of success, the costs of failure, the severity of the problem, one’s expectations about the outcomes their actions will produce, self-confidence and peer pressure, Newsad says. “Generally speaking, if you want to change a behavior, you may have to offer up specific knowledge, personal experiences, testimonials and other evidence for or against the behavior you are trying to modify.”

Motivational interviewing can help engage healthcare employees’ intrinsic motivation. It takes several weeks of training to learn how to do it correctly, but it consists of asking open-ended, nonjudgmental questions that are designed to build discrepancy between their current situation and the situation they’d like to be in, Newsad says.

Remember You’re Dealing With People

Value your employees as people, not just workers, White says. They have lives outside of work that they value. Being interested in that outside life and finding ways to encourage work-life balance can help them feel more motivated about their work.

It will take time and effort to build employee motivation. Trying a variety of approaches can help you find what works for specific employees and your organization’s employee population as a whole.

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