High-Reliability Level: Low!

Employee engagement is a much-celebrated word in HR today. Many studies attest to its power to transform an organization and achieve goals. At the other end of the workforce pole, is disengagement. What are the causes and effects of disengagement? Are healthcare organizations prepared to pay the hefty price of failing to engage employees?

In healthcare, nearly half of employees are not fully engaged. Most likely, poorly motivated staff would not put in a discretionary effort that would contribute to quality patient care.

What are some interesting facts about disengagement? Help yourself with the information below.

  • In general, 50.8% of employees do not consider themselves engaged (source)
  • About 17% are actively disengaged
  • Seventy-five percent of leaders do not have any engagement plan or strategy, meaning no steps have been taken to address the problem of low employee engagement. (Source)
  • In healthcare, there’s a significant disparity between employees’ view of their organization’s engagement strategies and the actual rating
Causes of disengagement:
  • Change is the leading cause of disengagement (source). In healthcare, these changes are:
    • New mandates
    • Patient transitioning
    • EMR
    • Transition to ICD-10, and from paper to electronic records
    • Managing Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS)
  • Communication issues
  • Pressures due to cost containment or reduction
  • Ongoing uncertainty
  • Burnout (source)
  • Thirteen percent of respondents of a study stated that their employer’s narrow focus on patients and their view of staff as only a means to an end make them feel disengaged
  • About a fifth of the respondents said there isn’t enough time in a day to feel engaged.
  • Sixteen percent viewed their organizational culture is not welcoming to engagement initiatives 
  • Deficient or limited employee support system
    • Lack of learning and development opportunities
    • No regular and meaningful feedback
    • Lack of succession planning resulting to feelings of uncertainty of career growth
    • Misaligned of employee and organizational goals 
Effects of employee disengagement:
  • The cost of disengagement is a staggering $450 billion to $550 billion annually because of lost productivity (Gallup)
  • Patient harm; disengaged healthcare employees are more likely than engaged employees to experience accidents on the job.
  • Increased turnover; the total cost to turnover and replace an employee is 1.5-3 times the cost of the employee’s annual salary
  • Higher malpractice fees; according to Gallup, “hospitals with the least engaged nurses pay more than $1.1 million annually in malpractice claims than those with the most engaged nurses.
  • Poorer healthcare access; low physician morale contributes to limited patient healthcare access (source)

Disengaged healthcare employees give an apocalyptic atmosphere or a robotic feel to a hospital. The staff, although may not be hostile or disruptive, go about their daily routine like robots working to get things done rather than compassionately caring for patients. For some, they become zombie-like, showing up at work, killing time and or taking their time doing just what is needed or even less than expected. They look at the clock eagerly anticipating lunch breaks and going home. They are absent-minded, less vigilant and concerned, more likely to miss work or to quit their jobs. In hospitals, they tend to cause patient harm. Patients they cater to feel like guinea pigs on laboratory table rather than individuals needing care.

The hefty price tag of disengagement is $450-$550 billion per year. What could have been accomplished primarily in the area of healthcare if only disengagement were addressed would have put care delivery to the pedestal. More importantly, to that which we could not put a price tag on, patient safety, a step towards engagement means saving valuable lives. It is therefore a must to put employee engagement initiatives on top of your to-do list this year. 




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