Keeping retention and engagement simple: Valuing your team    

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”  Leonardo da Vinci

Healthcare leaders seeking to retain and engage their team members can be reassured that it doesn’t need to be difficult or complex. Against the backdrop of current and projected nurse shortages (1), addressing retention and engagement is definitely urgent – but it doesn’t have to be hard.

The simple strategy involves educating your leadership group to value your team and engender a sense of trust. The nursing workforce is a thinking, knowledgeable workforce and when they feel that their knowledge is appreciated, they will suffer less burnout and relationships and performance flourishes (2.).

It may seem like a soft approach to a hard problem, but a raft of research shows the severity of the issue and also points to this as a key solution. A 2020 meta-analysis of 10 papers exploring the retention of community nurses revealed 3 reasons for leaving: work pressure, working conditions and lack of appreciation by managers (3.). A 2014 review of 730 Dutch nurses revealed something similar in a questionnaire that explored what would stop them working until retirement. Once more, around job satisfaction, work pressure, autonomy, appreciation and support from senior management plus lack of educational opportunities were features (4).

Your nurse leaders need support and education to value your team

“How you got here won’t get you there” Marshall goldsmith.

Two U.S. hospitals have mitigated the risk of burnout by cultivating a culture of respect that includes staff development opportunities (5). In “one of the hardest years in healthcare,” they managed to maintain high levels of staff engagement.

Knowing how to value your team is one of the many leadership skills that can be taught. In my experience as a Health care leadership consultant and Psychologist, nurse leaders do want to lead well to keep their team happy, but they don’t know what to do. For example, a number of the leaders in one of my programs recently exclaimed that they couldn’t believe that they never knew how to really listen properly, and it wasn’t for lack of caring! A number of them have remarked how learning these skills has kick started some dis-engaged team members into key projects in the unit. 

15 simple ways to value your staff now

Ask  

  • Every-day, ask your staff what they think.
  • Ask for input as a leader, “How can I do better?”
  • Follow up with conversations so they know you have taken them seriously.

Say

  • Keep your team up to date with strategies, goals and updates
  • Say the persons name
  • Say yes to learning your teams learning opportunities
  • Learn the 5 languages of appreciation at work and implement them: Words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, gift giving and physical touch (high five, touch shoulder if appropriate).
  • Tell nurses how they contribute to achievement
  • Say thanks for your help today and look them in the eye when you say it.
  • Always talk respectfully about others. Even though the person may not be listening.
  • Be assertive. Value your own needs and thoughts. Assertiveness and listening go hand in hand with win/win.

Listen

  • Listen to their point of view. Nothing says ‘I care about you and value you’ than listening.
  • If you can’t listen now, say “I’m sorry I’m going to have to cut this short. Can we catch up at the end of the shift?” and look like you mean it

Look

  • Look for their strengths. And say them out loud to others. Get a culture of appreciation
  • Accept differences and embrace them and acknowledge that diversity is important and uniqueness rather than sameness is precious.

Lastly, develop a consistent practice in your leadership team of curiosity and awareness so you can notice the impact of your strategies. You can start to be a part of the nursing narrative that looks for opportunities to open rather than close situations and people.  

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