The ‘Great Resignation’ has dominated headlines over the past year - and unsurprisingly the healthcare sector has been significantly impacted. In fact, the NHS is dealing with one of the largest labour shortages in some time. A 2021 survey found that half of UK doctors plan to work fewer hours, with a further 21% considering leaving the NHS completely.
A number of factors have contributed to this trend, from Brexit to budget cuts and the stress of responding to the pandemic. However, for many people the decision to quit has been exacerbated by feeling dissatisfied with how they’ve been treated by their employer.
Internal comms is key to re-engaging a healthcare workforce that experiences consistently high turnover. But with so many of these employees not working behind a desk, challenges often arise when it comes to bridging the communications gap between management and those working on the front line.
This disconnect has a damaging impact on employee experience, as well as on patient care, which is reliant on a clear and accurate exchange of information between healthcare workers.
So, how can the sector tailor their internal comms plans to create happier, more efficient working environments and ensure quality care?
A deskless healthcare workforce: the challenges
The number of non-desk workers in the global healthcare workforce is estimated to be just over 59 million workers. From nurses to janitorial staff, the majority of these employees don’t have the types of jobs that require them to sit at a desk in an office all day. The unique structures within the healthcare sector mean people often work in temporary roles, across various departments and at different times of the day and night.
More often than not, employees lack the unified information sharing and communications you would expect in other industries with a higher proportion of desk workers. Emails pile up in inboxes, outdated technology such as pagers are still in use, and key business processes such as booking holidays can be difficult. All of this leads to valuable employees feeling forgotten by management teams.
Blanket communications is simply no longer an option for reaching healthcare workers. Instead, it’s vital that organisations tailor their internal comms strategies to meet the individual needs of target audiences. By ensuring that everyone feels seen and heard, they will be better placed to build a unified culture, which is key for employee engagement and retention.
Tailored internal comms is also necessary for delivering a high standard of patient care. While communication between staff doctors and patients is vital, it’s equally important that staff clearly exchange information to ensure that critical processes run efficiently.
Reaching target audiences in healthcare with a multi-channel communications approach
Given the diversity of positions in the healthcare sector, segmenting communications by audience is crucial. The same message that might be key for administrators will be of very little relevance for clinicians doing rounds on the hospital floor. Taking a multi-channel approach is key to tailoring strategies - and equipping healthcare organisations with the right technology is essential for getting this right.
Progress is being made in updating healthcare communications technology, but the sector still has a long way to go. While pagers are still effective and necessary in some scenarios, they cost healthcare organisations a significant amount of time and money. That’s why employee communication management platforms are on the rise, helping healthcare organisations to reach employees across different channels in a more streamlined way.
Implementing an employee app, for example, can help separate target groups and ensure that the correct message is getting to the right employee in a timely way. Hospitals can also use these apps to measure engagement and receive real-time analytics. Importantly, employee apps enable healthcare workers to be kept up-to-date via push notifications on developments around Covid-19 and other new initiatives within the sector.
Prioritising the hospital workforce
The employee should be front and centre in all internal comms plans. Sometimes the focus on patient care can limit an organisation’s ability to see the correlation between happy employees and happy patients. While not every patient outcome will be positive, employees should always feel supported in their efforts to produce positive results and drive the bottom line.
An internal narrative focused on the ‘why’ will help employees see that their organisation understands the ways in which their roles contribute to the success of the workplace. Internal comms teams can encourage leaders to disseminate these messages across organisations efficiently and empathetically.
Regular staff surveys are also vital. Positive and negative feedback can be relayed back to the workforce with actionable next steps. The data drawn from such surveys can also be used in decision-making, providing healthcare organisations with the ability to quantify problems, identify the root causes and implement solutions.
Moreover, sharing team updates and creating different social channels on intranets and apps can help build a stronger sense of community within the organisation. These channels may also be used to recognise employees’ hard work, making people feel more valued and appreciated in a sector that is prone to high levels of burnout.
Healthcare organisations should not underestimate the power of internal comms. A thoughtful and tailored communication system will create a more informed, more engaged workforce, while at the same time streamlining processes to improve patient care.
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