Tips for a More Engaged Home Health Workforce

Recruitment and retention are top of mind for the home health industry, with staffing needs emerging as an increasingly dire concern.

Given the constant stream of studies and statistics released about today’s labor market, it’s no wonder why. Disengagement among employees is a pressing issue across all industries, and a majority-millennial workforce is changing the way organizations structure their work environments. Home health is far from immune to these realities, meaning providers must shift their approaches if they want to attract top talent and combat caregiver turnover.

Home health providers looking to reduce turnover may find it beneficial to focus son better engagement, which is one of the top focus areas as identified by Sodexo in its 2016 Workplace Trends report. One of those trends relates strongly to the home health sector: employee engagement through recognition and gender-balanced teams to boost business performance. Sodexo is a dining, facilities management and quality of life services company working with clients in several industries, including education, energy and resources, health care, senior living and more.

The company’s annual report provides details on trends, including everything from health lifestyle initiatives in the workplace to office layout designs for facilitating teamwork and communication. While not every trend is equally applicable to the home health industry, its ideas regarding employee engagement are likely to resonate.

Rules of Engagement

Only 29% of millennials are engaged in the workplace, meaning less than one-third are emotionally and behaviorally connected to their job and company, according to a recent Gallup report consisting of information from various of the consulting firm’s databases. That means most millennials aren’t engaged, so they lead the pack as the least engaged generation.

Since millennials represent the largest segment of the overall workforce, this proves especially troubling. Staving off disengagement requires all hands on deck, regardless of how things have run in the past, according to Sodexo.

“Perhaps the persistently low employee engagement scores of the past decade or so can be attributed to the fact that employee engagement has traditionally been the responsibility of human resources, even though engagement can be impacted by every department in an organization,” the Sodexo report states. “Seen from this broad vantage point, employee engagement becomes a core business strategy, as opposed to an HR function.”

There are two key areas organizations should focus on to improve employee engagement and business performance, according to Sodexo. These are improving quality of life for workers and reaching every employee in an organization.

  • Quality of Life: Enhancing employees’ quality of life goes beyond pay raises, as work-life balance also matters. This might involve health and well-being programs geared toward employees at work, at home or in the community, as well as employee programs based on management, peer and social recognition across all departments. Recognition programs can increase engagement by 20%, according to Sodexo, but recognition should be coupled with other programs for the best results.
  • Reaching Every Employee: While it can be a challenge to effectively recognize and communicate with front-line workers like caregivers, these employees play a critical role in a company’s success, and they note communication with top management is highly important to them. As such, organizations must prioritize reaching every employee. Technology is one solution for this, but active and formal outreach through meetings and training and leadership development is another avenue.

In home health, the importance of engaging employees supersedes simply paying them more. Caregivers prize good working environments, work schedules that match their lifestyles and a company’s reputation when selecting a place to work.

Still, competitive pay remains vital for staff retention, especially as wage pressures rise.

Other recommendations in the report include:

  • Establishing gender-balanced teams: Gender imbalance continues to exist in today’s labor force, but research suggests gender-balanced leadership positively impacts the bottom line. Sodexo conducted an internal study to explore and understand the correlation between gender-balanced teams and overall performance.
  • Humanizing the workplace: Seven design principles can help guide managers and leaders charged with humanizing the workplace for today’s employees.
  • Supporting facilities and employees through data: The home health sector is no stranger to data collection. Sodexo explores how to leverage data already captured about workplaces and the workforce to enhance engagement, quality of life and productivity, and what additional data can boost organizations even further.

Written by Kourtney Liepelt