Staff engagement - necessity or luxury?


11 / 11 / 2015 1.18pm

In this blog Steven Weeks, policy manager, discusses the importance of staff engagement - especially during challenging times.

In the current climate I am sometimes asked if staff engagement is still relevant. In fact staff engagement is essential to help address many of the key NHS workforce challenges.

The NHS faces an unprecedented mix of workforce policy challenges at the moment, including:

  • increasing recruitment and retention
  • maintaining motivation in a period of pay restraint
  • delivering unprecedented productivity increases and delivering transformational service change through the NHS Five Year Forward View.

On the surface, staff engagement may seem like one challenge too many or a luxury that can no longer be afforded. 
In fact I believe the reverse is true.  Improved staff engagement and in particular greater involvement of staff is a key ingredient to tackling almost all of these challenges.

For example, better staff engagement has been shown to have a clear impact on retention and therefore needs to part of your local recruitment and retention strategy.

Maintaining motivation in a period of pay restraint is a real challenge. Feelings over pay can spill over into overall motivation, although research shows it’s not the main factor shaping engagement. At a local level employers can take a range of steps to help staff feel valued even where pay is not increasing. Over 60 trusts have some form of staff recognition scheme. You can read about the benefits of staff recognition schemes and what some trusts are doing in our latest briefing, Valuing staff with recognition schemes.

The NHS needs to raise workforce productivity significantly and there is evidence from the wider economy that staff engagement can assist with productivity improvement. If staff are involved in the work of the organisation they will be encouraged to come forward with suggestions and ideas for improvement and be supported to put them into practice. 

Examples of trusts already doing this are Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust (FT), Wrightington Wigan and Leigh NHS FT, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Countess of Chester Hospitals NHS FT, Homerton University Hospital NHS FT, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS FT and those working with Listening into Action. We are keen to hear other examples of staff involvement in improvement and efficiency efforts. 

The NHS Five Year Forward view will require major transformations in job roles and staff will need to be fully engaged to make that change happen. Many of the vanguards sites are organisations that have a clear focus on staff involvement and high levels of engagement. This will need to be sustained as they move forward to implement major changes. 

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has highlighted the critical impact of good staff engagement on overall organisational performance in its recent report, State of care. The report showed it’s a key factor in overall organisational performance. It is therefore included as key factor in the assessment of whether an organisation is well led.  For example in the last two months the CQC has given a positive assessments to Mersey Care, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS FT, Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS FT and North Devon District Hospitals.

In particular the CQC found a strong correlation between the willingness of staff to recommend the service as a place to work and its overall CQC rating. CQC inspection reports provide a wealth of information on the wide range of staff engagement activity underway in the NHS and we regularly highlight positive examples on our Twitter feed.

Coming up

The NHS Staff Survey is now underway and all organisations should do everything they can to encourage participation. The survey is a key indicator of staff opinion, provides a wealth of data that trusts can use and is also used by the CQC as part of its inspection process. 

Finally, Engage for Success (the economy wide movement for staff engagement) is holding its second annual conference on 24 November. I would encourage all health employers to attend. As the largest employer in the country the NHS has a lot to share with others and we can also learn from other attendees and get updated on latest research. Visit the Engage for Success website for more information.

Latest Tweets

Why Register?

Great reasons to register with NHS Employers

  • A personalised website
    Manage your profile and select topics of interest to you
  • Access your dashboard
    Bookmark useful content to help you quickly find what you're looking for
  • Get involved
    Contribute to our Talking Points discussions, comment on and rate our webpages
  • Keep up to date
    Receive the latest newsletters and media summaries

Sounds great, what next?

Register Now

Not now, I will register later

Log In