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A People Leader's Recap of the Biggest Healthcare EX Trends of 2023

A People Leader's Recap of the Biggest Healthcare EX Trends of 2023

The healthcare industry in 2024 stands at a crossroads, marked by post-pandemic changes in which long-standing frustrations (staffing and resources shortages) were highlighted, and new, innovative approaches to make healthcare easier for employees and consumers, such as telehealth, have become the new standard.

Back in September, Perceptyx shared its State of the Healthcare Employee Experience 2023 report. That report studied perceptions from a national database of 3.65 million healthcare workers from more than 500 healthcare systems and provided data-based insights into how healthcare employee experiences are changing.

 

One metric Perceptyx monitors is employee engagement since engagement has a critical impact on healthcare business outcomes, including safety metrics, and patient experience. Specifically, we measure employee engagement through its four components — pride, motivation, intent to stay, and advocacy. Our research provides evidence-based context to help healthcare leaders understand their employee experience at a scale unavailable when looking exclusively within their own organization.

Drawing on Perceptyx research, as well as insights from my fellow healthcare industry experts, let’s recap the current state of healthcare EX and share our outlook and predictions for 2024.

Positive Trends and Signs of Strength

  • Improved Employee Engagement: The subtle yet significant uptick in employee engagement is a beacon of positive change in the healthcare sector. This increase, quantified as a 2-point rise for the median and 2.5 for top decile healthcare organizations, signals a recovering morale among healthcare workers. This rebound is especially noteworthy considering the tumultuous past years marked by the pandemic. The improvement in engagement is not just a metric; it reflects a renewed sense of commitment and motivation among healthcare professionals. This change is pivotal for enhancing the overall employee experience and, by extension, the quality of patient care. The importance of this trend cannot be overstated, as employee engagement is directly linked to outcomes such as reduced turnover, improved patient satisfaction, and higher productivity.
  • Prioritization of Well-being and Safety: The healthcare industry's progress in prioritizing employee well-being and patient safety marks a significant shift in organizational culture. This change, catalyzed by the pandemic's challenges, has led to a more empathetic and safety-conscious work environment. The notable improvement in employees feeling safe to speak up and report safety issues is a testament to this cultural shift. This environment is essential not only for the well-being of healthcare workers but also for maintaining high standards of patient care. A culture that prioritizes safety and encourages open communication is key to identifying and addressing potential issues before they escalate, thereby enhancing the overall safety and effectiveness of healthcare services.
  • Stronger Manager-Employee Relationships: The improvement in manager-employee relationships, especially under the increased pressures faced in the healthcare sector, is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of healthcare professionals. The enhanced communication and support between managers and their teams have been crucial in navigating the challenges posed by the pandemic. This positive change in managerial dynamics has profound implications for employee experience and satisfaction. Strong managerial support is known to boost morale, foster a sense of belonging, and enhance team cohesion, all of which are essential for effective healthcare delivery.
  • Focus on DEIB and Health Equity: The sustained focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) in the healthcare industry following the social justice-related events of 2020 represents a crucial step towards addressing systemic inequities in healthcare delivery. The expanded attention to health equity and social determinants of health indicates a broader and more holistic understanding of healthcare. This shift is not just about workplace diversity; it's about ensuring equitable access to healthcare services for all segments of the population. By acknowledging and addressing the diverse needs of patients and communities, healthcare organizations can deliver more personalized and effective care, thereby improving patient outcomes and satisfaction.

Negative Trends and Challenges

  • Staffing Issues: The persistent staffing challenges in the healthcare industry are a significant concern, impacting both employee morale and the quality of patient care. The Perceptyx Database, showing a 42-point negative favorability score regarding sufficient staffing, highlights the severity of this issue. The staffing crisis is multifaceted, encompassing not only the number of available staff but also their skills and the workload they must manage. These challenges are exacerbated by an aging population and increasing healthcare demands, making it more difficult for healthcare organizations to maintain optimal staffing levels. Addressing this issue is critical, as insufficient staffing can lead to burnout, decreased patient care quality, and higher turnover rates. This is further complicated by recent reports showing that many healthcare organizations are contemplating structured layoffs; however, labor shortages are likely to remain in many mission-critical roles, like registered nurses and physicians.

  • Frustration with Pay: Compensation dissatisfaction, intensified by high inflation rates, represents a significant hurdle in maintaining a motivated and stable healthcare workforce. The end of pandemic-era hazard pay has added to this dissatisfaction, creating a sense of disparity between the risks healthcare workers face and the compensation they receive. This issue is not just about fair wages; it's about recognizing and valuing the critical role healthcare workers play in society. Addressing pay concerns is essential for attracting and retaining talented professionals in the healthcare sector.
  • Decline in Feeling Valued: The noticeable decline in employees feeling valued and recognized is a concerning trend, directly impacting job satisfaction and engagement. This decrease in favorability — with double-digit decreases in regard to five separate survey items such as “my opinion matters” and “my manager recognizes my accomplishments” —  points to a broader issue of how healthcare organizations acknowledge and reward their employees' contributions. In an industry as demanding as healthcare, feeling valued is not just a matter of morale; it's about ensuring that employees feel their work is meaningful and appreciated. This trend, if not addressed, could lead to increased turnover and a decline in the quality of patient care.
  • Increases in 'Us vs. Them' Mentality: The growing divide between in-group favorability and out-group dynamics is a troubling trend in the healthcare industry. This dichotomy, where team and manager relationships are favored over cooperation with other teams and senior leadership, can lead to siloed thinking and reduced organizational cohesion. This split can hinder effective communication and collaboration, which are essential for providing comprehensive and coordinated patient care. Addressing this divide is crucial for fostering a united and effective healthcare workforce.

2024 Healthcare Predictions Based on Current Trends

Based on the trends observed, several predictions can be made for the healthcare industry in 2024:

  • Continued Emphasis on Employee Engagement: Given the strong correlation between employee engagement and organizational success, healthcare organizations are likely to continue focusing on enhancing engagement. This focus will be particularly critical for high-performing organizations, which may see further improvement in engagement levels. However, maintaining this momentum may be challenging for median-level organizations, necessitating innovative approaches to employee engagement.
  • Rising Importance of Managerial Roles: The role of managers in the healthcare industry is set to become even more important. As the bridge between frontline staff and senior leadership, managers play a key role in navigating the complex healthcare environment. Effective managerial support can significantly impact employee satisfaction, performance, and retention. Healthcare organizations will need to invest in training and supporting managers to ensure they are equipped to meet these challenges.
  • Continued Focus on DEIB Initiatives: As the importance of a diverse and inclusive workforce becomes a staple of workplace priorities and a means for addressing health equity, DEIB initiatives are expected to gain further traction in the healthcare industry. These initiatives will not only improve workforce dynamics but also enhance patient care by addressing health equity issues. This focus on DEIB is essential for creating an environment where all employees feel valued and empowered to provide the best possible care.
  • A Shift in Leadership Priorities: Leadership within healthcare organizations may undergo a significant transformation, with a shift towards a more employee-centric approach. Leaders will need to focus on building trust, providing clear communication, and aligning with the evolving needs of their workforce. This shift in leadership priorities is essential for fostering a positive and supportive work environment, which in turn can lead to improved employee and patient experiences.
  • Greater Emphasis on Burnout and Mental Health: Given the high levels of burnout and stress among healthcare workers, prioritizing mental health support and work-life balance will be crucial. Healthcare organizations will continue to implement —  and invest more in — stress management programs, mental health resources, and organizational changes to reduce workload and improve work environments. These initiatives are essential for maintaining a healthy and resilient healthcare workforce.
  • Advancements in AI Integration: Rapid advancements in technology and artificial intelligence are expected to continue reshaping the healthcare landscape. Healthcare organizations will need to adapt by integrating new technologies, upskilling employees, and redefining roles to enhance efficiency and patient care. Embracing technological advancements will be key to staying competitive and providing high-quality care in an increasingly digital world. To give an example, “charting” and electronic medical records are a long-time dissatisfier for many clinicians, and AI integration could prove to be an interesting solution if it ever meets the privacy requirements needed in the healthcare industry. To give another, one industry expert recently discussed the idea of doctors using AI to scan patient charts to come up with messages like, “How was your birthday last month?” and other personalized, care-enhancing comments that many clinicians would not be able to come up with on their own. 

Employee Listening with Perceptyx Can Help You See the Future of Healthcare

If past is precedent, the healthcare industry in 2024 stands poised to undergo further significant changes. Healthcare organizations will need to navigate these trends thoughtfully, focusing on key areas such as employee engagement, managerial effectiveness, DEIB initiatives, staffing and compensation challenges, leadership transformation, mental health support, and technological advancements.

For those interested in exploring the complexities surrounding employee experience in healthcare, remember that the ideas shared here constitute the tip of the iceberg. To gain a more comprehensive understanding, we invite you to download our detailed State of the Healthcare Employee Experience 2023 report filled with data-driven insights and actionable strategies for improvement. To talk to a member of our team about how Perceptyx can support your healthcare organization, schedule a meeting.

 

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