Staffing Strategies: Appreciate, Talk and Mentor

Tactics can prevent burnout, which is a real concern among healthcare workers.

By Jennefer Pursifull
January 26, 2023

Staffing challenges at hospitals and other healthcare facilities are nothing new. In fact, my colleague Eric Waller addressed ways to solve staffing shortages in an article earlier this year. As he noted, burnout is a real concern among healthcare workers, whether they’re on the front lines treating patients or behind the scenes managing HVAC systems. 

These employees are more important than ever. As facilities managers identify, hire and train new talent, their existing employees cannot be given short shrift. 

Signs thanking healthcare workers are long gone from front yards, but managers cannot forget existing employees. Consider three ways to show appreciation for the healthcare staff amid continuing staffing shortages and risk of burnout. 

Giving thanks 

Gratitude goes a long way. Managers should never take hard work for granted and should express appreciation often. Everything begins and ends with saying “Thank you.” From the food service worker who provides the tray to the nurse providing care for their patient to the maintenance technician fixing a piece of equipment, a sincere “Thank you” is always appreciated. 

It’s simple and straightforward, and it might already be an automatic response. If it’s not, however, the team can feel its absence. Based on the literature and research available, it’s well-documented that appreciation and feeling valued are key drivers for workers. When those drivers are not being met, burnout is far more likely and can ripple across an organization. 

On the other hand, gratitude is a building block of appreciation and sets a strong foundation for workers to know their job is important and the work they do is valued. Saying “Thank you” takes only a few seconds, and it can have a significant impact on team morale. 

Talk to the team 

Managers have another straightforward and possibly obvious way to show the team appreciation — taking the time to get to know them. The facility’s staff might number in the dozens or the hundreds, so how managers get to know them will necessarily vary. Regardless, understanding staff and their unique needs is important. 

At a high level, even understanding generational differences can help meet staff needs more easily. Baby boomers value job security and team loyalty, while Generation X – who are steadily replacing baby boomers in leadership roles – value independence and flexibility. Millennials seek collaborative work environments and work-life balance, and Gen Z is especially keen on learning and development opportunities. Knowing what drives individual employees to find fulfillment in their work, recognizing it and showing them appreciation for that work will encourage job satisfaction and retention.

Facilitate mentorship 

Mentorship can be overlooked in an employee’s developing career, but its significance cannot be overstated. On an individual level, mentorship becomes a mutually beneficial relationship between the mentor and mentee. For an organization as a whole, mentors can support long-term financial growth and build a legacy that maintains the company’s vision, mission and culture. 

A formal mentor-mentee partnering program is not necessary. More important is a manager’s ability to identify potential mentors who are excelling in their roles and have valuable insights to share and employees who are seeking guidance or want to dig deeper into their roles or the healthcare system overall. Facilitating a mentorship can be as simple as introducing two employees over email or saying, “You should talk with …” and encouraging a connection. 

Mentorship takes time. It’s meant to be a long-term commitment, not something that lasts one conversation, one week or one month. It depends on where the mentee is in his or her career, their needs and the schedules of both parties. An email introduction might fall near the bottom of the to-do list when compared with budgeting conversations, emergency preparation or hiring new team members, but it’s a small gesture that can pay long-term dividends for everyone involved. 

At the end of the day, the staff is the backbone of the organization. A lot is weighing on their shoulders these days. The work never gets easier, but managers can make it easier to work for the organization. Encourage the team to support one another, and always show them appreciation. 

How will you thank your staff today? 

Jennefer Pursifull is vice president of marketing with Medxcel. 

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