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Resources to help you engage your oncology staff

Why engagement is important

Engaging your employees isn’t just important for their development and job satisfaction—it’s also an incredibly strong marker for performance and the health of your business. In fact according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace study (which compiled data from more than 195,600 US employees), when compared to business units that score in the bottom quartile of employee engagement, business units that score in the top quartile of employee engagement have 41% lower absenteeism, 24% lower turnover, 17% higher productivity, and 21% higher profitability.

How to build an engaged oncology workforce

Staff engagement levels (and areas for improvement) are constantly shifting, making it important to continually reassess and adjust your strategy accordingly. Be sure to continually evaluate and scope your efforts to hit on the highest impact strategies.

Engagement in oncology

Health care as a whole is performing well on employee engagement compared to other industries—and within health care, oncology is performing slightly above average on engagement compared to other specialties. However, it remains true that more than half of oncology employees are not engaged. And as we look to the future, continued engagement is threatened by ongoing debate about the health care system, evolving oncology payment models, accelerating workforce turnover, and the continued focus on cost control.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that our 2019 Trending Now in Cancer Care Survey identified workforce planning as a top threat to growth. While cancer program leaders are implementing a number of initiatives to drive engagement, not every attempted tactic will drive meaningful engagement or will be worth the required resources. To help you narrow your focus, we used our national survey dataset and analysis to zero in on four engagement drivers that will allow cancer programs to have the most impact on improving and maintaining employee engagement.


Driver 1: My unit/department has enough staff

Given rising patient volumes and an aging workforce, it isn’t surprising that “my unit/department has enough staff” was the driver with the most room for improvement in our national dataset.

Tactic 1: Align staffing capacity with patient demand

Constant fluctuation in patient demand and acuity can lead to overworked staff and improper allocation of resources, negatively impacting engagement. The following case studies and resources will help you adjust and proactively plan for staffing needs to meet demand.

Tactic 2: Prepare non-oncology staff for careers in oncology

Even with optimal staffing, you can’t keep up with demand if you don’t have properly trained staff or a pipeline to fill inevitable turnover. The following resources will help you make sure vacancies are filled quickly with high-performing staff.


Driver 2: My ideas and suggestions are valued by my organization

Employees want to feel heard, but over one-third of staff feel like their input isn’t valued, according to our national dataset. Combating this can go a long way in lifting your organization's overall engagement.

Tactic 1: Create an environment conducive to input

While employees want to provide feedback, they also need to know they have a safe space to share their concerns, ideas, and thoughts.

Tactic 2: Be specific about the type of feedback you want

Make sure you solicit feedback that will be focused and useful to inform top-of-mind issues that you have the ability to inflect.

Tactic 3: Hardwire status updates on implementation of staff ideas

There’s nothing worse than providing input and never hearing about it again. Make sure staff are consistently updated on how their feedback is—or isn’t—being used.


Driver 3: The training and development opportunities offered by my organization have helped me to improve

A lack of meaningful development opportunities can cause employees to feel unfulfilled or stagnant in their careers and unfulfilled. As such, this driver had one of our highest correlations with employee engagement, and is a great tool to help you maintain it at your organization.

Tactic 1: Create diverse training and development opportunities.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to training and development. Diverse opportunities will help your workforce maintain skills while allowing them flexibility and engaging opportunities to learn

Tactic 2: Develop structured pathways for career progression

A structured career path can help eliminate confusion about progression, and keep your staff engaged and on track to accomplish their professional goals.


Driver 4: The actions of executives in my organization reflect our mission and values

Staff who struggle to understand the actions or intentions of their executives can find their day-to-day work less meaningful or feel mistrustful of the organization as a whole. This driver is another area that is strongly correlated to staff engagement, so it's important to get it right.

Tactic 1: Embed the executive perspective into your daily communication with staff

The cancer leadership team should strive to help staff understand how executive decisions and actions connect to the organization’s mission and values. When done on a regular basis, this leads to less confusion and stronger organizational cohesion.

Tactic 2: Designate a liaison between staff and executives

Often, executive messages are easily misunderstood—or poorly communicated. Using a frontline staff liaison can help ensure smooth translation of executive priorities across the entire organization.

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