By Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN
Nurse leaders often ask me how they can move the needle on their staff engagement. In many organizations, it is a very challenging problem with nursing engagement numbers often lower than the 33% of the workforce reported by Gallup in their data on the US workforce.
While nurse leaders play a key role in staff engagement, staff also have a personal responsibility to work on their own engagement. Work engagement is a two-way street. Nurse leaders can create environments that engage and empower staff, but they cannot force engagement. Two employees can have very different experiences within the same organization. Engagement ultimately comes from within, and how we view our circumstances. It is important for the individual to have a clear sense of what makes them engaged or not engaged at work, and what actions they can take to change their own situation. Marshall Goldsmith, in his book Triggers, observed that survey questions are often asked in a passive voice, such as those in Gallup Q12. This promotes the idea that employee engagement is an organizational responsibility.
The variance sometimes seen in employee engagement may be because some individuals naturally accept their responsibility in the process. Goldsmith promotes the idea that when managers have staff that is not engaged, they should encourage reflection with coaching questions such as:
- Did I do my best to set clear goals today?
- Did I do my best to finding meaning in my work today?
- Did I do my best to happy today?
- Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?
- Did I do my best to be fully engaged today?
These questions encourage the idea of action learning as part of the engagement process by emphasizing a need for ongoing growth and reflection. All of us have a strong need to be respected, recognized for our talents, feel a sense of belonging and do work that we feel is essential. Only an individual staff member can truly know whether they are happy at work and if not, does something need to change. Nurse leaders can create an environment for staff happiness and engagement but may find that some staff is still unhappy. That is not the nurse leader’s responsibility, and it never can be.
Read to Lead
Goldsmith M, Reiter M. Triggers: Creating Behavior that Lasts – Becoming the Person You Want to Be. New York: Crown; 2015.
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