Understanding Staff Engagement in Healthcare

What is staff engagement?

In 2016, our National Staff Engagement Forum defined engagement as:

"Staff are engaged when they feel valued, are emotionally connected, fully involved, enthusiastic and committed to providing a good service...                     

 when each person knows that what they do and say matters and makes a difference."

There are many published definitions of engagement, for example:

  • “a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind” (Schaufeli et al. (2002), where vigor, absorption and dedication are present and
  • Key elements of engagement can be understood by examining psychological traits, states or behaviours underpinned by job attributes, trust and transformational leadership (Macey and Schneider 2008)
  • The what and the how of engagement, reflecting the key components of the international literature are summarised in the definition written by the National Staff Engagement Forum.  

Don Berwick of the Institute for Health Improvement (IHI) talks about motivating for excellence.  There are lots of helpful YouTube clips that you can access to learn more, however, simply he suggests motivating for excellence is led by feeling:

  •  I am treated with dignity and respect
  •  I am given tools to do work that adds meaning to my life
  •  Someone notices and says thank you.

The National Staff Engagement Forum also suggest that we say thank you.  Thank you starts with me and is an important part of feeling valued and valuing each other. 

  •  To read a short introductory presentation on staff engagement for quality improvement, please click here.  
  •  The following presentation from Professor Wilmar B. Schaufeli, PhD, Social and Organisational Psychology may also be helpful.  It sets out what an engaged workforce is and gives us key data to make the case for engagement.  Professor Schaufeli is a thought leader on employee engagement and has given permission to share this short presentation.  Find more information on his work,
  •  To watch a clip on what staff engagement means to some members of our National Staff Engagement Forum, please click here

  • Actively Disengaged: employees arent' just unhappy, but are spreading their unhappiness to other staff
  • Not engaged: employees do the work expected of them, but do not put in extra effort
  • Engaged: employees work with passion. Because they feel a strong connection to the organisation, they work hard to innovate and improve.
(adapted from Gallup)

Why is Staff Engagement important?

Staff Engagement is one of the six drivers of the "Framework for Improving Quality in our Health Service"- the importance of this work is highlighted in the HSE "Have Your Say Staff Survey " 2014 and 2016. Benefits have been demonstrated extensively in international literature and research. 

Reported benefits of staff engagement include:

  •  Positive service user and staff experience
  •  Better patient and service user outcomes
  •  Improve clinical quality and safety
  •  Increased staff productivity 
  •  Improved communication
  •  Improved performance and effectiveness
  •  Services become more cost effective
  •  Improved public perception and confidence
  •  PRICELESS:  Knowing it's the right thing to do


Overarching policy context for staff engagement

The importance of staff engagement is highlight in numerous strategic priority documents including the following:

People Strategy 2015 - 2018

·        Priority Two:  Staff have strong sense of connection to the service, take personal responsibility for achieving better outcomes and support team colleagues to deliver results

Framework for Improving Quality in our Health Service 2016

·        An engaged workforce is one where staff are valued, listened to and provided with the tools, resources and skills to do meaningful work. The culture of an engaged organisation will facilitate and encourage participation and front line ownership by staff in the creative design, delivery and improvement of services and says thank you for a job well done.

National Service Plan 2018

·        Embed an approach to staff engagement through our Staff Engagement Forum.

·        Develop the capacity and capability for staff engagement to maximise the contribution of staff to improving quality.

HSE Corporate Plan 2015 - 2018

·        Goal 4: Engage, develop and value our workforce to deliver the best possible care and services to the people who depend on them.

National Standards for Safer Better Healthcare

·        Theme 5: Leadership, Governance and Management

·        Theme 6: Workforce


Healthy Ireland in the Health Services  National Implementation Plan 2015 - 2017

·        Improving staff health wellbeing - our greatest asset

For more information on the evidence and useful resources please click here.

Find more information on the evidence and useful resources

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