Employee morale in hospitals is the No. 1 human resource problem. The best-and maybe only-way to heal the deep wounds of pessimism is a strong dose of leadership combined with a dash of candid communication.
After Deloitte & Touche surveyed 681 human resource directors, reporter J. Duncan Moore Jr. concludes in this week's cover story that the atmosphere in hospitals is positively morose. Moreover, the ill wind and bad feelings show little sign of abating any time soon.
Layoffs, downsizing, restructuring, re-engineering and mergers have left hospital workers disillusioned and uncertain about their fate in the workplace.
Think about nurses. A few years ago, the industry was begging for so many nurses that a national crisis was proclaimed. Today, thousands of nurses are out of work.
Simply put, if you are a hospital employee, there is no job security. And those who have managed to dodge the pink slip are being asked to do more even though pay raises may not match the rate of inflation.
The situation isn't likely to get better soon. Reimbursement cutbacks, managed care and industrywide consolidation will continue to play havoc with employees' peace of mind. At the same time, customer service and the battle for market share have never been more important.
What's a manager to do? Hospitals should regularly monitor the pulse of employees and make at least a few changes based on the survey's findings. Training, small bonuses and other inexpensive forms of appreciation can do wonders for morale.
But most of all it will take leadership from a management team that cares deeply about the staff and the healthcare it provides. It's time to show-not tell-them that you are concerned.