• 14 November 2022
  • 4 min read

Defining and measuring staff engagement in major change

Health and care services rely on the energy and expertise of staff to keep them running, and there is growing evidence of the positive effect that good staff engagement can have on care. But service pressures and workforce shortages have led to challenges that are impacting staff engagement.

It’s now more important than ever to understand what good staff engagement looks like, and to find out whether better measurement could support organisations in improving how they engage their staff. The Q community, led by the Health Foundation, is working closely with the team behind thiscovery.org (THIS Institute’s online research and development platform) to help do this. We spoke to Henry Cann, Evaluation and Insight Officer at Q, to find out more about defining and measuring good engagement in major change.

Can you tell us why staff engagement is such an important topic now?

Over the past three years of the pandemic, health and care staff have faced significant challenges, often at personal risk. They are now tackling a growing elective backlog which has recently hit 7 million people. Chronic staffing shortages, partial reorganisation of the NHS in England, plus concerns over working conditions, have added extra strain. It’s all very tough.

This is a complex environment for those trying to deliver transformational change. But evidence suggests that engaging staff well can have a positive impact on the success of change and innovation, as well as supporting staff wellbeing.

This was evident when Q spoke to leaders of the Vaccination Service at Guy’s and St Thomas’ last year. They told us that increasing numbers of vaccinations per day and reducing wait times was only possible because they accepted the need to ‘spend time to make time’. They held engagement sessions to support staff wellbeing and understanding, asking questions like ‘How can we help?’ and ‘Do you have any ideas?’ The learning is that dialogue between leadership and staff is crucial, and that staff want their voices to be heard.

Why is it so important to get views from a wide range of health and care staff about staff engagement?

Results from the NHS staff survey show us that from ambulance staff to those working in medical, allied health or social care roles, there are significant differences in the experience staff engagement. And other factors, like personal background and ethnicity, can have an influence on staff engagement too.

To move forward, we want to produce two things: a co-created definition of staff engagement, a co-created measures of good staff engagement. The aim is that the definition and the measure will reflect the perspectives of diverse health and care staff, and enable inclusion of those who experience service and workforce pressures in different ways. With this, we can achieve a meaningful consensus on what good looks like and make useful recommendations for how organisations can measure it in a way that supports improvement.

How do you think taking part in the project might benefit health and care staff, and patients, in the future?

The goal of this project is to ensure change development and implementation is done collaboratively, ultimately with the aim of improving staff experience and patient outcomes.

We plan to turn our new co-produced definition of good staff engagement into usable measures that can be utilised by leaders and other health and care staff in their everyday work when they’re thinking about and implementing change.

None of this is to deny the hugely challenging service and workforce pressures. But it is to emphasise the need to find new and better ways of doing staff engagement to adapt to the new context.

This project is also an opportunity to help staff and colleagues feel respected, listened to and valued in their role. Things are, and will continue to be, difficult for health and care staff. Genuine engagement, done well, has a big role to play in satisfying work.

How can health and care staff take part in the project?

We want to make it easy as possible to get involved, as we recognise the pressures health and care staff are under. After all, that’s what this project is about.

The first step is to register on the Thiscovery website if you haven’t signed up already. It should only take a minute or two. Then you can take our first task: an online survey that asks you for your personal experiences of engagement, good and bad, and what you consider to be the most important ingredients for engagement. This will take you no more than 15 minutes. But you’ll need to be quick: the first task closes on Friday 18 November.

We’d love for you, and your colleagues, to take part in the next task too.

Take part