Sometimes it might seem easier to hire new nurses rather than address issues with poor morale among your current staff. Improving your company’s external package might help to recruit nurses, but it might not retain them. Negative staff morale can infect your new and future hires and drain them of their desire to stay. Investing time in addressing internal issues affecting staff morale, and encouraging the promotion of positive workplace culture, might help improve your recruitment and retention efforts.
Consequences of Poor Staff Morale
You may be well-aware of issues with poor staff morale within your organization. It could be the reason you’re recruiting new nurses—to replace ones you’ve lost. In addition to the financial burden of replacing nurses from turnover, filling the staffing holes may only be a temporary fix if the root of your issue isn’t addressed.
Investing in recruiting new nurses doesn’t mean they’ll stay if current staff morale is unsatisfactory. Your current staff is training new nurses. If the morale is low, your new hires will potentially be subjected to complaints, gossip, and any underlying negative or unsatisfactory issues. This often happens before they know enough about your company to develop their own opinions and could affect how vested they feel to stay. Low morale could contribute to a vicious recruiting cycle.
Other potential consequences of poor staff morale include:
- The loss of future nurse recruits: Nursing students who have clinical experiences at your organization may gain a negative impression that prevents them from applying once they graduate.
- Limited nursing applications: Most nurses network with other nurses. Negative word of mouth about your organization’s culture and reputation can potentially discourage or deter applicants.
- Patient dissatisfaction or complaints: Reduced productivity from disengaged staff may provide less than quality patient care, and likely impact reimbursement tied to patient satisfaction.
- Increased absenteeism: Low staff morale can lead to discontent and a decreased commitment to the organization and result in more call offs. Reducing available staff may result in staffing shortages,
- Employee conflicts: Discontent can increase the potential for conflicts between staff and result in supervisors spending more time dealing with what’s wrong than striving to improve what’s right within the organization.
Improving these areas by creating a more positive work culture to enhance morale may result in making your organization a more desirable place to work.
Focus on What’s Working Well
A combination of factors can influence morale. Some leaders may feel that they know what issues are contributing to poor morale and focus on improving those areas. Although what you think is the issue may not truly be what your employees desire. Trying to communicate with current employees, and making internal improvements based on their input, can improve trust and nurture a more positive outlook for staff.
In addition to gathering information about pertinent issues through communication methods that work best for your organization such as surveys, and team or individual meetings, consider choosing critical key, quality employees to complete a stay interview. Explore what these employees view as valuable and exciting aspects of working for your organization. Shine a spotlight on these areas to energize staff, and entice new nursing recruits, rather than focusing exclusively on problems.
Review Your Onboarding Program
Recruiting staff may seem like a sprint to the finish line, but to retain them you need to focus on the journey. Onboarding should continue long past the initial orientation for employees to develop a better understanding of your organization’s values and mission. Onboarding efforts that focus on mentoring, and incorporating technology that streamlines work tasks and emphasizes staff support may improve morale by displaying.
- Fair treatment that allows staff to feel valued and appreciated
- A challenging work environment that promotes professional growth
- Leadership that communicates effectively by responding to and addressing concerns
- Leaders who display commitment, confidence and engage with staff
The employees who are more likely to stay are ones who feel connected and committed to your organization and become your high performers.
Be in It for the Long Run
Nursing leaders have many tasks to balance competing for their attention. It’s easy to move to another issue once it appears that staff morale is improving. It isn’t as effective to get staff excited about efforts to enhance the organizational culture and strengthen morale only to have efforts taper off when another issue occurs.
Nurturing positive morale may be more work initially, but once practices are established, it should become easier and may save time with recruitment efforts. Don’t wait until it’s time to hire, or it might be too late to prevent the impact on new nurses. Educate supervisors and leaders about key components of improving staff morale. Ongoing implementation can assist in making these practices part of your organization’s culture and image.
Nurture Staff Morale
Taking the time to focus on staff morale may offer more than a positive work environment, it may make nurses consider your organization a desirable place to work, encourage them to stay, and prompt them to recommend working there.