Business and Management

Enhancing and embedding staff engagement in the NHS: putting theory into practice

Stemming from a research project led by Prof Katie Bailey, the NHS has published a series of engagement guides and a toolkit on enhancing and embedding staff engagement.

Stethoscope next to laptop, representing engagement with NHS staff

The research project, funded by the National Institute for Health Research, undertook a rapid review of the evidence-base relating to employee engagement. Enhancing employee engagement has been hailed as ‘the solution’ to low levels of staff performance, poor morale, and dissatisfaction. In the context of a service based organization such as the NHS, engagement may be particularly relevant.

The study was based on peer-reviewed academic articles, involving a narrative evidence synthesis of all research published on engagement since 1990. As a result significant evidence around engagement has been gathered, for both the workforce as a whole and for the healthcare sector in particular, that shows that engagement really makes a difference.

In addition to the overall evidence synthesis report that will be published by NIHR later in 2015, the project team have produced a series of guides on engagement aimed at NHS managers, Trust leaders and Human Resource Managers professionals. The guides summarise the evidence relating to engagement, and provide step-by-step advice on how to raise levels of engagement amongst the workforce. They also show managers how to measure engagement levels and how to interpret the results of staff surveys.

Steven Weeks, Policy Manager at the NHS said that the materials are ‘addressing some complex issues in a clear and comprehensive way. They fill a gap in resources available for senior leaders and significantly expand the material for line managers. In addition they update the evidence base for HR colleagues to draw on.’ The materials have been disseminated to staff engagement leads, HR Directors and line managers via features in bespoke publications.

The project is led by Professor Katie Bailey in collaboration with Dr Adrian Madden, Dilys Robinson and Luke Fletcher (Institute for Employment Studies), Dr Kerstin Alfes (Tilburg) and Professor Graeme Currie (Warwick). The project was overseen by an Advisory Group, chaired by Professor John Purcell and comprising a wide range of NHS staff, professional and patient representatives, and engagement experts from other sectors.

The final report “Employee Engagement: An Evidence Synthesis” is available via the NIHR Journal website.

An interview with Katie Bailey, on the subject of meaningful work has been published in Work magazine as part of a feature on the Future of Work.