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9 ideas to improve morale

As the pandemic continues and fatigue deepens, a drive to lift spirits and bring joy into the workplace is going strong, against all the odds. We take a look at what thought-leading organisations across the world advise in terms of best practice, how NHS organisations have coped, and what organisations can do to strengthen and support the workforce and drive staff engagement in the NHS and beyond

1. Getting the basics right

The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) argues that there are four drivers to staff engagement, which are:

  • a connection with and pride in the job
  • how supported people feel
  • clear communication and a sense of being heard
  • opportunity to develop.

Get these right at a time of crisis, they believe, and you will gain a more effective workforce.

2. Use data wisely

McKinsey says that leaders should build on the trust built during the first wave of the pandemic, take into account emotional needs and support, and tailor the response using technology and data – there is no “one size fits all” that nurtures engagement. Us humans are complicated and diverse, after all.

staff engagement in crisis

3. Measure emotion

A Forbes report points out that lack of job security and concomitant financial pressures can weigh heavily on employees’ minds so it’s key – wherever possible – to be proactive in gauging mood in the workforce. The report also says, “employers should be paying just as much attention to the emotional and mental wellbeing of employees during what is an incredibly stressful time”. They recommend following the “servant leadership” model where the good of the team takes priority.

“A ‘servant leader’ style of management which is ethical, trustworthy and has a real interest in the wellbeing and development of staff brings about real positives within the workplace…Employees are more positive about their work and therefore also often feel empowered to become more creative. The result is a rise in productivity.”

4. Learn from history

Trust, compassion, stability and hope are what employees crave in times of crisis, according to Gallup research, which looked at key events from history including the Great Depression, World War II, 9/11 and the 2008 financial crash. 

“Leaders don’t need to predict the future, but they must be predictable now and in the future. It’s hard to trust an erratic leader.”

5. Listen, listen again and then listen some more

There is one skill that we all have that is absolutely crucial to keeping, rewarding and helping staff… America’s Institute for Healthcare Improvement ran a virtual seminar in September, taking recommendations from 2018’s white paper, which encouraged changing the mindset from “I have to” to “I choose to” to cultivate agency and a feeling of power. And to do this you need to hear what employees’ have to say.

“Whether an organisation is preparing for a surge of cases, amid a surge, or gathering lessons learned in the aftermath, listening to what matters most to health care workers has emerged as an essential practice at every stage of response” [i]

6. Learn from others

The NHS employers Staff Engagement library has multiple resources and case studies on the subject, including a webinar sharing learnings in the first wave of COVID-19 from Norfolk Community Heath and Care Trust and Northumbria Healthcare. In it the Trusts reveal what they discovered and what they want to hold on to when the virus is eventually under control. Norfolk Community Heath and Care Trust used a mix of physical interventions, practical help and emotional support to care for its workforce. Just as important was its commitment to clear communications – a subject that is mentioned in most other feedback.


7. Cultivate cultural connectedness

To bring people along, it’s crucial to have a strong culture of shared ambitions and values. But what do you do when you have to build a culture from scratch at a breakneck speed? Read what the Deputy Workforce Director for NHS Nightingale Hospital North West has to say on the key factors: purpose, autonomy, mastery and wellbeing.

Purpose flowchart

8. Embrace technology

Wiley has published a paper called Employee engagement practices during COVID‐19 lockdown, which states that, “under the current situation, establishing employee engagement measures with the help of technology is essential for the growth of the organisations”.

9. Take effective action

What if you had the capability to measure mood, harness ideas and take snap surveys in a genuinely convenient way? NELFT QI Practitioner Kelly Anderson has been using ImproveWell for a while.

“We’re all QI practitioners, so we’re very aware of what data can do, and the benefits of having real-time data to hand. Annual surveys are great, but as they’re done retrospectively, you have to wait for ages. For me, ImproveWell is about giving staff the ability to submit how they’re feeling, useful ideas they may have, and it gives us real-time data. That means we can actually do something around problem areas or suggestions they may have. It helps us to measure the improvement and what we can get out of that.” 


Engage to Improve with ImproveWell

ImproveWell is a digital solution that helps healthcare organisations in the NHS and beyond achieve their improvement and staff engagement goals. With it’s smartphone app and intelligent data dashboard, ImproveWell empowers teams to:

Give staff a voice, track workforce wellbeing and drive a culture of connectedness.

Gather instant feedback & learning 24/7. Plus create a funnel of staff-generated improvement ideas.

Empower local leadership, cross-collaborate, and drive data-driven decisions.


“We’d love to be on the floor asking staff how their day was as they finish their shift but we simply can’t be there all the time. So ImproveWell helps our staff to communicate. That’s really made a difference to how we look after our team. It’s enabled us to check on how their day has been, check their wellbeing. We’ve had some fantastic ideas from our staff which we’ve been able to implement really quickly.”


Louise Hill, Assistant General Manager of the emergency services directorate at Poole Hospital, University Hospitals Dorset Trust

[i] http://www.ihi.org/resources/Pages/AudioandVideo/understanding-and-addressing-sources-of-caregiver-anxiety.aspx

Photo by Anton on Unsplash