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University of Sunderland

Workforce development and maximising workforce potential in nursing

Posted on: July 12, 2022
Doctor consulting with two nurses as they walk down a corridor

Employee engagement is incredibly important in any organisation. An engaged workforce that’s supported in its development, and in reaching its potential, is more productive, more motivated to innovate, produces better quality work, and is significantly easier to retain and recruit into. 

This is crucial within nursing. Innovation, high-quality work, and efficiency are all staples of the profession. And with the Royal College of Nurses (RNC) calling for greater focus on recruitment and retainment within nursing, it’s clear that the nursing workforce needs to feel engaged and supported in maximising its potential to help deliver on all of these requirements and goals.

Making recruitment and retention easier

Increased engagement can be instrumental in helping to attract new nurses, which is a topic that is becoming progressively more important. According to the RNC, one in five UK nurses were aged 56 or over as of September 2021, and due to retire in the next few years – and that was reported before the Covid-19 pandemic. With issues like this in mind, the RNC has stated that there is a significant risk that the number of leavers from the nursing workforce will continue to increase in the coming years – unless there is significant intervention to improve recruitment and retention.

Thankfully, there are hopeful signs. For example, the UK government has promised to attract 50,000 more nurses in the NHS by 2024/25, so new talent is expected to bolster nursing numbers in the coming few years – a task that will prove easier with an increased focus on workforce development and potential. And this focus can also help when it comes to retention, too – the more engaged an employee feels within their role, the less likely they are to leave it. Not to mention that improving workforce engagement means positive gains in workforce performance and outcomes as well.

How can workforce engagement be improved?

There are a number of ways that HR leaders agree can help improve workforce engagement.

These include:

  • Communication. Are nursing staff kept up-to-date about key news, events and information? Can they have two-way conversations with key decision-makers within their teams and higher up, regardless of job title? Open communication, and the accessibility of organisation or business leaders, are huge motivators. They’re also important tactics to help build employee trust within an organisation, particularly with large employers like the NHS where there are many levels of management, and huge numbers of staff.
  • Development opportunities. Ensuring that nursing employees can continually develop is a win/win – as individuals, they can increase their competencies and achieve their full potential as they reach their career goals. Meanwhile, the NHS and its patients benefit from these new skills and enhanced skill sets. Learning and development is a huge part of human resources for exactly this reason.
  • Create a positive work culture. A work culture, or company culture, is like a blueprint for the employee experience. Within the NHS and even outside of it, there are a lot of ways to create a positive and inclusive culture at work. Employers can offer mentorship opportunities, be open and honest about organisation or business goals, and encourage respect and recognition at all times. These are all conducive to employees reaching their full potential.

What is employee potential?

Employee potential is determined by a number of factors, including an individual’s innate abilities, aspirations, behaviours, and leadership skills. 

According to a number of HR professionals, a high-potential employee is likely to become a high-performing employee particularly when supported by talent management strategies, their line manager, and team members.

What are strategies for maximising workforce potential?

Strategies to maximise employee potential can include:

  • Employee empowerment. Do nursing staff feel empowered to make decisions, take ownership of problems and solutions, and demonstrate purpose within their roles?
  • Career progression. Do nursing staff feel like their ideal career options are available to them?
  • Investment in people. Do nursing staff feel like their development goals are supported? Are their benefits aligned with their needs? Do they have the resources they require to do their jobs to the best of their ability?

What are strategies for managing a high-performing workforce?

Once nurses have been enabled to reach their full potential and become high-performers in their roles, it’s important to manage them appropriately. This includes ensuring that:

  • all goals and directions are clearly outlined.
  • career development progress is tracked.
  • feedback is regularly shared – both with nursing staff and by nursing staff.
  • exceptional work is recognised and rewarded.

What are the key benefits of a high-performing workforce?

The benefits of a high-performing workforce are innumerable, particularly among a truly vital organisation like the NHS. Some of the key benefits include:

  • Improved staff retention. A reduction in staff turnover means nursing skills and expertise stays within the NHS.
  • Increases in innovation. High-performing teams are more creative and can tackle more complex problems, even those outside of their traditional comfort zone.
  • Improved employee performance. Research routinely shows that the high morale associated with high-performing teams is tied to increases in productivity, outcomes, and workforce performance.

What is workforce performance?

Workforce performance is a term used to describe – and measure – how employees perform their jobs. It considers how they complete their tasks, how they behave at work, and measures the quality, quantity and efficiency of their outputs.

Employers can help maximise workforce performance and outcomes by following the strategies for maximising workforce potential, as outlined in this article. But while employee potential and employee performance are closely linked, they are not the same thing. It’s important to remember that potential is about future success, while performance is current. So employers need to measure and evaluate workforce performance in order to determine what specific steps are required to enhance it in the future.

How do organisations measure workforce performance?

Workforce performance management – including productivity, efficiency, behaviour, and quality of work – can be conducted in a number of ways, including:

  • 360-degree feedback. A well-rounded view of an individual’s performance is developed by seeking feedback and assessments from several people, not just the individual’s line manager. Feedback can be invited from team members and other colleagues who work with the individual. 
  • Self-evaluation. Through a series of questions, an individual can judge their own performance. This evaluation is then compared to the line manager’s evaluation and/or used as part of a verbal performance review.
  • Objective goals. Together with their line manager, the employee develops performance goals that include deadlines and markers of completion and success.

Equip yourself for transformational leadership in nursing

If you’re a leader – or aspiring leader – in senior nursing, midwifery, or healthcare, a master’s degree in nursing is an important step towards a higher pay band and a greater depth of understanding within your current role and scope of practice.

The flexible, 100% online MSc Nursing Studies at the University of Sunderland is designed for registered nurses in the UK and around the world, and enables you to study around your current commitments. You’ll build on your existing experience to further develop your knowledge, skills and capacity, and learn about key topics such as leadership and management in healthcare, as well as workforce development and maximising workforce potential.

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