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4 actions to improve EMS employee engagement and satisfaction

Use these actions to positively improve employee engagement and satisfaction by demonstrating value and appreciation

Expressing gratitude is an action to improve EMS employee engagement and satisfaction.

Employee retention is an important topic for many EMS leaders and field providers. Organizational leaders understand the high cost associated with increased employee turnover and aspire to find ways to control or reduce this expenditure.

Employee retention frequently appears, in business research literature, as an outcome of the employee engagement and employee satisfaction processes. Researchers have identified many extrinsic and intrinsic factors that impact each of these processes and have described the complexity of determining where or how leaders should focus efforts.

Valued and appreciated employees are willing to go the extra mile as their success is entwined with the organization’s success. Some of the complexity of engagement and satisfaction can be reduced by focusing on the constructs of value and appreciation.

Most dictionaries define value as being “useful, beneficial, helpful,” while appreciation is being “of value, held in high regard.” In operationalizing these terms for EMS , employees who feel:

  • valued perceive their efforts as making a difference.

  • appreciated perceive their participation is worth it.

When individuals start to feel unappreciated and undervalued, cognitive dissonance increases as the individual tries to reconcile these feelings against the time they have invested. Once the scales tip in opposition of a positive time investment, emotional discord may manifest via reduced effort, reduced involvement, or the emergence of a negative mindset.

Demonstrate value and appreciation

Unappreciated and undervalued employees who are in a position to leave, quit. Those who can’t quit often become difficult to manage.

Here are four simple actions EMS leaders can implement to positively improve employee engagement and satisfaction by demonstrating value and appreciation of their employees.

1. Frame your mindset

EMS employees want to do a good job. The cliché that we do this because we “want to help people” is a cliché, because it’s true.

Start employee interactions with a 15-second pause to remind yourself that employees choose to come to work each day, and they decide to come to work for your organization because they want to do good in the world. Otherwise, they would find employment elsewhere.

Controlling your mindset allows you to enter the interaction with positivity, compassion and a desire to gain understanding, all of which promote the potential to recognize positive employee efforts.

2. Express gratitude

Acknowledge an employee’s efforts, even if you think it’s “part of their job.” Everyone makes a conscious choice to either perform a task or not; to do their best or not; to participate or not.

Acknowledgment and gratitude can be as simple as a text message or a handshake with a smile, the next time you see the employee.

3. Invest in their future

Take the time to discuss an employee’s professional goals and help them develop a plan to achieve these. Schedule regular intervals to review the employee’s progress and help problem-solve any obstacles to show you’re invested in their long-term success.

4. Empower employees

Employees at the frontline of issues are often in the best position to resolve them. Provide employees a platform to drive improvements in work processes through suggestions, perspectives and methods. Interject only when absolutely necessary, otherwise, stay out of their way.

We all strive to direct our time toward meaningful pursuits. Feeling appreciated for these efforts and that we made a difference justifies the sacrifices we’ve made. Implementing these actions are not difficult, yet can yield a positive impact in an organization’s culture and improve employee engagement and satisfaction. Share your successes and questions with

Maria Beermann-Foat, PhD, MBA, NRP, has over 20 years of prehospital emergency care experience in privately-owned, hospital-based and county government-based emergency services. Dr. Beermann-Foat has served the community of Johnson County (Kan.) since 1999 and currently serves as a battalion chief of operations for MED-ACT- Emergency Medical Services. Since first joining the department as a paramedic, she moved up the ranks in the roles of community education officer/PIO, captain/field training officer, battalion chief of training, and division chief of quality management.

Through her position as a course developer and instructor for the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland – operated by FEMA – her efforts have contributed toward preparing fire department and EMS department administrators in the areas of quality management and application of research methods for organizational improvement.

Dr. Beermann-Foat received the 2019 Emerging Leader Award, during the Pinnacle EMS Leadership conference, from Fitch & Associates.

Dr. Beermann-Foat holds a Ph.D. in Organization Management from Capella University and a Masters of Business Administration from MidAmerica Nazarene University. She is currently completing coursework to obtain a city and county management certificate from the University of Kansas. She holds a six sigma green belt certification through Johnson County Community College. She is a member of the International City and County Management Association (ICMA), the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT), the National EMS Management Association (NEMSMA), and the American Society for Quality (ASQ) Kansas City Section. She has also held a position on the Diversity and Equity Committee for Johnson County Government since 2017.