4 actions to improve EMS employee engagement and satisfaction

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


This article originally appeared in the September 13, 2018 issue of the Paramedic Chief Leadership Briefing, Employee engagement | Anti-kickback statutes | FirstNet podcast. Read the full briefing and add the Paramedic Chief eNewsletter to your subscriptions. 

By Maria Beermann-Foat, Ph.D., NREMT-P

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.

Expressing gratitude is an action to improve EMS employee engagement and satisfaction. (photo/pixabay)
Expressing gratitude is an action to improve EMS employee engagement and satisfaction. (photo/pixabay)

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 editor@ems1.com.

About the author 
Maria Beermann-Foat, Ph.D., NRP, is a battalion chief for Johnson County (Kan.) MED-ACT – Emergency Medical Services. She has over 20 years of prehospital care experience and has served as a paramedic, community educator, PIO, training officer, quality manager and course developer. She has a Ph.D. in organization management.

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