Nurse managers are key to revamping and reshaping staff motivation

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A staff member's lack of satisfaction with his or her work environment often yields a lack of engagement. If neglected, this lack of engagement yields turnover--all the reason for nurse managers to search for ways to spark employee motivation. Often enough, what is hindering an employee's work output are the actions--or lack of actions--of the manager.

No matter which way you look at it, you, as the nurse manager, directly affect staff morale. Your body language on a stress-filled day, your expression of gratitude when an employee does more than what is asked of him or her, and your ability to discipline a worker when he or she is not performing up to standards, all tie into the overall work experience, good or bad. Your actions affect whether employees feel the urge to participate in the present and hang around in the future.

But being aware of how you conduct yourself in your facility can make all the difference. Refer to the following tips for some guidance.

Starting the day off right. Keep in mind the first steps you take into your facility set the tone for the rest of the day. Your arrival and the manner in which you speak to staff in these very first moments affect the mood and performance of those around you. If you are overtired, drink an extra cup of coffee. If you are frustrated, do your best to conceal it because staff will see this and avoid you. Also, instead of marching straight to you desk at the beginning of your shift, take a quick stroll around your unit and greet people. Flash a smile, walk with poise, and share your expectations with your staff before the day starts.

Working employees into your schedule. Studies have shown that managers benefit by spending positive interaction time with their staff. Try to devote a part of your time each day with each person working during your shift. Depending on the size of your facility, this may not be realistic. If you cannot manage this, shoot for an hour each week. This time will allow you to develop a closer bond with staff members and also send them a message that they are an important to you as individuals.

The power of simple words. Building up employee motivation has much to do with making people feel valued. Never underestimate "please" and "thank you." Also, never miss an opportunity to tell people they are doing a great job. The nursing profession can be emotionally-draining and challenging. Even so, these simple, yet meaningful words can improve staff morale if said often enough, and at the right moments. 

Giving feedback to staff. Information about a staff member's work performance is an effective tool in improving it, and also in fostering engagement. People are interested in how other people perceive them and their skills in their workplace. Make staff aware when they do not perform up to par so that they have the opportunity to self-correct. Set up daily or weekly meetings to check back with them and see how they are progressing. These meetings will give you time to express what you need from your staff, and in return, they can learn how to give this to you.

Focus on the future. Gaining experience is one of the largest benefits of working. Most nurses are eager to become competent in their roles so they can set out to achieve future roles. Get to know your nurses and their goals. Whether this drive is for a pay increase, or the desire to obtain a leadership or management position at your facility, take time to discuss this with them. Motivate staff to explore other areas of interest and be considerate of their plans. Staff members will be grateful for your attention to their current needs and future aspirations.