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Anatomy of Engagement: Licensed Technicians

by Rick Blizzard, D.B.A.
Health and Healthcare Editor

The third article in a multipart series on healthcare job categories

Overall, Gallup data show that healthcare employees tend to be less engaged in their jobs than those in other industries are. But a detailed analysis of Gallup's Q12 Employee Engagement database for healthcare employees shows that some job categories tend to contain fewer engaged workers than others do. Engagement scores among licensed technical employees -- a category that includes licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and radiology technologists -- are the lowest of any job category, as measured by their average scores on Gallup's Q12 survey.

While the severe shortage of registered nurses (RNs) tends to receive the most attention and has triggered extensive discussion of workplace issues for nurses, licensed technical personnel are also important to the hands-on delivery of patient care, and they are experiencing similar shortages. Radiology technologists have the highest vacancy rate of any healthcare position.

So what can be done to improve engagement within this important job category?

Licensed technical employees score above the 50th percentile of the Gallup healthcare database on only one of the 12 employee engagement items: "I know what is expected of me at work." This item is part of the foundation of Gallup's employee engagement hierarchy.

The relatively strong scores of licensed technical staff on this item (their ratings are higher than those from any other job categories with the exception of support staff) suggest that this group has a strong foundation on which to build engagement. That licensed technical employees know exactly what they are expected to do is a good sign for the potential to raise overall engagement scores among these employees.

Licensed technical employees are the least likely of the five job categories to agree with the following six Q12 questions:

  • In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  • My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  • There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  • At work, my opinions seem to count.
  • In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  • This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

Of these six items, three ("recognition or praise," "opinions seem to count," and "opportunities to learn and grow") receive average ratings .20 or more below the 50th percentile for all healthcare employees. The "recognition or praise" item is the lowest -- on a five-point scale, licensed professional scores on this item average below the mid-point mark of 3.00.

What Are Licensed Technical Employees Telling Us?

Licensed technical employees say they know what is expected of them at work, indicating that there is an alignment between their skills and their day-to-day job functions. High scores on this item also imply that their managers are clearly communicating and setting expectations with them.

However, while it appears that licensed technical employees know what is expected of them, they also seem to feel that no one notices when they do a good job. Recognition and praise are decidedly lacking. It might be easy to blame this lack of recognition on physicians, who have a notorious reputation for failing to credit hospital staff for excellent performance.

But these scores seem to go beyond a lack of physician recognition. Managers and fellow staff members must also do better at recognizing high-quality performance. RNs should take the time to compliment LPNs whom they notice doing a job good. On a regular basis, managers of licensed technical staff should actively seek out individuals who are performing excellently, and tell them so.

Licensed technical employees also seem to feel as if no one listens to them. They know their jobs -- they were licensed to perform them, and they are likely to consider themselves experts. Therefore, they want their managers and other staff members to solicit their input and listen to what they have to say. Supervisors can close the loop by explaining to licensed personnel why their suggestions were or were not acted upon.

Finally, licensed technical employees want more opportunities to learn and grow. Education initiatives for these employees are generally focused on training and development to maintain licenses and certifications. But licensed techs may feel increasingly pigeonholed without access to educational opportunities outside these narrow parameters.

The improvements that hospitals need to make to raise engagement among licensed technical employees -- providing more positive recognition, listening to what the employees have to say, and providing opportunities to learn and grow -- will not only make these employees happier, but will also better leverage hospital resources in the effort to achieve higher overall performance.

The Q12 items are protected by copyright of The Gallup Organization, Princeton, N.J., 1992-1999. All rights reserved.




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