Employee Recognition in the Health Care Environment

in Recognition

iNancy Elder Care with Nancy Karen Culp RN. As a Registered Nurse with almost 38 years of nursing experience I bring to you a series of articles & guides to help navigate thru the workplace setting. Over the years I have been thru the School of Hard Knocks so to speak and I'm still learning! Experiencing a wide range of work settings, situations and challenges along the way has allowed me to share what I have learned or that which those around me have learned. This information is presented to give you support and advice. Here is my unique perspective of the experiences I have had along the way for your benefit!

Positive reinforcement thru employee recognition is the fuel that keeps culture change moving forward!  Believe it or not, recognition is often times one of the lowest items on employee surveys…  this may be the result of giving recognition incorrectly which can make someone feel uncomfortable or create fake intentions for receiving a "monetary type reward". 

A recent Gallop Poll found that 65% of Americans received NO praise or recognition in the workplace in the past year.  Another source relayed the following statement - "When I make a mistake I'm recognized 100% of the time; when I do something great, I'm not recognized 99% of the time."  "This innate need for appreciation is not a selfish, superficial craving for the center spotlight; it is an authentic, deep-seated desire to be deemed as worthy" (excerpt from the book Corporate Celebration).  The frequent act of recognition also bonds individual team members to you and each other.  A specific, sincere compliment reaches employees on an emotional level that no other form of business communication can.  It is extremely professional and at the same time incredibly personal.  So, get an employee recognition program up and running… it's a priority!


Individualized based on the employee preferences… When it comes to recognition/appreciation, individualization is the key!  In order for recognition to be meaningful, it must be tailored to the employee preferences, not the givers preferences!  One speaker told of a gentleman he worked with from Haiti.  His desired form of recognition was a letter from his manager that he could send back home for his family to read!  His manager may have never known this unless he asked, so take the time to find out what meaningful recognition means to your staff.

Best coming from the employees immediate supervisor… Another key is recognition means most coming from the employees immediate supervisor.  A letter from the administrator while a nice thing to do means less than one coming from the unit they work with on a daily basis.  Of course, passing a letter to the administration for their additional comments is powerful as well… 

Work side by side with your staff and other departments as well… What better way to be able to relate to your staff than working side by side with them from time to time.  I see this happen often in our facilities just because of the nature of our industry and needed all hands on deck due to disruptions in services like a snowstorm etc.  At Disney all supervisors and managers are required to do frontline work several days a year.  They sweep sidewalks, empty trash, serve hot dogs, sell merchandise, take tickets and help guests onto rides.  This keeps them in touch with what it is like to deal with guests every day and helps managers empathize with cast members and understand things from their perspective.  One of the biggest benefits to working side-by-side with your staff is that it makes you visible, accessible… when you are visible you build TRUST between you and your staff – and trust builds COMMITMENT & LOYALTY!

Allow time for people to qualify for the recognition… Watch closely and allow time for people to qualify for the recognition.  The employee themselves will know if the recognition is unwarranted or insincere…

Vary the method of recognition for maximum appreciation and interest…  Just like a personalized gift, a letter containing a personal story or observation about the staff member is more powerful than any amount of money.  Even pizza & wings looses it's meaning and becomes an expectation after a while so vary the method of recognition for maximum appreciation. Keep it going… put a reminder on your calendar, keep notes/envelopes handy, keep of list or copy of the notes sent so you know who you have yet to observe for doing the right things. Even consider survey time.  Yes food for the staff is considerate since many of them may not leave the building for a fast food run like they usually do but try standing at the time clock and thank staff coming and going at the change of shift and see the looks of surprise and appreciation on their faces!

Day to Day Recognition:  these are the pats on the back, the handwritten notes, the team lunches, the on-the-spot award certificates, gift of thanks and other ways you regularly praise and express gratitude to employees.  This is low-cost but always high-touch recognition/appreciation. MUST BE Frequent; Specific & Timely

Above & beyond Recognition:  when your staff goes above & beyond, they deserve a more formal response from the organization.

Career Recognition:  recognition of hire/anniversary dates,very powerful if the opportunity to recognize their cumulative contributions is made.

Celebration Recognition:  thanks to the team, unit or entire organization!

Back to the most difficult and significant type of recognition:  "Day-to-Day" - Gallup's research shows that for employees to feel valued and committed to a workplace, they need to receive some form of recognition every seven days.  It's like the story of the guy who said to his wife, "Look, I told you I loved you when we were dating.  If that ever changes, I'll let you know".  Meaningful recognition needs to be:

  • Frequent - So, how often should you recognize your staff?  Strive for at least once a week… 
  • Specific - extra effort, job well done, a smart idea, great service or a team success…
  • Timely - if you don't do it daily, you'll forget and with delay in time it will loose its effect…

What type of behavior will you be recognizing in conjunction with our Excellence in Customer Service culture change?  Whatever our focus is on gets improved…

If the facility needs staff to be more welcoming to new admissions then reinforce and recognize the behaviors you want to see emulated accordingly.  Put a plan of action into place to support staff as they go thru this change of service provision.  You will need to focus on these interventions for several weeks until it becomes part of the facility protocol and culture.  Then you can select something else to work on… but remember that is can take up to 6 weeks to change a habit so persistence is important.

Where will we find the Time? Your staff will do as you do and not as you say… and as managers we need to be cognizant of the example we give on how we spend our time.  On the web site Salary.com.  Average American workers admitted to frittering away 2.09 hours per day (not including lunch and scheduled break time).  Healthcare workers admitted to a slightly lower amount of 1.8 hours per day.  There was some discussion on what is considered wasted time.  Extra time spent in a residents room socializing with them while it's not actually "working" time is considered an acceptable and even valuable way to spend extra time (provided all their job tasks are completed) verses socializing at the nurses station!  The commonly cited time wasters are:

  • Surfing Internet (personal use) 44.7%
  • Socializing with co-workers 23.4%
  • Conducting personal business 6.8%
  • Spacing out 3.9%
  • Running errands off-premises 3.1%
  • Making personal phone calls 2.3%
  • Other 15.8% 

This does not mean we may never need to do any of these things at work but remember, these things were reported to being done during working hours and not on break/lunch time.  And yes, sometimes life comes at you fast and a call from the school nurse or a distressed family member is expected if circumstances call for it. What this does mean however, is that unless the day is one of those exceptionally busy ones… or we are dealing with a crisis of some sort, we CAN find the time to go the extra degree for the resident, for observing and recognizing staff or to welcome the new housekeeper to the unit and introduce them to the staff or hold an update or weekly meeting.  And we've all said it at one time or another - often it takes longer for someone to tell you why they cannot do something than it would have taken to just do it in the first place!

Just a little extra effort makes a big difference: The point is that it only takes one degree to turn hot water into boiling water which creates steam, and steam can power a locomotive!  In life and in business– just a little extra effort makes a big difference. Apply this principle to employee recognition, or the emotions of kindness, belief, focus, perseverance etc. and it will make a remarkable difference!

"People may take a job for more money, but they often leave it for more recognition." Bob Nelson


Author Box
Nancy Karen Culp RN has 1 articles online

iNancy Nancy Karen Culp RN is an educator, writer and dynamic professional speaker with extensive experience in the Long Term Care sector of our health care continuum. Experienced in the areas of nursing administration, education and training, quality improvement and nursing informatics. Various roles over the years include Director of Nursing Services; Program Director for Nurse Aide Training; Clinical Information Systems Coordinator for Electronic Medical Record development and implementation and HIPAA Privacy Officer. nancy.culp99@gmail.com

Add New Comment

Employee Recognition in the Health Care Environment

Log in or Create Account to post a comment.
Security Code: Captcha Image Change Image
This article was published on 2012/03/29