July 14, 2024

Holistic Pulse

Healthcare is more important

How Employee Recognition Can Improve The Healthcare Industry

4 min read

Steve Sonnenberg is the cofounder and CEO of Awardco, a fast-growing rewards and recognition company.

The healthcare industry is struggling—there’s no getting around it. Not only is there a frightening shortage in the workforce that’s only projected to get worse, but stress, burnout and dissatisfaction have been high since the pandemic, leading to turnover of existing staff.

The good news: When done correctly, employee recognition and rewards can be a powerful solution to these issues.

Modern recognition doesn’t settle for a five-year anniversary pin or a gift card for birthdays. Modern employee recognition means recognizing the efforts, challenges, wants and needs of the workforce and then making efforts to better their experience, both at work and in their personal lives. In my experience working with companies in the healthcare industry, customized recognition like this can cause a powerful shift in healthcare culture by showing employees that they matter, that they’re cared for and that they’re appreciated.

Why Recognition Is Needed In Healthcare

Recent research shows a startling dip in many aspects of the healthcare industry. For one, healthcare employees are facing many health challenges; according to a Mental Health America study, “93% of health care workers were experiencing stress, 86% reported experiencing anxiety, 77% reported frustration, 76% reported exhaustion and burnout, and 75% said they were overwhelmed.”

That’s a huge percentage of people who are feeling overburdened at work. Not only can these feelings lead to reduced patient satisfaction, lower quality of care, increased absenteeism, reduced productivity and reduced job satisfaction, they can also have a huge impact on turnover. Recent studies have found a 22.7% national hospital turnover rate, 15.7% nurse vacancy rate, a loss of $8.55 million due to turnover-related expenses, and 80% of healthcare professionals quitting due to feeling unappreciated.

In short, healthcare is stuck in a vicious cycle of desperately hiring new talent, overwhelming them with stressful work and long hours, seeing them leave, and starting the process over again.

How Recognition Can Help

When recognition is built around individuals and focused on making work more sustainable and rewarding, it can lead to impactful benefits, such as a 14% increase in productivity, 31% lower turnover, a significant increase in employee engagement and more. These stats indicate that when employees feel like they matter—when they really feel like their company cares about them—they respond. It’s that simple.

This is why I believe healthcare organizations need to not only recognize staff contributions but also create ways to support them in their challenges, recognize their needs, encourage their health and aid them in their personal lives. And with the recognition platform capabilities of today, doing all of this is easier and more affordable than ever.

How To Build Recognition Programs In Healthcare

Solving the challenges in healthcare can truly be as simple as creating a culture of recognition. And this doesn’t have to be a big time commitment or budgetary millstone—creating your own customized recognition programs can actually be fairly simple. Here are some of the best practices and strategies I’ve seen for creating more recognition in healthcare.

• Get initial employee feedback.

Instead of assuming what employees want, create focus groups of employees to learn what they need, what they want and what is bothering them about the workplace currently. This may be hard to hear at first, but with accurate action items, you can craft recognition programs that solve your specific challenges.

In addition, send out anonymous employee surveys and have managers directly report their opinions on the culture. The more information you get from employees, the more impactful your program is likely to be.

• Focus on spot recognition.

The traditional channels for recognition include team meetings, company gatherings or work emails. However, many healthcare professionals don’t attend those meetings or aren’t at a work computer often. Spot recognition allows managers and colleagues to recognize employees on the spot, at any time. For example, if you see a nurse going above and beyond with a patient, or a receptionist showing great patience, you can recognize their efforts right then and there.

Digital recognition platforms can also allow you to write quick messages for spot recognition, but for those who aren’t in front of a computer, consider offline recognition, such as handwritten cards.

• Allow departments to create their own programs.

Each department has their own needs, processes and KPIs. Whether it’s IT, Patient Safety, Emergency, Finance, etc., let the leadership from each department create programs that best recognize and reward their people.

• Empower wellness.

As mentioned above, the healthcare industry is riddled with stress, burnout and anxiety. So create recognition programs that empower employees to find solutions for these feelings. Here are some examples:

• Reimbursed therapy costs.

• Paid volunteer programs for those who give to the community.

• Stipend for gym memberships, fitness equipment, etc.

• Wellness incentives, where those who participate in striving for their wellness goals get rewarded.

These programs are less about recognizing the results people get and more about recognizing the people for being human. We all have the right to feel cared for and supported at work, and wellness programs can help.

Changing The Trajectory Of Healthcare

Healthcare professionals have been fighting for not just the health of their patients but also their own well-being since before 2020. Turnover, disengagement and burnout are rampant, but recognition programs—customized to employee wants and needs—can help stem the tide. See how you can cut back on turnover, improve wellness and transform culture with employee recognition.

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