12 healthcare leaders on the best, most efficient way to recognize employees

Becker's Hospital Review asked readers to share the best or most efficient way to recognize employees. Readers shared various methods, from handwritten notes to award ceremonies. Read their responses below.

Heather Brace
Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer of Intermountain Healthcare (Salt Lake City)

"Recognition is not a 'one size fits all' approach. Everyone likes to be recognized in different ways — some public, some private. The best thing a leader can do is make a personal and genuine connection with their employees and understand how to recognize them in a meaningful way. At the end of the day, everyone wants to feel valued and know that the work they do is meaningful and connected to a higher purpose."      

Robert Brooks
COO of Erlanger Health System (Chattanooga, Tenn.)

"For employees that are raised up as going above and beyond, I like to immediately at the employee's next shift do executive rounds in their department and thank them for their excellence."

Dallis Howard-Crow
Chief Human Resources Officer of UCHealth (Aurora, Colo.)

"Employees often say, 'The best recognition is a thank you.' At UCHealth, we encourage recognition in many different ways — peer to peer, leader to staff and nominations to recognize the extraordinary efforts of our employees.

"We have designed a system that allows for all of these types of recognition in a one stop location on our employee website. On this site, employees can send each other e-cards that range from 'Thank you' to 'Congratulations' to even a simple 'Thinking of you, I hope you have a great day.' Leadership can recognize staff or even recognize staff of our vendor partners. We tie this recognition to our service standards, reminding us why we are here each and every day for our patients and for each other. Additionally, this site allows us to nominate those efforts that go the extra step for individuals or teams."

Jim Dunn, PhD
Chief Human Resources Officer of Atrium Health (Charlotte, N.C.)

"In the midst of an industry in constant evolution and transformation, it's more important than ever to recognize and appreciate our teammates who give of themselves each day to care and serve our patients and communities. At Atrium Health, we understand the value of both peer-to-peer and leader-to-team member recognition and have a streamlined digital recognition platform with a variety of easy ways to express appreciation for any of our 38,000 teammates — from a simple birthday or anniversary eCard, to monetary compensation for work that is above and beyond their normal duties. But for us, the most effective and ultimately efficient way to recognize employees is to build a culture where all teammates feel valued and a strong tie to our mission and vision. We encourage and empower leaders to get to know their teammates so well that they understand the kind of recognition that will make each individual on their team feel most appreciated for their amazing work."

Aaron Gillingham
Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer of Beaumont Health (Southfield, Mich.)

"Efficient isn't always the most effective. In my career, some of the most effective forms of recognition I've received have been in the form of a handwritten note. Just recently, I received a letter from a board member appreciating me and another leader for our work on a project. The first thing I did was take a picture of it and sent it to my wife (it's contagious). Finally, it is important to ensure that the recognition is frequent, specific and timely (from the book, 'The Carrot Principle')."

Jan Keys, DNP, RN
Chief Nursing Executive of Erlanger Health System (Chattanooga, Tenn.)

"The most efficient way to recognize employees is to thank them in person while spending some time with them in their job. Listening to the employees will gain insight to their everyday challenges and allow them to bring life to what they do to make things work. It does take time but in the end is very rewarding for both employee and manager."

Michael Pulido
COO of Mosaic Life Care (St. Joseph, Mo.)

"The most efficient way to recognize employees is to be specific and sincere. I have found these attributes help clarify the action that was recognized and will more likely be repeated, valued and appreciated if done with authenticity."

Cory Reeves
CFO of Gordon Hospital (Calhoun, Ga.)

"I do think you have to know your employees individually to be able to recognize them … One person might like to be called out in front of a room and thanked, where that might be horribly embarrassing to another person … They're going to more like having an afternoon off with their family or something much different. So, I think you have to tailor that to individual employees and their needs."

Deeb Salem, MD
Co-Interim CEO of Tufts Medical Center and Physician-in-Chief at Tufts Medical Center (Boston)

"Holding award ceremonies honoring excellent employees, that are attended by their peers."

Bob Sutton
President and CEO of Avera Health (Sioux Falls, S.D.)

"For us, it's not as much about efficiency as authenticity. I have been traveling to each of our regional hospitals to just listen to everyone from physicians and nurses, to IT and imaging technicians, to food service and housekeeping staff. My mom was a single parent who worked hard as a janitor and housekeeper as she raised seven kids. So, I make a point of spending time with housekeepers at each facility I visit. They know a lot about how our organization functions at the front lines of patient care and service, and they are more valuable to our everyday operations than they realize."

Warner Thomas
President and CEO of Ochsner Health System (New Orleans)

"I personally feel the best way to recognize employees is to send them a quick note, just recognizing what they've done or their importance to the organization … If there is a specific patient compliment we get or a letter I might get from a patient, I think a note directly to the physician or the nurse or the caregiver is a great way to recognize people. And, I actually send them directly to their home versus sending them interoffice … I've just gotten amazing feedback from people on doing that, so that's how I like to recognize people."

Jack Towsley
President of Fluent Health, a subsidiary of Presbyterian Healthcare Services (Albuquerque, N.M.)

"Start with saying 'thank you' regularly and consistently. There is no 'one size fits all' way to recognize all employees as everyone is different. Some people appreciate public accolades, while others appreciate private conversations, which is why I believe recognition works best at the individual level. This requires a leader to spend enough time with employees to become familiar with their individual needs and desires and match the recognition to that style."



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