3 Insider Tips for Happier Hospital Employees

Three tips for hospitals to build a successful employee recognition program.

A recent Gallup report found a majority of America's workers — 70 percent — are not engaged in their work.

This is bad news for any industry, since, according to Gallup, companies have higher productivity and profitability, less employee turnover and fewer safety incidents when their employees are engaged.

But for hospitals, the benefits go even further: Having engaged, appreciated employees can lead to increased patient satisfaction scores. Since a portion of hospitals' Medicare reimbursement is tied to patient satisfaction scores in the value-based purchasing program, improved employee engagement has more direct implications for hospitals' bottom lines, says Chris French, vice president of customer success for Globoforce, a leading provider of social recognition solutions.

Though employee engagement is critical for healthcare organizations, it is definitely difficult. Healthcare workers often face compassion fatigue and burnout due to the high-stress nature of their jobs, making engagement tougher.

"From a healthcare perspective, it's particularly important because the workforce is vulnerable, under stress and has to perform at a high level," he says. "When people aren't feeling it, it has a big impact on…the patients."

Instituting an employee recognition platform is one way to effectively boost employee morale and get a workforce more engaged, Mr. French says. The following are some best practices to implementing a recognition program, specifically for hospitals and health systems.

Build on values. Nearly every hospital has a set of values driving everyday actions in the organization. Those values can be the perfect base for an employee recognition program.

"At its essence, leaders believe that if the bulk of employees is showing the values consistently, then they'll get the outcomes they're looking for," he says. "So make sure every recognition is tied to one of those values." Some typical behaviors hospitals tend to focus on are teamwork, communication and going "above and beyond" for patients, according to Mr. French.

Make it peer-driven. Simply put, peers are more likely than executives or managers to see colleagues going above and beyond, so effective employee recognition programs should be easy for peers to access and use and social in nature. For example, making a recognition form accessible via a mobile device is one way to make recognizing a peer quick and easy.

Make a mix of award levels. For best results, programs need flexibility to recognize different types of contributions with differing levels of value, according to Mr. French. For instance, a member of a team who helped drive change over a long time span should likely receive a different level of recognition than someone who helped a lost family member find their way. "If you can distinguish between recognition levels, it can have a sustainable and permanent impact," he says.

Some hospital CFOs may hesitate to put precious capital behind a recognition program, but programs can get great bang for their buck. According to Mr. French, some programs help reduce employee turnover by 10 percent, which represents a huge savings for hospitals, not to mention the possibility of higher Medicare reimbursements for increased patient survey scores.

Making an easily accessible recognition program that's built on values and recognizes various types of behaviors can lead to improved retention and a more engaged workforce for hospitals and health systems — leading not only to happier workplaces, but happier patients as well.

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