Best Practices for Developing an Employee Recognition Program

Developing and implementing an employee recognition program in any setting, including a hospital or health system, can be a huge driver for employee engagement and satisfaction. In fact, in "Building a Magnetic Culture," by Kevin Sheridan, recognition is listed as the top driver of culture (McGraw-Hill, 2012).

If done well, employee recognition programs can promote the core values and beliefs of a hospital while building a more engaged employee base, according to Jeffrey Fina, chief business development officer of Michael C. Fina, an employee reward and recognition provider. "An organization can say to an employee, if you live up to our beliefs and values, we have a program in place that will recognize you in a proper way," he says.

Total recognition programs should be balanced between performance-based and value-based initiatives, which will differ hospital to hospital, but the programs should be comprised of three elements: formal, informal and day-to-day recognition.

•    Formal recognition. This element is extremely organized recognition, such as recognizing employees who have so many years of service at the organization. This can involve congratulatory emails, gifts, a certificate and a banquet. Another type of formal recognition is a president's award. "It's a formalized program, not uptight but it has a formalized process behind it," Mr. Fina explains.
•    Informal recognition. "Informal criteria is focused on manager interaction [and] engagement at the employee level," says Mr. Fina. This may include peer-to-peer and manager-to-employee recognition nominations, as well as spot nominations, he says.
•    Day-to-day recognition. Day-to-day recognition is even more informal than informal recognition. This can be anything from sending thank you notes or emails to employees to holding the door open. "It's a part of everyday life," Mr. Fina says.

Overall, these three elements make up a total recognition program if looked at in a strategic way. "If you don't have a strategy, all it is is a disregarded program that never gets traction…and stalls out and dies," says Mr. Fina. "Look at them all together, cohesively as a strategy and what the strategy is trying to accomplish."

Beyond looking at the recognition program strategically, here are three more best practices for hospitals that want to implement a total recognition program for their employees.

Declare a project team. Establishing ownership of the program within the hospital is an important step to developing and implementing an employee recognition program. The team should be cross-functional, incorporating all of the hospital's different units and the IT department as well, according to Mr. Fina. The team can discuss what the recognition program should emphasize, like certain performance metrics that can be improved with help from the program.

Allocate a budget. Even though times are tough financially for many hospitals and health systems and it may be difficult to justify putting money into an employee recognition program, there is much to be gained from the initial costs. "It can't be looked at as a cost," Mr. Fina says. "This is something that has to be viewed as a strategic investment in organizational culture, people and employees."

Emphasize the launch. The launch of the employee recognition program needs to be celebrated with an exciting event to get everyone involved early. "[They] need to be excited to participate," says Mr. Fina. It is also helpful to tie an incentive to the launch. Building up to the actual launch event, the program can be communicated through lunch and learn sessions, posters and email blasts, Mr. Fina suggests.

More Articles on Hospital Employees:
3 Must Haves for Sustainable Employee Engagement
5 Common Hiring Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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