How Baystate's revamped social recognition program cut staff turnover

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Hospitals are facing higher turnover rates than ever before, forcing managers to scramble to improve retention and employee morale as the demand for talent rises.

According to the 2019 National Healthcare Retention Report, the average turnover for all positions in the healthcare industry is 19.1 percent. This rate, based on data from 2018, set a new record high for the last decade, and ranks healthcare among the industries with the highest turnover rate.

Despite that trend, Springfield, Mass.-based Baystate Health, was able to reduce its turnover rate by introducing a peer-to-peer social recognition program, "Baystate Celebrates!"

The executive who oversaw the revamp of Baystate's social recognition program was Jennifer Faulkner, Baystate's vice president of team member experience and talent management.

"My position has evolved over the last several years as we have learned the importance of creating a positive, mission-driven culture for our staff," Ms. Faulkner told Becker's in a recent interview. "We have been designing engagement strategies and culture transformation projects to support the needs of our workforce. This specific program gives them the recognition they deserve."

The revamp of a social recognition program

Under the leadership of Ms. Faulkner, Baystate revamped its social recognition program from a paper-intensive process to an online program accessible via an app or computer.

"In the past we had a paper-based recognition program that had some limitations. It saw its sunset naturally during a time of fiscal restraint in our organization," Ms. Faulkner said. "But we took some time off to develop a vision for recognition … and a better program that delivered the impact we needed."

In 2019 alone, Baystate had more than 34,000 actions recognized through the revamped program, Ms. Faulker said. 

How the new peer-to-peer program works

The way the new program works is simple, Ms. Faulkner said, and anyone in the organization can nominate and recognize peers.

When a staff member in the organization sees something they want to recognize one of their colleagues for, they can simply go to the system online or access the Baystate Celebrates mobile app.

Once online, the nominating employee selects the company value that he or she believes the receiving employee embodied and answers a series of questions that help recommend a "level of recognition." 

There are five levels of awards as well as a standard shoutout that employees can give and receive, Ms. Faulkner said. 

The standard shoutout, without a monetary component, is the most typical form of award. This is essentially an "E-thank you" that recognizes the staff member for his or her action. 

There are also five other levels tied to a monetary value ranging from $10 to $250, Ms. Faulkner said.

Every employee can recognize and give the lower-level awards, but the higher awards are reserved for managers to give their direct reports, Ms. Faulkner said.

In addition to peer-to-peer nominations, the program also allows patients to nominate a caregiver and gives employees an avenue to write kudos to colleagues ahead of key work anniversaries.

Once an employee submits the nomination, the software Baystate uses automatically generates an email that is sent to the recognized employee. In addition, anyone who works closely with that specific staff member also can see those recognition moments in a live newsfeed on the platform and comment on them, Ms. Faulkner said.

The results

The revamped social recognition program, now in its fifth year, has paid off for Baystate, Ms. Faulkner said. 

Baystate saw its turnover rate drop to zero percent for the 40 physicians who received at least three awards in 2018, compared to a 6 percent physician turnover otherwise.

In addition, Baystate saw its turnover rate for its direct care nurses at its academic medical center drop again this year to 10.6 percent, compared to 12.1 percent in 2018. 

"This puts us in the top quartile for nursing turnover compared to national benchmarking," Ms. Faulkner said.

Since implementing the program, Baystate now scores in the 99th percentile in the New England region and 78th percentile nationally for employee recognition.

"We've turned the corner on recognition and are starting to see the impact the program has show up in some of our numbers," Ms. Faulkner said.

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