Book Excerpt: The Importance of Recognition and Reward Programs

Nurse Leader Insider, June 28, 2018

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Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from Nurse Manager's Guide to Retention and Recruitment.

Staff recognition is an important component of nurse leadership, because it lets staff know that their work is valued and appreciated. Recognition gives your staff a sense of ownership and belonging in their place of work; this in turn improves morale and enhances loyalty. Hospitals today are very stressful work environments; through recognition, leaders build a supportive culture that will improve staff retention.

 Managers don’t need an overly formal process for recognition; spontaneity is also important and can send a strong message. Timing and immediate feedback is incredibly valuable: the closer recognition is to an action, the more the staff will associate that recognition with the desired/expected behavior. Spontaneous recognition can be as simple as walking by a staff member, observing a desired behavior, and commenting on how much you appreciate it. These informal moments and interactions are invaluable, and they can reinforce your staff’s desire to do a good job.

If you make it a point to do staff rounding daily, you will have more opportunities to catch staff doing the right things and share those moments of recognition with them.

Formal Recognition
Part of the challenge of recognizing staff performance is understanding its importance and making it a priority; taking the time to think about it and doing it as often as possible. Creating a structure for formal staff recognition in organizations, departments, and units can ensure staff get recognized on an ongoing basis.

One way to accomplish this is as simple as designating a week or month of the year as a time that staff contributions are recognized (Many managers use Nurses’ Week as a yearly recognition).  Including this practice as part of your monthly staff meetings is a great way to recognize behaviors that you want all staff to emulate.  Develop an employee-of-the-month program or employee-of-the-year lunch or breakfast that provides an opportunity for staff members on all shifts to participate.

When it comes to staff recognition, managers must identify what is important and meaningful to the staff member. Not all staff are comfortable with public recognition in front of a large audience and would shudder at the thought of having to walk across the stage of an auditorium; they might prefer private recognition such as a simple hand-written thank you note. There are many ways managers can recognize their staff members.

Here are a few ideas for formal staff recognition activities:

  • public employee/organization forums
  • staff meetings
  • annual staff dinners
  • organization newsletters
  • put a plaque on a wall
  • surprising them with lunch celebrations
  • meet them at their car at the end of the day with a thank-you note
  • special assigned parking space for a month
  • a poster in the lobby
  • a spot on the organization website.

The ideas are endless, and so is the potential for creativity. Use your imagination and draw on the ideas of coworkers and those who know the staff member best. Form a council, committee, or task force of peers and team members to share their insights regarding how to best show recognition.

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