How to Create a Recognition Rich Culture as a Retention Strategy

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Recognition Rich CultureHuman beings want to feel recognized, valued, and to believe they make a difference. They want recognition by their organization; their leader, and their peers. When employees don’t receive meaningful recognition, they leave. Healthcare professionals are not different.  We know that NOW more than ever before. We’re still in the middle of the Great Resignation and in healthcare, we can’t afford to lose any more team members! In 2021, healthcare turnover increased by 6.4%. This attributed to hospitals losing on average $7.1 million due to turnover. Creating a recognition rich culture isn’t just a “nice to do” – it’s a non-negotiable if you want to retain and engage employees.

Is a Recognition Rich Culture a Priority in Your Organization?

According to a 2022 report by Gallup-Workhuman, 81% of leaders indicated “recognition is not a strategic priority at their organization”. Only 40% of employees indicate they receive recognition a few times a year or less from leaders. In 2021, McKinsey surveyed 400 nurses and 51% of them indicated they may leave their organization because they don’t feel heard or supported at work. That’s right, don’t feel valued because recognition is not a strategic priority for some organizations. When recognition is not a priority, turnover rises and cohesion and engagement decline. To further reinforce the importance of recognition, Gallup-Workhuman shared that 5-year employee retention increases when:

Recognition needs are fulfilled – 68%

Life events are recognized – 66%

Recognition is authentic – 65%

Work milestones are recognized – 63%

Recognition is equitable – 63%

Recognition is embedded in culture – 63%

Teams and groups are recognized – 62%

People work for money but go the extra mile for recognition, praise, and rewards. ~ Dale Carnegie

If you want to create a recognition-rich culture, where do you start?

How to Create a Recognition-Rich Culture if You’re a Department Leader

If you’re a front-line leader, the first action you need to take is to find out what recognition means to your employees. The worst thing you can do is assume you know how your employees want to be recognized only to find that it backfires and makes things worse.

One of the leaders in our Healthy Workforce Academy shared that to recognize her employees, she ordered pizza one evening on her way home from work only to find that her staff were complaining because the pizza was delivered cold, the delivery person forgot to bring half of the pizza’s and it came right after shift change so the staff she wanted to “recognize” didn’t even get a piece!

Good intentions – bad outcome.

We often hear from frontline leaders that they have good intentions, but either they don’t know what to do or that their plates are just too full! They can’t add one more thing to it. To complicate things, their teams are vastly different, and they expect different things. They have expressed their frustration that no matter what they do to show appreciation, their teams complain.

If you want to figure out a way to incorporate recognition without tipping over your plate, begin with finding out how your employees like to be recognized.  Do you know how your team likes to receive recognition?

Food is not always the answer.

Leaders need to understand how each member of their team wants to be recognized and acknowledged. Once you know what they want, you must act! Taking a few minutes in your day to recognize and acknowledge your team is vital if you want to retain them. Getting employee recognition right is worth your time.

If You’re an Executive Who Wants to Create a Recognition Rich Culture in Your Organization

Recognition starts at the top when executives believe that their people are their greatest asset and act accordingly. Creating a recognition rich culture is possible even in large organizations. Here is a framework you can use to get started.

  • Be Specific. As mentioned earlier, identify how your team members want to be recognized and acknowledged – don’t just wing it. International recognition expert, Sarah McVanel, has a great tool you can have your team complete to help you understand how they want to be recognized: Recognition & Motivation Checklist.

  • Include everyone. Involve EVERYONE throughout the organization, including senior leadership, to participate in the recognition and appreciation of all team members. YES, this means the CNO, CEO, frontline, and support staff are ALL vital in promoting a recognition rich culture! And don’t forget to encourage everyone to look outside of their units! Inspire team members to look at the interprofessional team and appreciate them for a “job well done”.

  • Be Timely and Frequent. A recognition rich culture begins on day one of employment and not only once a year during “appreciation weeks”. Some employees may want to be recognized and acknowledged a few times a month while others may want to be recognized less frequently.

Make it a goal to say something positive when you first walk into the organization/unit AND before you leave for the day.  It can be as simple as walking down the hall, and the first person you see, acknowledging and thank them for how they are contributing to the organization.  Don’t know what to say? Sarah McVanel has some great recognition openers that everyone can use to start an appreciation-focused conversation.

  • Make it Significant. Take a few minutes during huddles, monthly meetings, etc. to celebrate what’s important to your team members (look at their checklist!). It only takes a moment to recognize birthdays, milestones, graduations, and upcoming retirements. AND don’t forget to celebrate unit-based improvements like no-call outs, HCHAP scores, engagement scores, and patient safety achievements. Recognizing significant events will boost your team’s engagement.

  • Incorporate Values & Norms. Make sure you link your organization’s core values and department norms to the recognition. Acknowledge how your team members are making a difference and contributing to the values and norms. This is a culture building strategy and reinforces positive behaviors!
  • Keep it Simple. Keep the recognition and acknowledgements simple. Not every recognition or acknowledgment needs to be an elaborate event. Anyone can celebrate in the moment by just “Saying It” to an individual or team. Uttering the words “You’re Awesome!” or “Great Job” positively impacts an individual’s day. One of my clients created a POP award, which stands for “Positive Outstanding Peer” award. Each time the award is given out, the unit will get to enjoy something “pop” related (popcorn, soda pop, popsicle, lollypop, etc.). Check it out here to learn more about this creative award.   

Recognition Framework

Recognition Rich Culture

Recognition is a powerful motivator, more so than money, especially when it is valued by everyone. Commit today to make a recognition rich culture a strategic priority for your department and organization, beyond the bagels. Make it the norm to authentically recognize and acknowledge each team member. Encourage everyone to speak up and acknowledge one another during huddles, meetings, shift changes, etc., until it becomes a habit. One meaningful act of recognition, given to just one person, will create a wave that everyone in your organization will want to ride.

Fostering a recognition rich culture takes a village!  It needs to come from everyone, be frequent, sincere, and specific. You won’t regret it! A recognition rich culture cultivates a healthy workforce and therefore, has the potential to reduce turnover, foster cohesion, improve morale and satisfaction, and boost employee engagement. 

To learn how you can reduce incidents of bullying and incivility in your organization, contact us at [email protected].

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