Healthcare: Impact of Employee Recognition

To sufficiently deliver on the promise of healthcare outcomes, medical institutions must place greater importance on employee experiences and align them with hospital and patient outcomes. Providing your top talents with the latest medical equipment is important, but it’s not what protects employees from occupational burnout. 

Even a sufficient work-life balance doesn’t help medical professionals remain engaged and motivated when an organization fails to set an environment that is positive and safe in all respects for all employees. 

But what does it take? Let’s take a closer look. This article will showcase how social psychology and modern HR tech help organizations retain and develop their human capital.

The cost of employee turnover in healthcare

Unfortunately, healthcare organizations consistently hold the top ranking for the percentage of employee turnover. Today, the cost of healthcare worker replacement might reach 200% of annual salary because both types of expenses linked to resignation are quite high: 

  • Direct (for things like separation procedures, agency fees, training) 
  • Indirect losses (due to possible downtime, reduced quality of care an understaffed team can provide, and decreased staff morale and engagement) 

As of the first half of 2023, the NSI National Health Care Retention & RN Staffing Report revealed that the overall average hospital turnover percentage reached 22.7%. For all specializations of staff registered nurses, this indicator is 22.5% on average. The average replacement cost for a registered nurse in the US is $52,350.

The nature of work in the healthcare industry makes employees prone to occupational burnout, which is one of the top factors leading to high levels of departures. 

While we can’t make working in healthcare less demanding, making it more rewarding is not as hard and as expensive as one might think.

How recognition in healthcare impacts employee retention

The nurse retention rate is fundamental to improving business results and HCAHPS scores. Besides that, nurses are the most well-studied category of healthcare workers regarding their attitudes towards work and job satisfaction. 

With certain reservations, the results of sociological studies conducted among nurses could be extrapolated to other categories of healthcare workers.

Study after study showcase how staff recognition in healthcare increase or decrease job satisfaction and the intent to leave:

  • Peer-to-peer nurse collaboration (check the research here)
  • Frequent recognition from managers (check the research here)
  • Regular 360° recognition via a unified employee engagement platform (check the study here)
  • Conscious approach to shaping the hospital culture (check the research here)

A positive workplace culture is directly influenced by your recognition strategy

Improvements in workplace culture deliver tangible benefits that impact HCAHPS scores, employee retention, and ultimately, patient satisfaction.

Implementing a strategic recognition program that is aligned with your values and objectives is a key driver to improving workplace culture and employee engagement. Engaged healthcare workers deliver:

  • Satisfied patients – drives hospital growth
  • Innovation – keeps your organization ahead of the competition 
  • Initiative – inspires employees to create a responsible, autonomous workforce
  • Extra effort – drives employee satisfaction resulting in productivity gains

Recognition programs impact turnover healthcare employee experience. A well-designed and implemented program will improve the employee experience, align behaviors, and ultimately deliver improved patient experiences.

Link between healthcare employee experience and patient satisfaction

The link between employee recognition and patient satisfaction is clear. Studies completed by both Gallup and Towers-Watson highlight a direct correlation between employee engagement and patient satisfaction, and showed that engaged employees score 10% higher on HCAHPS surveys. This is further supported by an earlier JHACO study, finding a direct correlation between employee morale and patient satisfaction. 

Additionally, nurse communications is a key driver for higher patient satisfaction scores. According to Health IT Outcomes, nurse communication has “the greatest impact on patient satisfaction.” Nurse appreciation and feedback improves communication with patients.


Tips for designing an effective rewards and recognition program in healthcare

The format for employee recognition programs vary according to the technological, operational, and cultural attributes of each organization. Common across all successful recognition programs are a combination of recognition, appreciation, and feedback elements aligned to the goals and objectives of the organization. 

Programs may include: Peer Recognition, Manager Monetary Awards, Years-of-Service, Performance Awards, and Special Accolades (e.g., ‘President’s Award’). Sophisticated healthcare systems are adding programs such as: Shift Incentives, Wellness Awards, Safety Awards, and Employee Referral Rewards to build out holistic and unified reward and recognition platforms.

Given today’s technologically sophisticated population and the influence of Millennials (+Gen Y & Z), valued recognition programs need to be mobile, unified, accessible, social, and meaningful. 

According to the Harvard Business Review: “The compounding effect of patient experience and employee engagement on business outcomes should command the attention of health care leaders.” Recognition is an inexpensive and highly impactful means to influence retention and acquisition rates, and the overall patient experience.

Your employees will better serve your patients and provide superior service when supported by a strategically planned and implemented recognition program. Your employee recognition platform does not require significant investment dollars and may be achievable with already budgeted funds. Building a culture of recognition in your healthcare organization will lead to a more highly engaged workforce, improved patient experiences, and better overall results.

Recognition is an inexpensive and highly impactful means to influence retention and acquisition rates, and the overall patient experience.


  • “Business Case/Cost of Nurse Turnover” NFIB. “10 Tips for Asking Good Exit Interview Questions” 2016
  • Lipman, Victor. “Study Explores Drivers of Employee Engagement” Forbes, 2012.
  • David G. Allen. “Retaining Talent.” Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2008.
  • Gallup Consulting. “Strengthening Care Through Engagement.” 2009.
  • Nohria, Nitin. “Employee Motivation – A Powerful New Model.” Harvard Business Review – OnPoint Fall 2015: 86-93
  • Watson, Towers. “Global Workforce Study.” 2012.
  • JHACO. “Health Care at the Crossroads.” 2005
  • Health IT Outcomes. “Effective Nurse Communication Key To Patient Satisfaction In Health Care System.” 2012
  • Harvard Business Review. “When Patient Experience and Employee Engagement Both Improve, Hospitals’ Ratings and Profits Climb.” 2019

Related articles

The Impact Of Employee Engagement In Healthcare

Burnout or Quiet Quitting? Combatting Dysfunctional Trends With Workplace Programs

Creating a Workplace Culture of Feedback and Recognition



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