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Healthcare: Impact of Employee Recognition

To be competitive, retain top talent, and deliver on the promise of healthcare outcomes, it is no longer sufficient to just provide the latest medical equipment and facilities and employ the best staff. In this environment, healthcare organizations must place greater importance on the employee experiences and align them with hospital and patient outcomes.

Recognition Impacts Culture

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 loyalty.

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 employees 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 and the employee experience. A well-designed and implemented program will improve the employee experience, align behaviors, and ultimately deliver improved patient experiences.

The Cost of Nurse Turnover Nurse retention is a fundamental enabler to improving business results and HCAHPS scores. According to RWJF.org, the cost of replacing a registered nurse ranges from $22,000 to $64,000. With estimated national annual turnover rates ranging from 8% to 14%, recognition is a key enabler to improving your hospital culture and reducing turnover costs

According to a 2016 NFIB study, one of the most common reasons for employees leaving is lack of recognition and feeling unappreciated.

“The cost of replacing a registered nurse ranges from $22,000 to $64,000.”

The Cost of Nurse Turnover

Link to 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. 


Recognition Program Design

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 recognition program 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.”

Recognition Impacts the Patient Experience

RWJF.org.   “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



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