A Carrot A Day: Reward to Retain the Best Staff

Using Reward and Recognition to Attract and Retain the Best People

A review of A Carrot A Day: A Daily Dose of Recognition for Your Employees by Adrian Gostick, & Chester Elton

by Molly Weisse-Bernstein and Pamela Weisse, Coleman Associates

Staff turnover is a significant and costly problem for healthcare organizations all over the country. It may surprise you to learn that one big factor in why people change jobs is because of a lack of recognition for their accomplishments. In addition, only three in ten staff members feel an obligation to stay with their current employer, and only four in ten believe that their organization shows genuine concern for its staff. What are your staff saying about your organization?

Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor of organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, states: “All that separates you from your competitors are the skills, knowledge, commitment and abilities of the people who work for you. There is a compelling business case for this idea: Companies that manage people right will outperform companies who don’t by 30 to 40 percent.”

And how can you get improvements in performance of 30 to 40 percent? One of the most basic and effective tactics of all is often the most overlooked: recognition. It’s exceedingly rare to find health care managers who know how to use recognition and reward effectively with the people they manage. This failure is causing good people to leave your organization in droves.

Why don’t managers reward and praise? Here are five top excuses garnered from A Carrot A Day.

  1. “I don’t have the time.”
  2. “I don’t have the budget for recognition.”
  3. “My people get their recognition in their paychecks-that’s enough!”
  4. “They’ll just expect more praise!”
  5. “I shouldn’t have to reward people for just doing their jobs.”


A Ten-Week “Recognition Plan”

Forget the excuses. Make your clinic or department a place where peoples’ accomplishments are celebrated. In ten short weeks, you can establish a “culture of recognition” in your organization. But as with any new habit, it will take practice to establish recognition as “the way we do things here”.

Here’s what you do. Every week for the next ten weeks, pick five of the suggestions from the list below, and try all five of them every day. Each week, take note of what worked well and what didn’t work well with your staff. Each week, try five new ways.

At the end of ten weeks, you will have come up with 15 to 30 very effective ways of recognizing your staff, and the results of your campaign should be evident.

When implemented strategically, performance awards advance the goals of the organization by rewarding behaviors that support the organization’s goals. And a successful recognition program encourages the loyalty of your oranization’s most highly performing staff. When you think about it, there’s every reason to make recognition a top management priority.


Fifty Ways to Effectively Recognize Staff

    1. Greet staff at the door & tell them you’re glad to see them. Have coffee & bagels to show you mean it.
    2. Be specific: don’t say “good job”, say “I liked how you handled that patient who was so upset.”
    3. Send an email to your boss praising a staff member for a job well done. Be specific in your praise.
    4. Hand out a Starbucks gift card or some movie tickets for a job well done.
    5. When having a meeting with the CEO or other top level administrator, take along a staff member in recognition of her efforts & let her describe what she did.
    6. Make sure informal recognition occurs within earshot of other staff members.
    7. Ask staff for their opinions on projects you’re working on-and let them know if their suggestions are used.
    8. Ask a staff member before your next staff meeting to recognize someone else for their accomplishments.
    9. During new employee orientation, mention that there’s a recognition “culture”. Follow through by giving a small award to a new employee for an achievement during the first few weeks on the job.
    10. Make recognition visible and predictable.
    11. “If you measure it, people will do it. If you measure it and reward it, people will do it in spades. If what you measure matches up with the corporate goals and strategies, the company will be successful.” So says Howard Weizmann, managing consultant of Watson Wyatt Worldwide.
    12. Recognize in public. Criticize in private.
    13. As a reward, take a star staff member to lunch and let him bring 3 or 4 of his favorite coworkers. Make it fun. It’s not about you, it’s about the person you are honoring.Reward innovation. Look for those who, bit by bit, make your organization successful.
    14. Reward innovation.  Look for those who, bit by bit, make your organization successful.
    15. Give staff a stack of thank you cards to recognize each other & patients, too.
    16. A handclasp, a smile, and a word. When you treat people with respect and dignity, you get the best from them. 
    17. Remember special occasions: birthdays, wedding anniversaries, employment anniversaries, Groundhog Day-anything can be celebrated!
    18. Recognize the new mom or dad, new grandma or grandpa.
    19. Make a Working Parent’s Day: as a reward, print a certificate allowing two hours off to attend a school activity without it counting against vacation time.
    20. Reward what is most important: best cycle time for one week, best teamwork, most patient compliments. Set a standard & reward the achievers.
    21. Learn from failure. Celebrate success, but create a climate where staff can come to you without fear when they have failed.
    22. Tailor the award to the recipient. Keep track of what rewards people enjoy-or don’t-and pay attention when giving out subsequent awards.
    23. Reward fitness fanatics by paying for gym dues for a month or grant weekly time off for a month or two without it counting against vacation time.
    24. Make a commotion: form a “recognition band” & grab kazoos, bongos, whistles & other noisemakers to publicly acknowledge a successful staff member.
    25. Be timely, be specific, be sincere, and be prepared when delivering your thank-you’s.
    26. Make a high performer’s day special-don’t wing it when giving out formal awards: prepare remarks, get other coworkers to speak.
    27. Be public about the reasons people get rewarded. Tell staff what’s important. Make it fun & relate it to what’s valued in the workplace & which behaviors garner recognition.
    28. The once-a-week rule: every staff member gets verbal recognition at least once a week for specific actions well done, even small ones.
    29. Have a walking contest & hand out pedometers. Reward the person with the most steps with a “bronzed-shoe” reward.
    30. Listen when staff express concerns, new ideas, or talk about a great program at another facility.
    31. Catch the recognition bug. YOU can recognize anyone YOU want-regardless of your position in the organization.
    32. Write a thank-you note to a coworker who covered you when you had to leave early.
    33. Throw a breakfast party & invite your CEO, COO, CFO (all the C’s!) and champion your champions!
    34. Keep a box of toy tools & hand them out when someone is helpful in “fixing” a problem.
    35. Candy bars have names that lend themselves to recognition: Rocky Road (to reward difficult challenge); Three Musketeers (great teamwork); Milky Way (out-of-this-world service).
    36. Reward an employee with a gift certificate-to a restaurant, to Blockbusters, for a new set of scrubs-the sky’s the limit.
    37. Keep a bulletin board of accomplishments (e.g. Patient Care Teams’ or department’s ), including photos & thank-you’s from patients.
    38. Brag about your department’s work to the executive team.
    39. Offer to present your accomplishments to the city council, county board of directors, family practice department, League of Women Voters!
    40. Take out an ad in the local newspaper extolling the accomplishments of your clinic. Include patient comments.
    41. If you’re a manager, schedule a “praise session” to focus only on the positive things a star staff member does. Resist mightily the urge to discuss areas that need improvement!
    42. Change yourself first. How can you polish up your recognition skills? The slightest change can charge the entire workplace.
    43. Presentation counts. Don’t leave the reward/award on the person’s desk. Don’t hand it to her still in the bag. Perfect it. Make it memorable & inspiring. Don’t apologize for it!
    44. Fill their wallets and their souls. Pay people fairly-money gets them to work. Recognition gets the best out of them at work. Carrots
    45. Give someone 100 roses to celebrate a promotion or exceptional job.
    46. Share the credit-in a presentation, in a speech, when talking to your supervisor, in a staff meeting.
    47. Have a massage therapist come in for a day for back and shoulder rubs. Mmmmmm.
    48. Videotape your highest performing Patient Care Team and use it as a training tape for new employees.
    49. Hire a sky writer to write the name of a star employee in the sky!
    50. Leave a quick voicemail after hours praising your high performer, so she gets the message first thing in the morning. Make it fun. Play some music, give her a laugh to get her day going.


Read A Carrot A Day for 315 more ideas on how to recognize your staff for the good work they are doing. And see what a powerful technique recognition can be when used strategically and consistently.

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