Employee recognition programs: What really works is free!

June 1, 2016

As the administrator for a large allergy practice, we have used a variety of employee recognition programs. We encourage and reward “on the spot” exceptional service by giving WOW cards to employees from a supervisor/allergist, through peer-to peer recognition or through positive comments from a patient. We also do a quarterly drawing so that every employee has the opportunity to be recognized for achieving some service standard (e.g. positive comments or WOW cards, no absences, etc.). All of these are tied to a financial gift, whether it is a gift card, paid time off or a bonus added to their paycheck.

 In addition, we conduct an annual electronic, anonymous employee survey on a variety of practice issues to gather feedback on the success of these programs. Based on survey results, we have implemented, changed or eliminated programs over the years. Without a doubt, it’s important to employees to be recognized. But we miss the boat thinking employees only want financial recognition in gift cards or free hours off of work. We miss the boat thinking that the raise given to the employee every year is sufficient recognition for a job well done. We miss the boat if we don’t recognize the very basic motivating factor is 100 percent free — for the employee to feel appreciated.

Do you ever stop at the end of your day to say to your clinic team — “We had a tough day and you all really stayed focused. Thank you.” Do you ever walk up to the front desk clerk and say — “Sarah, I heard the phones were crazy today. Thanks for hanging in there.” Do you ever walk back to your billing clerk and say — “Mary, you have a really tough job. I appreciate how well you handle our patients on the phone.” As allergists, you are thanked countless times each day from patients. But are you, in turn, saying “thank you” to the team that supports you — and not just a quick “thanks and bye” but a look-you-in-the-eye “thanks for a great job today?”

Our employee surveys have been loud and clear about the importance of feeling appreciated — it has nothing to do with recognition programs and everything to do with hearing it in person. Like other practices, we have allergists who find it easy to verbally communicate appreciation and others who struggle with this. If you struggle, look for an opportunity throughout your practice to say it once a day. Put it on a sticky note or send an email. Write the employee a personal note. Any form of ‘thank you’ is better than none, but the key is to make it personal. Strive to become an allergist that can really motivate with appreciation, not just financial gifts. It’s free, it works and I thank you.

Kay Tyler, MBA, chief executive officer, Family Allergy & Asthma