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Use Technology and the Human Touch to Build a Culture of Recognition

By Tiffany Pratt , MSHR, Corporate By HR Director, Orlando Health South Seminole Hospital

Tiffany Pratt , MSHR, Corporate By HR Director, Orlando Health South Seminole Hospital

Praising a colleague’s good work seems like such a normal thing to do, but statistics showthat it does not happen as often as it should. This is a problem because recognition and appreciationare vital inbuilding a work environment thatmakes us excited to walk in the door every day. And in today’s economy, with competition for the best talent so intense, ensuring your organization has a strong recognition culture is more important than ever.

If you want to build and maintain a vibrant recognition culture, not only do you need to establish a meaningful framework for providing praise and recognition to those who deserve it, you need to measure it and track it over time. Fortunately, there are some powerful technological tools available to help you do this.

Recognition is not all about money. Simple thank-yous and public acknowledgment of deserving work are some of the most valuable forms of recognition an employee can receive. And yet, structured approaches to recognitionare not anywhere near as common as you would think. Recent research fromAshley Whillans of the Harvard Business School finds that “more than 80 percent of American employees say they do not feel recognized or rewarded, despite the fact that US companies are spending more than a fifth of their budgets on wages.”

Part of the problem is frequency. You cannot thank an employee once or twice a year and expect they will feel appreciated. In fact, behavioral research conducted by Press Ganey recommends recognizing each team member in the form of a thank you at least once every seven days. While that signifies a challenge, it also offers savvy employers an important opportunity: Organizations that incorporate strong employee recognition programs will have a competitive advantage when it comes to recruiting and retaining top talent.

Workplace recognition motivates people. Employees feel a sense of accomplishment and that their work is valued. Recognizing employees for their work not only increases engagement, there is a body of evidence that showsit increases productivity and loyalty to the company, leading to higher retention.

In order to establish a meaningful and effective culture of recognition, it needs to be structured, and it needs to be measured. At Orlando Health and at my hospital, Orlando Health South Seminole, we need to compete globally, which sets the bar quite high. So, we begin talking about recognition during new employee orientation and then carry on from there.

If you are going to manage something and improve it, you must measure it. So, we have a third-party vendor conduct a biennial survey of our employees to gather feedback on all sorts of topics, including recognition. Then, to help us understand and interpret this data, we created an Ambassador Program. The Ambassadors are representatives from the pharmacy, lab, operating rooms, emergency department–all of the different clinical and non-clinical areas of the hospital. The president of the hospital, Shawn Molsberger, and I meet monthly with all the Ambassadors to discuss the employee survey, feedback and other input. And we have received really useful feedback around the types of recognition employees feel is meaningful.

By virtue of this data we know that milestone celebrations like birthdays, work anniversaries and special recognition weeks for each of our 58 departments are valued by our employees. But the most impactful recognitions are those that come from peers and supervisors for specific achievements. At Orlando Health we are using technology to facilitate peer-to-peer recognition and to measure it. We have developed a system called Applause Central that not only helps colleagues send thank-yous and praise for jobs well done, it also enables us to track and measure how strong our recognition culture is.

For example, during our last fiscal year, 106,000 team-member recognitions were issued through Applause Central.

We provide leaders with additional tools by allocating them Applause Central funds they can use to recognize and reward above-and-beyond efforts with Honors – monetary awards that can be redeemed on Applause Central for gift cards and certificates. Last year, leaders awarded team members with more than 7,500 Honors awards.

In addition to Honors, we have a system in which peers can send “kudos” to each other. Last year, team members sent more than 81,600 kudos.

Besides providing a handy way for sending praise, leaders have access to reporting from within the platform that tallies the recognitions that their team members have sent and received. Leaders are encouraged to use this reporting during one-on-one meetings and coaching plans as an opportunity to further highlight recognition.

Building a structured approach to recognizing and encouraging employee performance is now a necessity if you are going to attract and retain the best people. And using technology to generate and measure data can make your program more focused and more effective.

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