6 Reasons Why Employee Recognition is Critical in Healthcare


May 20, 2021

Margaux Morgante

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How can HR professionals in healthcare can facilitate an excellent patient experience? One way is ensuring that their organization's employees are engaged.

Group of healthcare workers chatting about their work. Their organization knows that employee wellbeing is a priority, so they put Kudos in place.

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HR Professionals in healthcare organizations have a complex portfolio of responsibilities. They serve an incredibly diverse group of employees in a wide variety of job functions.

From nurses and physicians to janitors and administrative staff, every employee in a healthcare organization is essential; they all directly affect the patient experience through the care and effort they put into their job.

One way today's HR professionals in healthcare can facilitate an excellent patient experience is by ensuring that their organization's employees are engaged. While employee engagement has many facets, one often overlooked opportunity for health care organizations is employee recognition. Incredible work is being done every day in healthcare and sharing those successes through a platform visible to all can significantly improve employee engagement.

But is the implementation of a formal recognition platform worth it for healthcare organizations? The data and studies show that it is definitely a worthwhile investment and is, in fact, critical to organizational, employee, and patient health.

Here are six specific reasons why healthcare organizations need to prioritize employee engagement through recognition:

1. Healthcare Workers are Burnt Out

Burnout has always been a prominent issue for healthcare workers, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, this issue was especially prevalent. The typical burnout worsened during the pandemic and even led to many healthcare workers reporting feelings of psychological distress. That said, even before the pandemic, a 2016 study by the ECRI Institute found that burnout was a problem for most healthcare workers.

One proven way employers can work to reduce burnout is through recognition. If employees feel seen for their work and appreciated for their efforts, they may feel less inclined to "prove themselves" by working unnecessarily long hours or choosing not to take time off.

2. Engaged Employees are Less Likely to Leave

Turnover is a costly threat to many healthcare organizations today. Beyond the financial cost of turnover (estimated at 33% of the employee's annual salary), there are significant effects on morale and the workload of the remaining employees. When colleagues leave, employees have to say goodbye to a friend, cover their responsibilities and shifts, and train new hires. These effects can create a cycle of turnover, which creates a heavy financial and emotional burden for organizations.

Employee engagement directly affects the likelihood of an employee staying longer. A study reported by Harvard Business Review found that only 17% of highly engaged hospital workers were interested in other employment opportunities versus 43% of the disengaged group. What’s more, Deloitte reported that companies with cultures of recognition have 38% less turnover.

3. Improved Employee and Patient Safety

A study by Gallup revealed that employee engagement directly impacts the number of accidents on the job. The more engaged the employee is, the more likely they are to follow safety protocols and subsequently experience fewer accidents. Recognizing employees for safety will also encourage others to adhere to those same practices.

But even more interesting is that the same Gallup study discovered that engaged employees who operate more safely contribute to enhanced patient safety. Gallup saw a 15% increase in patient safety in the groups studied when their health care team was highly engaged.

4. Reduced Patient Deaths

A common indicator of the quality of medical care at a health care organization is the rate of patient deaths. In a study of over 200 hospitals, Gallup compared patient outcomes to possible contributing factors. The study found that nurse engagement is the No. 1 predictor of mortality across hospitals.

Given these results, it is clear that employee engagement truly is life or death in hospital settings, especially for nurses. The American Nurses Association compiled the following list of activities that encourage nurse engagement, and recognition landed first.

  1. Acknowledge the Work
  2. Provide Support from Leadership
  3. Foster Empathy and Trust
  4. Support Teamwork
  5. Encourage Work/Life Balance
  6. Communication

"Nurse engagement is the No. 1 predictor of mortality across hospitals."

5. Improved Organizational Performance

Organizations with highly engaged employees consistently perform better from an operational and business standpoint. One example of this is improved NPS scores or, for hospitals in the US, higher Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores.

A study in HBR found when organizations saw improvements in their HCAHPS scores for patient experience or employee engagement, the average patients' global ratings of their care improved.

As Charla Garcia, the CHRO at UMHRO, put it in a recent interview with Kudos, "Patient satisfaction is our ultimate measure. We have a saying, "Happy employees equal happy patients." Because we focus on supporting our staff, they are free to support our patients. The local community then does an amazing job of supporting us in return.”

6. HR Administrators Love it!

By prioritizing and streamlining recognition, HR Administrators can benefit from a consistent, transparent, and equitable program, and employees are happier. CFOs appreciate the cost controls built-in, and given the benefits previously mentioned, HR has to spend less time managing unhappy employees, turnover, and security incidents.

What’s more, recruiting top talent is easier when your organization has a reputation for being a great place to work. Basically, a focus on employee recognition helps HR Administrators excel at their roles and contribute to their organizations in a meaningful way.

The points above outline just how critical employee engagement and recognition are for today's healthcare organizations. Luckily, there are employee recognition platforms like Kudos that are designed to serve the unique employee population in healthcare organizations.

Kudos' unique platform allows employees to give and view recognition through a web browser, mobile app, or kiosk (Kudos TV) – a flexible option that is inclusive and accessible.

But don't take it from us, here is what longtime client University of Missouri Health Care had to say:

"We found Kudos and we have never looked back. Their platform stood out over the rest of our options for a variety of reasons – but mostly because it checked every single one of our boxes. It wasn't just a delivery mechanism for rewards – it was the whole recognition package. We finally have data on our recognition efforts, and it's been so helpful in our employee engagement efforts. It is a perfect fit for our industry and culture – the mobile app has been such a game changer for us. Most of our employees do not sit at a desk all day. They are on the move and now they can recognize each other and redeem their points from anywhere. Kudos has single-handedly removed so many barriers to recognition.

We are so happy with our decision to partner with Kudos for our recognition needs."

Kaci Drennan, MPA
HR Communications Consultant
University of Missouri Health Care

Muni Boga: One of Canada’s Most Admired CEOs

Muni Boga: One of Canada’s Most Admired CEOs

“From day one, we have emphasized that Kudos is a safe and open environment for both our leadership and team. This encourages innovation and client-centric thinking – both key drivers in our success. Not to mention, it‘s the right thing to do.”

Muni Boga
CEO, Kudos

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About Kudos

Kudos is an employee engagement, culture, and analytics platform, that harnesses the power of peer-to-peer recognition, values reinforcement, and open communication to help organizations boost employee engagement, reduce turnover, improve culture, and drive productivity and performance. Kudos uses unique proprietary methodologies to deliver essential people analytics on culture, performance, equity, and inclusion, providing organizations with deep insights and a clear understanding of their workforce.

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