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Personal, meaningful recognition is crucial to employee performance

June 9, 2022 | Elise Walton

To be successful, senior care leaders need to get creative with how they combat today’s workforce management challenges. The biggest hurdles are clear – according to our survey of senior care leaders, 79% cite staffing shortages and 62% cite recruiting qualified candidates as their biggest workforce issues. How to overcome these challenges is less clear, but it is apparent that the status quo is not sufficient.

Adding unique perks like more PTO, subsidized childcare, or free gym memberships can boost employee satisfaction. However, your employees will always be more unique than the perks you offer, so what’s valuable to one employee might not matter at all to another. This doesn’t mean that you should give up on perks – you definitely need them to build culture, engagement and retention. But you can’t ignore a critical component of the workforce management mix – recognition.

With senior care professionals taking on more work to cover for staffing shortages, burnout is on the rise. In fact, 86% of senior care workers say they are at least slightly burned out or stressed. Showing appreciation to your employees in individualized, meaningful ways can do a lot to improve productivity and build a sense of belonging. According to a Gallup survey, when recognition is done right employees are 73% less likely to “always” or “very often” feel burned out and 56% less likely to look for other job opportunities. Organizations that approach recognition in a way that’s authentic, consistent, equitable, personalized, and embedded in the culture have the most impact.

Automatic rewards programs cover the consistency element. For example, OnShift Engage automatically delivers reward points to staff based on key activities like clocking in on time, hitting work anniversaries and picking up shifts. These points can then be redeemed for things like gift cards or extra vacation days. Automatic reward programs are great for incentivizing key performance habits, but adding a manual element to delivering points can take the program a step further toward individualized and meaningful recognition.

One way to do this is to involve your residents. On a regular basis, invite your residents to submit a list of staff members they would like to acknowledge for excellent work, then give reward points to those staff members. In this way, staff are not just recognized for their measurable performance, but for the positive impact they have on residents. This same approach can be used to enable peer-to-peer recognition by inviting your employees to nominate their coworkers for rewards points. Peer-to-peer recognition is an important element to consider, as 57% of employees surveyed by Gallup say they would like peer recognition a few times a month or more. These kinds of recognition tactics build teamwork and strengthen community relationships.

Another way to make a rewards and recognition program more meaningful is to share successes. Some communities we work with have leaderboards in the employee break room where staff can see who the top point earners are. Other communities deliver large rewards in public, community-wide settings to the staff member who earned the most points in a given time period. Even something as simple as an employee shout-out at a staff meeting, recognizing an employee who went above and beyond, can make an impact. Public recognition and shared successes build a culture of appreciation, dedication and loyalty that can counteract widespread workforce challenges.

While monetary rewards and extra days off are always appreciated, don’t underestimate the power of a hand-written note. We’ve noticed that communities where managers make an effort to write personalized thank-you notes to staff members who go the extra mile are communities that have loyal staff and a positive culture. Some organizations make writing monthly thank-you notes a requirement for their managers. Others include writing appreciation notes in resident activities. These notes aren’t simply read and thrown away—the caregivers who receive them tend to hold onto them for a long time. Writing a heartfelt note only takes a few minutes but the effect on employee attitudes has staying power.

Building a culture of recognition that bolsters employee engagement and retention takes more than a few tactics. It’s a long-term practice that includes things like training for leaders, freely giving praise across teams and between seniority levels, adjusting programs based on employee feedback, and recognition of life events and work milestones. Automated rewards tools are a great start to building an effective and consistent employee recognition program. Adding a human touch to how you recognize your employees’ hard work is how you take it to the next level and build a lasting culture of employee satisfaction and loyalty.

Get more tips on building employee engagement and recognition in The 2022 Biggest Book of Perks for Senior Care.


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About Elise Walton

Elise Walton is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at OnShift.

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