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Staff recognition: The result

October 1, 2008
by Brenda J. Scott, ADC
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Recognition is an important component of any organization's total reward program. It motivates staff and inspires personal achievement. Tell your colleagues, coworkers, and staff how much you value them. A simple “thank you” is always appreciated. In fact, small surprises and tokens of your appreciation spread throughout the year help staff feel valued. And don't forget to say “please” often. Social niceties do belong at work. A more homelike, welcoming, friendly atmosphere is what culture change is all about. Staff want to know if they are doing a good job—and that it is noticed. They want to be thanked and appreciated.

If your facility does not have an “employee morale” committee, get one in place. A representative from each department is best. Both management and hourly personnel should be included on the committee. A recognition program should be held at least quarterly by the committee. In addition, monthly awards give the staff something to look forward to and wonder “what's coming next?” Individual recognition should be a part of an employee morale program. Honor a staff person monthly or quarterly. Request input from all staff. Place nomination forms by the time clock and on each unit. “Caught in the Act,” “Shining Star,” “A Step Above,” and “Hats Off to You” are all good themes for this type of program. The committee reads and reviews all submissions to pick a winner. Award a certificate, a special parking space, a free lunch card, movie tickets—whatever is appropriate for your facility's budget. If you choose not to select just one winner, display all nominations on a special bulletin board where they can be seen not only by staff, but also by family members and residents as well.
Everyone from residents to staff enjoy the annual dog show

Everyone from residents to staff enjoy the annual dog show

It is proven that staff who feel appreciated are happy and that happy staff generally provide the best service, take pride in their work, and represent the facility in a positive way. Staff recognition should be an ongoing program. It doesn't have to be costly. Make it fun and get everyone involved. Some of the simple things you can do include the following ideas:

  • Casual or dress-down days are always popular. Make it a fundraiser by adding a “charge for comfort.” Put the money into an emergency fund to help employees. (I suggest not doing this weekly because it loses its importance and is no longer “special.”)

  • Let staff dress appropriately for holidays such as red on Valentine's Day; green for St. Patrick's Day; red, white, and blue for the 4th of July; orange or black for Halloween.

  • Pass out something fun for everyone on special days. Give beads for Mardi Gras, leis for a luau event, or bandanas on Western Day. Be creative!

  • On National Doughnut Day, for example, treat all staff to fresh doughnuts. This can be done with any “food” day. We recently celebrated National Pizza Day with pizza for everyone. The dietary department provided salad, drinks, and dessert.

  • To celebrate 30 accident-free days, offer staff an afternoon treat such as ice cream bars, root beer floats, fresh baked cookies, or fruit.

  • Recognize a good survey by offering each staff person an extra day of paid time off.

  • For “back to school” fun, have staff bring in grade school pictures of themselves. Post on a bulletin board and have staff, residents, and family members guess who they are. A small prize can be given to the person who gets the most right, such as an issue of People magazine.

  • Almost everyone appreciates food. Take staff to lunch for birthdays, special occasions or for no particular reason at all. Let your guest pick the restaurant.

Annual events

Special programs held each year give staff something to look forward to. These events can generate friendly competition among departments. Put on a variety show with each department being responsible for an act. Residents, family members, and volunteers can be involved as well. You might want to have judges and award prizes. Print a program recognizing everyone who participates, including the sound technician, photographer, props person, stagehands, and emcee. Acts can be serious talent or fun karaoke, original poetry, bands, lip sync—whatever.

Base an event on a game show theme. Try a Family Feud-type game. Have different departments compete against each other. Treat the winning team to lunch or give them movie tickets or tee shirts. The Newlywed Game is another program that is easy to adapt. Have a department head and one of his or her employees team up. See who knows the most about their supervisor/staff.