Employee Recognition: The Importance of Reward Programs

by | Aug 12, 2019 | Healthcare Industry, Leadership

Recognizing and rewarding hard work is not a new idea for employers, and healthcare is no exception. Many senior hospital executives consider motivational initiatives a critical portion of the organization’s success by aligning with the mission and values to meet strategic goals. Most U.S. hospitals have implemented some variation of a formal recognition or reward program to make sure the activities are organized and not neglected.

Hospitals can choose to implement a formal or informal recognition program. Formal programs tend to be hospital-wide events that complement the organization’s business goals and values—for example, an employee of the month. Informal programs are usually department-run and encourage spontaneous appreciation and not traditionally measured or tracked. The most significant differences between hospitals are at the department level, where programs are typically built to fit their unique needs.

“At Atrium Health, we understand the value of both peer-to-peer and leader-to-team member recognition and have a streamlined digital recognition platform with a variety of easy ways to express appreciation for any of our 38,000 teammates — from a simple birthday or anniversary eCard, to monetary compensation for work that is above and beyond their normal duties. But for us, the most effective and ultimately efficient way to recognize employees is to build a culture where all teammates feel valued and a strong tie to our mission and vision. We encourage and empower leaders to get to know their teammates so well that they understand the kind of recognition that will make each individual on their team feel most appreciated for their amazing work.”  Jim Dunn, Ph.D., Chief Human Resources Officer, Atrium Health

Ultimately, what’s the point of these programs other than providing a kind pat on the back? It’s amazing what a little recognition can do to impact the greater good of a healthcare setting. Specifically, these programs improve retention and recruitment, improve the quality of care, and encourage specific behaviors.

If you are new to this concept, how do you ensure the program you plan on implementing will be successful? If you already have a recognition agenda, how do you know if it is successful? What are the best practices? Some obstacles you may be familiar with include confusion as to which types of recognition to use at which time, uneven participation among departments, and difficulty tracking program results and inability to link those results to other organizational performance indicators.

The truth is, success varies depending on the circumstances: cost, technologies available, number of staff members, time, and more. Today we’re going to cover four ways to improve or create a strong recognition and reward program regardless of the situation.


If you are going to measure the effectiveness and ROI of your program accurately, you have to strategize from the very beginning. What’s the big picture? What are you trying to achieve? How much are you willing to spend? This foundation will dictate the structure as well as the metrics you will use to report. In regards to design, how will you make it easy to digest and use, so it becomes a part of everyday life? Consider the level of technology you’ll need to monitor the program and distribute rewards accurately. The program will also need to be flexible enough to meet organization-wide and department-wide needs alike. It all begins with an examination of your goals and resources.


Every employee needs to understand the importance of the program and how it works. Adoption starts with communication, training, and tracking. Make sure to include everyone in a leadership role (executives, department heads, supervisors) who would be responsible for giving out the rewards. The best way to achieve consistent and widespread participation is to make it top-of-mind throughout by communicating it over and over again.


One size does not fit all when it comes to recognition. It would be best if you had a range of rewards, from monetary to gifts and experiences, to satisfy the unique needs of your employees. Not everyone desires the same type of bonus. For example, some thrive in public recognition, while others prefer to stay under the radar. Providing a range of options is the key to satisfying a large, diverse group of people.


Tracking participation at the manager and employee level may be difficult without proper technology beyond the hospital’s current resources. Research the many tracking tools (keeping budget in mind) that will help strategize, develop, and manage these programs. You can even outsource it completely, which is sometimes the most cost-effective way to provide a complete program with the most employee appeal.

Recognition and reward drive employee engagement, and employee engagement drives job satisfaction. Invest in your people, and you will reap the benefits!

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