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Why most recognition programs don't work in healthcare

Luke Kreitner
10/31/23 7:00 AM

Implementing employee recognition in healthcare can be challenging, given the unique needs of the sector. Many existing recognition programs do not cater to these specific requirements, making it difficult for HR leaders to establish effective initiatives. However, with careful planning and the right system selection, healthcare organizations can create impactful recognition programs tailored to their needs.


Company email addresses

One common challenge in healthcare is the issue of company email addresses. While most employee recognition software programs operate as "closed loop" systems that require a company email for user inclusion, this poses difficulties as many employees either lack a company email address or rarely use it. To overcome this, it is recommended to opt for an "open loop" recognition system that allows the secure addition of team members via any email.



Deliverability is another challenge. Healthcare organizations often have a diverse workforce operating in different environments, such as healthcare facilities, offices, patient homes, and remote locations. Ensuring the inclusion of all staff members in the recognition program can be a challenge. Frontline employees with limited computer or mobile device usage may require physical recognition options, while remote or office staff may not be able to access tangible displays of recognition, such as a wall of fame.


Another issue is the time gap between action and reward. Instant recognition is most effective, but when employees have to accumulate enough points, select an item from a catalog, and wait for it to be shipped, the delay diminishes the impact and disrupts the feedback loop. It reduces the value of reinforcing positive behavior. Therefore, it is important to ensure that your recognition program offers a combination of both physical and digital recognition options to address different needs and preferences within the healthcare organization.


Limited choice

Limited choice of rewards poses a challenge in recognition programs, especially when catering to a diverse healthcare workforce. Traditional catalog-based systems often offer a narrow selection of rewards, accompanied by hefty markups and shipping costs. As a result, while some employees may find satisfaction in the available rewards, a majority of them may not receive something they genuinely desire.


To address this issue, it is crucial to carefully consider the rewards offered by recognition platforms and ensure their flexibility to cater to different personality types. Additionally, when implementing a recognition program, it is common for budgets or points to be allocated to team members for peer-to-peer recognition. However, the distribution of budgets might not be suitable for all healthcare providers. Depending on the organizational needs, it may be preferable to limit budget allocations to managers or full-time staff only.


Budget Constraints

Furthermore, the cost implications of providing budgets to all employees can be significant for large healthcare organizations. Allocating meaningful budgets to each individual could make launching a recognition program financially challenging. Moreover, subscription fees and minimum funding commitments, often imposed by recognition programs, can further strain the program's viability. It is advisable to seek a recognition platform that offers flexible permissions, and budget allocations, and avoids mandatory subscriptions, funding minimums, or lengthy contracts.


By carefully assessing the rewards, budgeting policies, and cost implications, healthcare organizations can ensure that their recognition programs effectively meet the diverse needs of their workforce.


Associated Costs

Implementing a recognition program in healthcare organizations poses challenges due to the associated costs. Allocating meaningful budgets to every employee can be financially unfeasible for organizations with thousands of employees, making program launch seem impossible. Moreover, most recognition programs require subscription fees for each employee, often with minimum funding commitments and contract durations. This can be burdensome, especially when there is uncertainty about the program's effectiveness.


In-house Programs

As an alternative, some healthcare organizations opt for in-house recognition programs to address these issues. However, managing these programs can be tedious and time-consuming. It involves manual processes for sending rewards, tracking budgets, ensuring diversity, equity, and inclusivity, and reporting on complex financial aspects like taxable benefits. Additionally, in-house programs may be inconsistently implemented across different locations and departments, resulting in disparate systems and potentially leaving some employees without any form of recognition.


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