1. Drake, Kirsten DNP, RN, OCN, NEA-BC

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Q Recently, our employee engagement surveys were returned and it's obvious that I need to do better with recognition. How can I improve this skill set?

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First, don't get down on yourself-staff recognition can be challenging. Start by remembering that not everyone wishes to be recognized in the same way. Recognition preferences may be generational or influenced by an employee's life stage.1 Keeping this in mind, you can survey your staff or collect recognition preferences during one-on-one rounding.


One suggestion is to keep a spreadsheet with employees' names, birth dates, generations, and life stages. Depending on how many direct reports you have, make it a point to routinely provide authentic recognition. Realistically, quarterly recognition will suffice for larger units; however, if you have a small unit, monthly recognition is recommended. Use the spreadsheet to document your actions for each employee.


A way to remind yourself is to schedule recognition time on your calendar. For example, block some time to compose handwritten birthday cards for your staff-this is the simplest form of recognition. Schedule a regular potluck luncheon or night-shift celebration. These can even be themed parties, such as recognizing the different cultures of your staff. Another way to integrate recognition into your schedule is to add it to every agenda for your work area. Although you may schedule recognition time, it doesn't always need to become part of a routine. The element of surprise can make a lasting impression on the employee receiving the recognition and those observing it.2


Remember to place yourself in your staff members' position. When someone recognizes your hard work, it encourages and energizes you. Staff members go above and beyond with a patient/family or completing a special project because they want to. The acknowledgment they receive when you notice their work makes them feel honored and want to do it again.



1. Schweyer A. Generations in the workforce and marketplace: preferences in rewards, recognition, and incentives. Incentive Research Foundation. 2018. [Context Link]


2. Martens C. The element of surprise. Award Concepts. 2016. [Context Link]


RESOURCES The complete guide to employee recognition.


Texas A&M University. Employee recognition and rewards ideas.