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New Approaches to Employee Recognition

By Mario Pistilli

We all need a pat on the back every once in a while and to know that we are doing a good job. I am sure most of you try and thank your staff during your rounding. If you are not regularly rounding with your teams, then you need to start. I realize we are all busy and pulled in lots of directions, but being present in work areas is probably the most important meeting you will have in a day. You do not need an agenda and it is not babysitting or a time to catch them out. I don’t use this as a time to see if people are “sitting around” either, you should be doing that by looking at your volumes by shift compared to your staffing trends and not based on isolated incidents. The nature of our work is peaks and valleys, and sometimes we hit in a valley right after the surge or right before. Instead use this time to learn about your staff and their lives, to find commonalities, and connect with them personally. This is also a great time to give positive feedback.

I have also tried some other novel ways to recognize staff outside of face-to-face interaction. Following are some ideas:

  • Be specific on what they did and why it is great. A general, “you’re doing a good job” is nice, but lacks that wow factor. For example, when one of my CT techs stayed over and covered a midnight shift due to a callout, I talked to him the next day. I said, “Hey, I heard you ended up staying over to cover the other night. Thank you so much, without you we would have a hard time taking care of those kids. I know those families were so thankful you were there. I am sure you must have been dog-tired and looking forward to getting off, but you stayed anyway. I admire how much you care.” This shows that you were informed and also praises specific actions that the person did and why they were so important.
  • Praise does not have to be because of an individual act it could be prasing someone for their contributions to a group effort. For example, “Hey, seems like last week was super busy around here. I know you were right in the middle of it, thanks for weathering that busy stretch so well. I am really impressed at how you were able to handle it so smoothly.”
  • Enlist some help. I sometimes drag our chair of radiology or vice-chair with me to thank someone or just to say we appreciated what they did. Also, if in a hallway with a radiologist or the chair or vice-chair and an employee walks past that deserves a recognition, I might engage them for a quick, “Hey, Dr. X. Did you know that Tech X took great care of a patient yesterday and walked them all the way to their next appointment?”
  • In addition to those touchpoints during rounding, we also have whiteboards for kudos between staff and staff recognition cards that anyone can submit when someone does something great.
  • Now, here are some slightly different ways that I have recognized outstanding work:
  • Send a handwritten card to their house. For some reason, it seems particularly impactful for an employee to get a handwritten card sent to them. It shows that you really took time out to not only write the card, but to get a stamp and mail it. I never seem to have stamps around anymore and constantly buying them or forgetting to buy them, but it is worth the minor effort.
  • If given a chance, introduce them to someone else outside of your department. Another director or manager, and tell your colleague what is so impressive about your employee.
  • If giving a presentation about a particular project or initiative, I often include a slide that shows some of the team members that are making this possible. I ask someone in the audience to use my phone to take a picture of me presenting with that slide up, and then send that to them with a note saying something like, I had a great time today showing off my team to [insert some names here], so proud of you. You have done a great job on this.
  • Send a note to their spouse or significant other, telling them what a great job the person has done. For example, “Hi, Mr. X. My name is Mario and I work with [insert name here]. I am sure you know how hard she works and thank you for supporting her and all the sacrifices you and your family make so she can work her magic here at [insert facility name here]. She is really great at [insert achievement or praise] and the patients are so lucky to have her taking care of them. I just wanted you to know that you should be very proud of her.”
  • Give them a small personal gift that is specific to them instead of the usual coffee card. If you are rounding and interacting with them, you may have learned something about them that can translate to a gift. For example, one of my star employees is a big gamer so I got him a small Nintendo gift card with the thank you card. I am a huge reader so I love to give books as gifts to people on subjects they have expressed interest in. It is not about an amount of money, it is that you listened to them and remembered something about them that makes this meaningful.
  • Ask people outside of your department for positive feedback and bring that back. People like to know that their efforts are recognized outside of just your department. For example, “Hi, [insert name here]. I was talking to the ICU manager and they were telling me how you are always so pleasant when you come up to do portables. The nurses and staff just love you. Thanks for being such a great representative of our department. It really shows.”

The bottom line is that recognition does not have to be fancy, expensive or overly time consuming. Just make it heartfelt, specific, genuine, personal and part of your culture. I don’t look at it as a task or a to-do. It really gives me joy to see that reaction and pride in my teammates.

Mario Pistilli, CRA, MBA, FACHE, FAHRA, is administrative director for imaging and imaging research at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. He is an active member and volunteers time for ACHE and HFMA organizations. He is currently serving on the AHRA national Board of Directors. He can be contacted at mpistiili@chla.usc.edu.

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