More Recognition Means a Better Employee Experience

Nov 4, 2019

Meeting the needs of a multi-generational, digital, and mobile workforce is challenging. Employees expect continuous, instant, and impactful recognition, which reflects the “always on” workplace culture and the “always connected” personal life that they now lead. 

But research shows there’s a gap in the kinds of experiences employees want to have at work and the experiences they’re actually having. The study, which surveyed 500 HR leaders in the U.S., revealed that there are three internal barriers stopping them from giving employees the type of modern recognition experience they deserve at work:

  • Budget, due to the mindset that pay and benefits are enough,

  • Wrong or ineffective tools, and

  • Lack of buy-in from the executive team.

This may be the situation for many HR leaders; however, my experience has been quite different. Here’s how you can overcome these barriers and give your modern workforce what they value—timely, consistent, and fair recognition that meets them wherever they are.

View the Customer Experience as the Employee Experience 

If your employees’ needs are being met at work, they will in turn be able to fulfill your customers’ needs. According to a Harvard Business Review article, when the customer experience and employee experience are designed together, they create a sustainable competitive advantage. 

Our organization, Presbyterian Homes, operates four senior living communities in the Chicago area with more than 1,200 employees. We know each employee’s interaction with a resident has a direct impact on the quality of care, resident and family satisfaction, and occupancy rates. And our ability to consistently deliver in these areas affects our bottom line. Due to this reality, our leadership team has made investing in our people an organizational priority. 

As a result, we’re seeing positive outcomes even in spite of being in a high-touch industry that’s facing a tight labor market and high turnover. Argentum, a senior living industry association, projects there will be 1.2 million additional senior living workers needed by 2025. But the market struggles to retain talent. A tight labor market and high demand for workers leaves healthcare employers fighting to retain employees who can easily leave one job and go to another for a slight increase in pay. This means the employer has to find other ways to retain employees. In fact, the Hospital & Healthcare Compensation Service reported turnover at nearly 32 percent in 2018, which is one of the highest across business sectors. 

However, Presbyterian Homes is one of only seven senior living organizations in Illinois and 300 of 2,000 nationwide to earn the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities seal of excellence. Investing in our employee experience continues to fuel better resident experiences. 

Buy-in from the Executive Team Means Leaders Walk the Talk

Find an employee engagement champion at the top. Luckily, I walked into an environment where the COO, Nadim Abi-Antoun, clearly understands and sees the impact of employee engagement. 

There is a champion within your company too! They can support you in showing your leadership that the way employees are treated will be the way they’ll treat your customers. A good customer experience can make all the difference. Data shows that customers are five times more likely to recommend an organization to a friend or relative after a good experience. 

Leaders must also walk the talk by giving and sharing employee recognition. Not just any recognition, but recognition done strategically, tracked and reviewed by leaders. Our managers are trained and reminded about how, when, and why recognition should be given. In fact, they are responsible for giving at least two recognition posts a month. 

Use the Right Tools to Make People Feel Visible

Make your people feel seen. A lack of recognition in an organization can make your people feel invisible, which is often the result of having a combination of the wrong or ineffective tools for your business.  

During a recent employee listening tour focused on the execution of our engagement programs, one person told me that, “The culture is special here.” This is the highest compliment and is reflected in our company’s financial and reputational success. We hold credit ratings of A- and BBB+ from FITCH and Standard & Poor’s, respectively. Out of approximately 2,000 senior living communities like Presbyterian Homes in the U.S., just 49 of those have an “A” category FITCH Rating. 

At Presbyterian, we do have an employee engagement platform, but having a solution is only one part of the equation. Our leaders help managers enable and support frequent usage by employees. 

For example, managers can give employees time to step away from their duties to post a recognition on their phone during the day. Or to ensure that our employees have access to a computer to make a post. We’ve even provided printed forms to allow employees without a desk, or those less comfortable on a computer, to write a quick recognition—and then their manager can enter it into the platform to be shared across the organization.

Move Past the “Pay and Benefits Is Enough” Mindset 

Organizations that believe pay and benefits should be “enough” are missing the human element. Frequent studies support that more pay does not lead to more fulfilled or engaged employees. A simple expression of “thanks” still goes a long way.

In a human services industry, part of our mission is to “inspire wellness, independence, joy, and security” among the residents and families we serve. We can’t do that without employees who are engaged—who feel connected to the mission, supported and valued by the organization. Most important, engaged employees who stay longer enhance the consistency and the quality of the care we deliver. 

Removing the internal barriers so that you can give your workforce a meaningful employee experience is not pie in the sky. It can be achieved. 

The key to engaging a modern workforce means: 

  • Valuing the employee experience as much as the customer experience,

  • Getting buy-in from the executive level and having leaders who walk the talk,

  • Showing your people that you see them,

  • Employing the most effective strategic recognition program, so your culture feels special, and

  • Moving past the mindset that pay and benefits is enough.

By Miriam Wallace