Management’s got a brand new bag

Rewarding staff doesn’t have to cost you

In the years he’s spent overseeing access personnel, Anthony M. Bruno, MPA, has made something of an art out of motivating and rewarding his employees, often with group-oriented recognition and events.

In his latest innovation, Bruno, director of corporate admissions and registration at Crozer-Keystone Health System in Upland, PA, focuses on individual excellence and providing his managers and supervisors with some ways to recognize it. "We already do group things," he adds. "Now we want to come up with ways and reasons for rewarding and recognizing more personal achievement."

The program, which Bruno has dubbed the "Recognition and Reward Tool Bag," is not meant to replace bonuses or salary increases, he says, but simply to tell the employee, "I appreciate you and what you’ve done." The emphasis, he notes, is on recognition, not reward.

When to brag

That recognition could be for an employee who has come through a stressful period and completed a difficult work assignment, or simply for someone who has a positive attitude, Bruno says. The recognition might come in the form of a smile, a pat on the back, and a simple thank-you, he adds. It also could be a personal letter to the employee, with a copy to his or her immediate supervisor, Bruno notes. The recognition can extend, he says, to having a system vice president make a presentation to employees who have gone the extra mile. That was the case, Bruno adds, when some staff members worked particularly hard during a recent computer shutdown.

The actual rewards in the management staff’s tool bags are really token awards, he says. "Nothing in the tool bag costs more than $7. These are items like a note card that says, Thanks for helping me out’ and a pack of Lifesavers with TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More’ on the label."

The bag also includes Post-It notes, with sayings like "thanks," "wow," and "applause" as headings, and foam stress-relief toys, such as a heart that’s labeled "star," Bruno adds. The company that sells many of these items, Baudville Inc. in Grand Rapids, MI, also offers software that allows managers to design their own awards, such as a team-player certificate, which can be placed in an inexpensive frame and presented to a deserving employee, he notes.

Don’t assume managers and supervisors know how to recognize employees in this way, Bruno advises. "Some supervisors normally say, Good morning. How are you?’ and with others, you can’t seem to get a nice word out of them."

Rather than single out the ones who weren’t up to par, Bruno says, he decided to offer a one-hour inservice program for the entire management staff, which includes about 40 directors, managers, and supervisors from four hospitals and a community mental health facility. Together, those people oversee more than 300 employees.

During the inservice, he says, "we’ll go over not only the items in the tool bag but also how important it is to get employees to recognize each other. And we’ll stress that after they’re successful at doing this, they should continue it."

The idea, he says, is for managers to incorporate the program into their routine, "not just for a week or a month, but every day." So far, the response from his management team has been good, Bruno says. "It hasn’t been a hard sell, as in, Oh, no. They’re asking me to do something else,’ but rather, I can use this.’"

The Recognition and Reward Tool Bag is one more effort that Bruno hopes will contribute to his goal of instilling in employees what he calls a "driven by team success" attitude, he notes. "What I want to see is employees recognizing other employees, getting them to realize that it’s not about me; it’s about us.’" With that in mind, he may provide tool bags for frontline staff in the future.

Bruno says the program stresses these ways of recognizing and rewarding appropriately:

• Offer recognition in an appropriate setting and be sure to make eye contact.

• Be sincere in your praise and make clear what behavior or action you are praising.

• Start each staff meeting with a public "thank you" or a solicitation for one.

• Walk the walk. Give support, cooperation, and collaboration to your staff.

At Crozer-Keystone, the recognition and rewards are being extended beyond the admissions and registration staff, Bruno notes, and not just to other departments. At a meeting of the physician billing staff, he says, an employee asked if the tools could be used to thank some of the physicians’ offices that are particularly helpful in sending the information needed for a complete bill. Now, he adds, recognition is given to members of physicians’ staffs when the two groups get together at breakfast and lunch meetings throughout the year.

The recognition and reward program is important because "people are the lifeblood of our health system, and people count on recognition," Bruno says. "Recognizing accomplishments, building self-esteem, and being sensitive to individual qualities help release the energy of self-motivation. The more people learn to be cooperative and collaborative, the better the working environment."