Hospital Management, Nurses Do Not Agree on Value of Recognition

Sarah Kearns, April 29, 2010

A recent report in the Harvard Business Review contradicts the idea that employees value recognition of their efforts higher than anything else. The top motivator of performance is actually progress.

The study involved gathering more than 12,000 e-mail diary entries from the participants, which revealed that making progress in one's work, no matter how little or big, is associated with positive emotions and high motivation. The survey noted when participants experienced progress in their jobs, 76% of people reported it as their best day.

The report suggested that managers clarify overall goals, ensure staff members receive the right support for their efforts, and work to ensure minor glitches are perceived as learning opportunities.

What could hospitals learn from this report?

"The message here, in my opinion, is how out of touch management is with the staff's priorities," says Tonya Barrerre, RN, assistant nurse manager, emergency department, at Robert J. Dole VAMC, in Wichita, KS. "Management answered with completely opposite positions regarding what they thought the staff felt was important."

But the reported also cautioned managers not to abandon recognition.

"I firmly believe that recognition is important; however, it needs to be recognition that the employee values," says Sharon Taylor, RN, MS, CIC, CPHRM, CHC, director of risk management and accreditation services at Burgess Health Center in Onawa, IA. "This means that managers must know their employees. What is considered important to one is not necessarily important to another."

Even though progress may be the leading motivator of performance, managers should not shy away from recognizing staff for a job well done. If staff members meet or exceed their goals, managers should praise them, as this gesture will continue to motivate workers.

"I also think that we can’t overlook the fact that organizations need to have a growth ladder of some type that does give a monetary reward for those who take responsibility for their professional growth," Taylor continues. "Non-monetary compensation is a must, but at some point we do need to recognize that monetary compensation is also essential to continually motivate staff who excel."

Sarah Kearns Sarah Kearns is an editor for HCPro in the Quality and Patient Safety Group. Contact Sarah at
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