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Creative Ways to Improve Staff Morale on a Budget

News  |  By Strategies for Nurse Managers  
   July 10, 2017

Even with today's tight budgets, there are ways to brighten the faces of staff members. We asked a variety of experts for their ideas. Here's what they had to say.

This article first appeared in Strategies for Nurse Managers.

Chris Simons, RHIA, director of care coordination and HIM, and privacy officer at Spring Harbor Hospital in Westbrook, ME, says she got good results when she asked staff to write two or more things they liked and admired about each coworker. She then downloaded free certificates that she found online, wrote the comments on them, and presented them to the staff. Another idea ­Simons has used is to give positive feedback based on each individual's name. For example, Chris might become:

  • Capable
  • Honest
  • Really works hard
  • Innovative
  • Says what she means

"These have been very well received and were free-[they only took some] thinking time and a little ­computer work. I find recognition and praise is a lot more valuable when it is specific," she says.

Jean S. Clark, RHIA, CSHA, director of ­accreditation at Roper St. Francis Healthcare in Charleston, SC, ­suggests recognizing when employees perform special acts of kindness; go above and beyond to help patients, visitors, and colleagues; or take exemplary actions related to the organization's mission and standards of behavior.

In addition, Clark suggests trying the following:

  • Celebrate employee birthdays with cake or treats
  • Provide thank-you notes for jobs well done
  • Feature employees on a department information bulletin board

Monica Pappas, RHIA, president of MPA ­Consulting, Inc., in Long Beach, CA, says that providing staff members with educational opportunities whenever possible is a great way to help them learn and invest in their future. This is especially true if they can select ­specific topics they are interested in.

Pappas notes that potlucks, birthday clubs, and fun activities for department meetings can be good ways to boost morale. You could also take suggestions from staff on small rewards to distribute. Additionally, Pappas is a fan of recognizing employees in a group or public setting for a job well done (e.g., in a ­departmental newsletter).

Elaine Lips, RHIA, president and CEO of ELIPSe, Inc., in Los Angeles, suggests taking some time off-site for team building. Do something fun, such as going out to lunch or having a bowling night, or consider taking some time to volunteer at the local Red Cross or assist at a health fair. Lips also suggests holding contests (with prizes) or rewarding the department with movie or cafeteria lunch tickets for meeting deadlines or metrics. Giving staff the opportunity to share positive personal stories can also give employees a boost.

Darice M. Grzybowski, MA, RHIA, FAHIMA, president of HIMentors, LLC, in La Grange Park, IL, ­suggests appealing to staff members' social side. "­Despite some of the protests, most people enjoy a social ­activity … Having a departmental outing or party can boost morale." Ideas include a themed potluck or special dessert, dressing up for holidays, or planning an ­outing to a restaurant or park. "Just have a team and a plan and have some fun," she says.

Grzybowski also supports volunteering or giving back in some way as a means to build a strong sense of team unity, as well as improve morale. "Staff pitching in to purchase a tree to be planted as a donation, or all doing a day at a soup kitchen together or Habitat for Humanity, all can bring sense of community."

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