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5 min read

We’re back with our third HR Heroes blog post featuring Miriam Wallace, SPHR at Presbyterian Homes! If you’re new to the series, don’t forget to check out our past blogs here:

  1. How to build a reward and recognition budget
  2. How to improve employee recognition with feedback

So you’ve secured your R&R budget, you’ve made improvements based on employee feedback, now what? In order to make sure your employee reward and recognition program is an ongoing success, you need to make sure your people are actually using it.

Let’s walk through tips for ensuring ongoing employee recognition success with all employees – from new hires to seasoned veterans to the leadership team by reaching them where they are and adapting as you go.


Q: Miriam, when we think about an employee’s journey at Presbyterian Homes, how do you make sure recognition is ingrained in everything you do?

Miriam: It starts during onboarding. We make sure to talk about the recognition program from the very beginning – it’s a part of who we are. During our one-day orientation, community orientation and department orientation, we talk about our mission, vision and values and how we recognize those. 

Recognition should be very much embedded in your culture from day one.

That’s how it is with Presbyterian Homes. We’ve made a deliberate effort in addressing employee feedback from surveys and putting actions into place based on that feedback, and we want to make that known among new employees so they see that their voice makes a difference. 


Q: How do you keep recognition top of mind for employees who are working long shifts and on their feet most of the day? 

Miriam: Individuals told us that when they’re working a shift they’re extremely busy, which can, of course, make prioritizing recognition difficult. But we had to work with managers to make sure as an organization we were aligned from the top-down on the importance of recognition, so employees were given opportunities to take their 5-10 minute break to write recognition. 

We’re creating more opportunities for people to do that to ensure we really create a culture of appreciation. We modified our cell phone use policy so that people are allowed to go on their cell phones to do work-related tasks because more and more of our HR initiatives are app-based now

My biggest piece of advice is that it’s ok to ask for time to write a recognition.

Everybody likes being recognized. And when you hear somebody else is being recognized, it reminds you to write a recognition and get involved. We have TV monitors that amplify this and staff see their names up in lights. That’s a moment you can’t take away from somebody – it’s very motivating.

Download our highlight to discover new ways to recognize deskless workers to  improve engagement»

Q: And how do you encourage leadership participation? What have you found to be successful?

Miriam: Well, we have a competitive nature here at Presbyterian Homes. The COO, Nadim Abi-Antoun, is an amazing driver of this healthy competitiveness that fuels our recognition culture. And the Executive Directors at each of our communities work together and share best practices and successes. 

We make sure that recognition is a part of our leadership incentive plan as well.

Part of the incentive program requires participation. Members of the leadership team submit at least one recognition on a monthly basis and encourage their managers to submit recognitions. But most leaders in fact go above that anyway. It’s quick and easy and most of them do this on their mobile phones. It saves time because they don’t have to write notes or try to come up with better ideas of recognizing staff. 

Leadership participation in the recognition program is reported and considered along with many other talent management metrics when evaluating individual performance and talent management skills. Leaders are also encouraged to share an employee recognition story once a month at meetings.  


Q: I’ve talked before about showing the skeptics that employee recognition really works. So how have you done this at your organization?

Miriam: There's a lot of importance in sharing progress and reporting on our findings and recognition trends. Our management team reviews the data with direct reports and the COO shares reports so we can see how we’re doing on a monthly basis in terms of our recognition. For example, you may have managers participating, but we want to look at ways to make sure employees and certain team members are participating as well. 

In order for people to feel connected to their purpose, we're not just reporting on the actions that they do, but talking about why they matter.

There’s constant communication about this, not just via email because that’s not always an effective tool, but we communicate about it regularly. It’s a standing topic in almost every meeting we have – operations meetings, leadership meetings, Town Halls and staff meetings – and it’s always top of mind. 

We’re always trying to be better and we’ve made great progress. We’re very proud of our engagement scores and participation and we’re seeing the results of it now and how it’s helping us in managing talent from an employee’s very first day.

We look for opportunities to share success and celebrate them across the organization. And we look at retention on a monthly and quarterly basis to see how we’ve changed – particularly with new hires.

When you pair employee feedback with data, you’re equipped to make improvements to your employee recognition platform and work towards improving the employee experience. And when your people feel appreciated, you’re one step closer to moving the needle on employee engagement.

Curious to hear more about Miriam’s employee recognition journey? Sign up for our upcoming webinar with McKnight’s Senior Living on February 20, 2020 to learn more about how she works with her leadership team to improve employee recognition.

Register now

Alexandra Powell

Alexandra Powell, Director of Client Cultural Insights, not only knows American Sign Language, but uses it to secretly communicate with her husband and kids at parties. Alex is a highly experienced employee engagement consultant, trainer and speaker. For over 20 years she has helped HR and business leaders implement strategies that drive true culture change.

Director of Client Cultural Insights

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