NHS reward and recognition – Please them with thank you’s

NHS paramedicsMore than half of today’s NHS workforce is ready to leave their job. Nearly a third of staff (29.8%) are actively looking to change jobs within the year and 28.9% of NHS staff are considering a new post. We spoke to Practice Management Magazine about what can be done to improve the situation in our NHS.


At a time when staff feel undervalued and ready to look for new work – and there is little scope for pay rises or bonuses – practice managers continue to face a real challenge motivating and retaining staff. This was reflected in a recent NHS Employee Survey, completed by a total of 3,204 NHS employees across the UK in January 20151. Respondents were based in more than 250 NHS Trusts and included employees at all levels within the NHS from cleaning and administrative staff to midwives, nurses and doctors.


It’s a gift!

Benefits that cost NHS Trusts little or nothing are readily available from several providers. Options such as cashback cards, online discounts and vouchers or gift cards available to purchase at a discounted rate can all improve dramatically NHS employees’ ability to cope with the rising cost of living. In fact, savings can amount to the equivalent of a 2% pay rise, based on the average NHS wage, more than has been delivered in actual pay rises recently. More than a third of NHS staff, who are non-medical, are paid less than £21,000 a year, yet many practices aren’t capitalising on money saving tools such as this for fear of how much it will cost, when in reality such schemes are often cost-neutral or even free to NHS employers.

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Lack of recognition is cited time and time again as a key reason employees move on. Recognition can be an informal pat on the back by colleagues or managers but there is a pressing need to supplement this with regular, formalised methods of showing appreciation. By giving managers the tools they need to deliver praise and link that praise to desired behaviours, NHS Trusts could dramatically improve engagement and retention.

thumbs upThere are several methods available, including on the spot presentation of rewards in recognition of achievements, through to online peer-to-peer systems that allow colleagues to send each other personalised ‘thank yous’. The key is to ensure that recognition becomes engrained in NHS culture and not left to chance.

Tell them about it!

In many cases, management has put in place a programme of benefits, rewards and recognition to address issues of employee engagement. Too often though there has been a failure to effectively communicate the benefits to staff. Communication about employee benefits is getting worse, according to NHS staff with 52.2% describing communication from their bosses about additional benefits as ‘very poor’ or ‘poor’ (compared to 44% in 2013), with only 2% saying it was excellent. Ensuring NHS employees have a good understanding of the added value benefits on offer to them and know how best to utilise those benefits is an area where practices clearly struggle.


It’s on the cards

In one case, a number of NHS employees took up the offer of a cashback card. Those who received targeted communications welcoming them to card ownership and explaining its benefits within 33 days of signing up for the card were 16.5% more likely to activate it and spent 29% more on their card than those who did not, maximising the cashback on offer and the value of the benefit.

Trusts need to ensure that their benefits provider is offering a communications plan that will drive uptake and appreciation of benefits, using audience segmentation data, just as high street retailers do to communicate effectively with their customers. Benefits scheme providers should offer this service free of charge, so there is no additional cost or administration time incurred for Trusts.

Saving face against a backdrop of continued challenges in workforce recognition and deepening dissatisfaction among staff, it is clear that practice managers risk a mass exodus of highly skilled staff if the issue of motivating and engaging their people is not addressed. Rewards and recognition need not be expensive and can pay for themselves several times over in costs saved on recruitment and agency staff alone.


Mark those milestones

NHS staff responding to the survey reported that:

  • 87.5% of them felt that they are not getting any assistance with the rising cost of living
  • Seven out of 10 staff said they were feeling ‘unappreciated’ and received ‘not enough praise’ for their work
  • 23% of NHS staff said that long service milestones were not celebrated
  • 26% said that service milestones were too infrequent
  • 15% didn’t even know if long service was celebrated in their Trust
  • This article first appeared in the May edition of Practice Management.

This article first appeared in the May edition of Practice Management.

Read it here: http://www.practice-management.org.uk/current/issue


John Sylvester

John is responsible for the motivation division of p&mm ltd and a Director on the board of the IPM. Specialising in developing, implementing and directing many large scale staff motivation, recognition and employee communications programmes.
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