A “pat on the back” makes anyone feel good… and, if done consistently, you will be able to taste the difference!

By Pam McDonald

Competition in senior living for capable, reliable staff is greater than it ever has been, and kitchen and dining room staff make up a large percentage of the employees in senior communities. This led David C. Koelling, President of Strategic Dining Services, to offer some recommendations to ensure that each employee feels recognized and valued.

Strategic Dining Services is an integrated, hospitality-based dining management company and Senior Housing Forum partner. David notes that expressing appreciation to the individuals who comprise your company is a way of demonstrating that you recognize their contributions – that you are aware of their efforts. A “pat on the back” makes anyone feel good. And, if done consistently, you will be able to taste the difference!

Benefits of Employee Recognition

Your company may experience real benefits from its efforts to recognize employees, including the following:

  • Increased individual productivity – classic behavioral psychology says that the act of recognizing desired behavior increases the repetition of that behavior, and therefore productivity

  • Direct performance feedback for individuals and teams

  • Enhanced teamwork between employees

  • Increased retention of quality employees, reduced employee turnover

  • Better safety records and fewer accidents on the job

  • Lower negative effects, such as absenteeism and stress

  • Greater employee satisfaction and enjoyment of work that allows staff to focus on the job with less complaining

  • Raised loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers

What Can You Recognize?

Anyone who goes the extra mile to contribute to an excellent working environment is worthy of recognition. But David provides some specific examples:

  • Doing something extra no matter how small to make a resident happy

  • Duties related to measurable performance indicators

  • Attitude that foster teamwork; volunteering to train a new employee on specific tasks or techniques

  • Activities that help others to achieve company goals

  • Operation/financial enhancements/savings for the department

  • Innovation/creativity in recipes or menu planning

  • Best customer comments

  • Special project completed

  • Working off hours to meet a deadline

  • Solving a complex problem

  • Implementing a new process

  • Taking time to help out in a crisis, or when there is special need

  • Consistently pitching in to tidying up the break room or after a meeting

  • Organizing holiday events, or decorating the office

  • Lightening the mood on a tough day

  • Being a great team player 

What to Give?

Monetary bonuses, especially a structured plan for holiday bonuses, are nice, but how about an extra uniform (so nice when employees work multiple shifts) or a paid day off? These are really well received by employees. Sometimes, giving cash or gift cards to recognize employees’ stellar performance can come across as a bit insincere. A powerful gift should be individualized and special.

Demonstrate a hospitality mind-set by knowing what your employees are interested in outside of work then tailoring their recognition to their interest. Personalized golf balls for avid golfers . . . gourmet coffee beans for your coffee lover . . . movie tickets for them and their family. Now the gift has special meaning and is offered with sincerity.

Essential Elements of Employee Recognition

The first necessary aspect to recognizing behavior you want to reinforce is to actually see and identify opportunities to praise someone. Clearly articulate your expectations, show them how you want it done and why. Demonstrate an atmosphere of inclusion, encouragement and empowerment and set your mind to be aware of the recognizable moments that happen around you on a daily basis.

The second aspect of employee recognition is to do something to acknowledge and praise the person for his or her good work. This can be as simple as an immediate, heart-felt verbal “thank you,” or a note. However, employee recognition through formal communications channels – like presenting a gift at a stand up meeting or holding quarterly parties for accomplishing department goals – sends an extremely powerful message to the recipient, their work team and other employees.  

Keeping It Real

To effectively praise staff, supervisors at all levels will need to pay attention and see staff at their best. If your employee recognition is personalized, sincere, and done in the right spirit, it can go a long way to motivate, maintain, and improve good work and accomplish department and community goals.

For more tips or information about Strategic Dining Services, visit their website at http://www.strategicdining.com.