Over the past years, the healthcare information technology industry has experienced an economic boom specifically correlated to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) financial incentives for Electronic Medical Record (EMR) implementation. For those of us working in companies and closely-related industries within healthcare information technology, we have also noticed. It seems as though every time I turn around, a new healthcare IT consulting firm pops up or an existing firm opens a healthcare practice and in no way am I suggesting that I am not one of these folks (we can get into that technicality later). In economics, we call this the bandwagon effect.
However, economics is not the topic of this post. Here I will explore employee recognition. As a part of this bandwagon effect, consultants have many (talk about an understatement) employment options out there. How and why does one choose? Perhaps I’ll tackle this in future topics.
Just last week, my firm Cipe Consulting Group hosted a dinner for several of our consultants; a great opportunity to meet them all in person as well as thank them for their hard work at our customer site. Well, this had me thinking, how do we recognize our employees for a job well done when the employees are consultants? Most likely, companies do not excel at recognition in general even when the employees are all in one building; now add the additional traveling consultant element.
On to a little research, in an article posted on Workforce Management’s website entitled “Special Report on Rewards & Recognition: Getting Personal” by Leah Shepards examines The Everett Clinic in Everett, WA. Shepards reports that the healthcare organization recognizes employees on a “local” level meaning by department, as opposed to throughout the entire organization as a whole. That way, employees receive more rewards at the time of the act or good performance. The rewards can be large incentive programs with prizes or small cards from employee to employee. “The localized rewards are paying off. ‘Our overall employee satisfaction rate is over 80 percent,’ Crollard [Director of Human Resources] says, ‘and our turnover rate is consistently below 13 percent, which is 5 to 10 percent lower than other health care organizations in our market area,’” the article concludes. Interesting stuff.
Another resource, a webpage from the University of Washington states that, “Ongoing, meaningful rewards and recognition provide an effective, low cost way of raising morale and encouraging higher levels of performance,” and goes on to provide 86 ideas for managers. A couple of the choice ideas are: “Express an interest in employee’s career development goals.” and “Allow an employee to choose his/her next assignment.” I particularly like this last one, a contributor to answering my question. Allowing a consultant to choose their own assignment would certainly contribute to their retention and on-the-job happiness, but does it really contribute to their recognition?
The studies and ideas presented above generally apply to employees in a traditional work environment without the traveling and temporary elements. In the past, when I was on the road, it was simple check ins and the proverbial “good job” from my manager that kept me going and feeling valued. The basic acknowledgement of my work essentially was what it took for me. Sounds overly simple, but yet, it just might be that simple. What are your ideas for employee recognition applied to traveling consultants?