It’s Employee Appreciation Week! Why prioritizing recognition is even more critical in uncertain times

September 21, 2020  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership,

This week, Michigan Medicine hosts its first virtual Employee Appreciation Week. The week will be filled with activities for faculty, staff and learners focused on health and well-being, personal and professional development, financial support – and a bit of fun sprinkled in. (See the schedule of events here.)

Headlines recently had a chance to ask Paul Sturgis, MSHROD, SPHR, senior director of Human Resources Strategy and Organizational Effectiveness, a few questions about the importance of showing appreciation to our staff and each other, how we can focus on it during virtual Employee Appreciation Week and in our daily work moving forward. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: Why is recognition important at Michigan Medicine?

PS: Recognition has long been established as a critical factor in increasing employee engagement, morale and satisfaction irrespective of industry or organization. An organization known for recognizing colleagues and peers creates an environment that leads to innovation and increased overall outcomes. At Michigan Medicine, our teams are known for their commitment to delivering high-quality services and outputs while supporting our tripartite mission. By recognizing these efforts, we continue to demonstrate how important individual and collective contributions are to achieving our goals and fulfilling our commitment to the communities we serve.  

Paul Sturgis, MSHROD, SPHR, senior director of HR Strategy and OE

Q: What tools are available to recognize Michigan Medicine faculty, staff, learners and volunteers?

PS: Last week, we announced the launch of a new recognition site that will serve as a great resource to recognize faculty, staff, learners and volunteers.  The result of the work of a committed team,  I am really excited about this new platform ( that brings together current offerings, such as the Making a Difference program, along with other opportunities to recognize employees with an innovative “social media feel.”

The new site helps expand the reach of recognition by making it simpler to meaningfully acknowledge and recognize in real-time, which is important to making sure our employees know what a difference they make in the lives of our colleagues and patients. With a conscious alignment to our Michigan Medicine values, this platform represents a useful tool for highlighting the daily work that supports our ongoing success. With the visibility of the online system, leaders are encouraged to acknowledge recognitions received in their departments at staff meetings, huddles and other sharing opportunities to further recognize the employee.

Q: How can we build recognition into our daily work?

PS: Like anything that we know is important to do, prioritizing recognition takes some commitment on our part to prioritize it in our busy schedules. Setting aside a few minutes on a routine basis to acknowledge the fine work of your team or colleagues is a great way to start ensuring that you get around to it. I have always believed that saying “thank you” or “good job on that project” is a great beginning for recognizing individuals, but taking the time to explain why their contribution or action was impactful truly drives recognition to a higher level. 

Some ideas to show your appreciation include:

  • Keep recognition current: When you hear a positive remark about someone, make sure to share it with that person as soon as possible (face-to-face, email or voice mail).
  • Establish a place to display memos, banners, posters, photos and so on, recognizing progress towards goals and thanking individual employees for their help.
  • Take the time to acknowledge milestones and anniversaries that are important to coworkers.
  • Find a symbol or icon to share (a statement on the signature line of email works well). Give it to an employee who has exemplified one of the Michigan Medicine values for a period of time. Come the next week, let that employee hand it off to one of their peers who has done the same.

Q: In the current work environment, some may find it hard to carry out recognition with teams that are spread out or working remotely. What are some suggestions you have to make it a bit easier in a time of social distancing?

PS: This is a new work environment for many of us, and recognition may look different from the norm.

The recognition platform is an excellent tool and remotely accessible as well as some of the above ideas which can also be done using new technologies such as Zoom or BlueJeans. Here are a few other ideas:

  • During team/department meetings, designate five minutes at the beginning of the meeting to share recognition for each other.
  • Host virtual come-together time without the pressures of talking about work-related topics.
  • Make a call to your colleague just to say thanks, or contact their manager so they can hear about the great work they are doing.

Learn even more about the new recognition site and Employee Appreciation Week by listening to or watching the latest episode of The Wrap employee podcast. Check it out today!