How a Rewards Program Can Help Fill Open Shifts While Saving Money

Jessica Chludzinski

Offering incentives to encourage staff to pick up hard-to-fill shifts is a common strategy in healthcare. However, organizations that offer monetary incentives have discovered that it can be costly and eventually counter-productive, as their employees have become conditioned to wait for higher incentives before agreeing to fill a shift.

Organizations that consider a rewards program as an alternative to a monetary incentive program are finding that more cost-effective recognition is helping to engage employees and drive desired behaviors. In fact, in healthcare we’re seeing incentive programs being taken to a whole new level as a way to achieve optimal workforce outcomes by boosting productivity, fostering teamwork and improving work habits.

These frequently asked questions provide some insight into how and why a rewards program can be successful.

Q: Why have a rewards program?

A rewards program can:

  • Provide a cost-effective alternative to contingent labor by leveraging internal staff.
  • Increase employee engagement.
  • Help attract and retain qualified staff.
  • Motivate staff to take hard-to-fill shifts.
  • Encourage desired behaviors, such as perfect attendance, excellent service, and committee work.

Q: How does a rewards program work?

ShiftRewards®, a module of Centricity™ ShiftSelect® by API Healthcare, is a unique, points-based rewards and recognition program that awards points to employees based on actions and behaviors. For example, employees can be rewarded 1000 points for picking up an extra open shift.

An online catalog offers over 3,000 redemption options, and accumulated earned points are redeemed for items such as gift cards, iPads, jewelry and other rewards. Organizations can also offer free redemption options, such as a premium parking space or picking a ‘dream schedule’.

Q: Besides picking up open shifts, how else can employees can earn points?

One of the advantages of a reward system is the flexibility to offer cost-effective incentives that encourage desired behaviors. For example, employees can earn additional points for volunteering, serving as a preceptor, perfect attendance, leadership awards, meeting accountability standards, obtaining advanced certification, or receiving recognition from patients and families.

Q: What are some of the pitfalls of monetary incentives?

Monetary incentives are more of a satisfier than a motivator, and can quickly become cost prohibitive. The perceived value of monetary incentives diminishes over time and can also create a “hold-out” effect, with employees waiting for the incentive to grow larger as the shift remains unfilled and the need for someone to pick it up becomes more urgent.

Q: What are the benefits of a rewards program?

Non-monetary rewards offer the following benefits:

  • Increased perceived value.
  • Trophy value increases link between award and employer.
  • Boosts engagement and retention efforts.
  • More tangible than incentive dollars.
  • Creates a feeling of ‘gamification’ as staff work toward a reward.
  • Redeemed for indulgences that are considered ‘not justifiable’.

Q: What is the dollar value of points?

Organizations can determine point values, but as a frame of reference, many provide reward points valued at about $0.50-$1.00 per hour, which equates to between $4.00-$12.00 per shift.

Q: Why would employees give up premium pay for less valuable points?

Organizations looking for a way to get rid of shift bonuses are finding that a non-monetary rewards program is a way to meet in the middle. A rewards program could also be used in combination with strategically placed shift incentives.

Q: Is there a tax benefit?

No. Although no money is exchanged, it is compensatory and therefore taxable. Organizations will need to track redemptions and tax for all redemptions.

To learn more about ShiftRewards, check out the 20-minute webinar, “Collaborative Staffing: Driving Performance with Rewards & Recognition.”


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