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Top 28 Creative Ways to Reward Your Caregivers and Staff

Published on December 24, 2020 by Scott Zielski

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It is no secret that excessively high caregiver turnover rates have plagued the home care industry in recent years, and are considered one of the main challenges facing home care growth. This is largely attributable to pay gaps, limited benefits, and insufficient training opportunities for caregivers and staff.

The problem peaked in 2018, with the home care industry’s staff turnover rate reaching an all-time high of 82%, according to Home Care Pulse.

Employee retention continues to be a critical issue as home care providers compete for talented caregivers in a highly competitive market. High turnover percentages are not only costly to your business financially, but can also lower productivity, decrease employee engagement and morale, require major adjustments to daily functioning, and have a significant ‘company culture’ impact.

Every home care provider needs to understand the importance of staff retention and the value of having a strategy in place to retain the high performers that give it a competitive edge; they are the ones you cannot afford to lose.  

While exit interviews reveal there are many reasons caregivers decide to leave, some of which will be out of your control, the main drivers in employee retention and loyalty have been shown to be:

  • feeling appreciated
  • flexibility
  • giving back to the community
  • wages.

In that order.

To effectively retain your caregivers, you need to:

  • provide them with the right tools to support their jobs, and
  • make them feel recognized and appreciated.

Right tools

The right tools start with providing access to a mobile point-of-care caregiver workflow platform that uses best-practice workflows to make delivering care easier and improving outcomes.

Complete home care platforms, like Smartcare’s mobile point-of-care solutions, equip caregivers with the tools they need to deliver the highest level of care.

Recognize and appreciate

Secondly, you must make sure your employees feel recognized and appreciated for the work that they do. This will do wonders for your employer branding strategy and your client/patient satisfaction (as they receive consistent, reliable care), and will immediately improve your staff turnover rate.

While pay is always a component of retaining your caregivers, it’s only part of the puzzle to making your caregivers and staff feel satisfied, respected and valued.

We’ve put together a list of ideas to help you show your appreciation and gratitude for a job well done, that will not only improve retention rates but also help to create a cooperative work environment and positive team spirit.

Rewards are a powerful tool, crucial for retaining top talent and keeping your caregivers and staff happy.

28 creative ways to reward your caregivers and staff

The key to successful employee rewards is to think creatively and to be thoughtful – you need to focus on meaningful motivators and work towards them becoming an integral part of your agency’s culture.

“Creativity, not cost, is the secret to building employee rewards and incentives that communicate your true appreciation for their hard work and dedication.”

Before we dive in, remember that when rewarding caregivers and staff, it is important to ensure that the rewards are:

  • Timely

Ensure you reward caregivers and staff as soon as possible. If you plan to recognize their efforts after an extended period of time, be sure to let them know you appreciate their accomplishments before then. If left too long, the show of appreciation can seem less genuine or not a priority – you want to avoid your caregivers feeling like they are an afterthought.

  • Rightfully earned

It is important to make sure the correct person is being recognized for their achievements and that their achievements are positive and praiseworthy. Remember to acknowledge loyalty, encourage improvements and recognize little details, as well as the bigger, standout achievements. Don’t ignore your unsung heroes, those who are always reliable, consistent and trustworthy.

  • Specific

Be clear on what it is that you are rewarding, for example, a specific situation, behaviour or outcome that the caregiver deserves acknowledgement for. The more you message what’s important to you, the more people will focus on that and the more likely it will be repeated.

  • Sincere 

This may seem obvious, but caregivers will know if the reward you offer is insincere. Be as genuine as possible when praising and rewarding employees, so they can feel how much you value their contributions.

The power of rewards isn’t necessarily in the rewards themselves, but what they represent. You don’t need to be extravagant or provide expensive rewards to make an impact. How you choose your rewards should be determined by what you know about your caregivers and staff, as well as what your budget can support.

Personal acknowledgements

Never underestimate the power of a simple ‘thank you’ in making your caregivers and staff feel noticed and appreciated.

1. Handwritten thank-you notes/cards

Handwritten thank-you notes/cards

These are a very personal way of thanking caregivers and staff, showing that they are worth your time and attention and that you appreciate their work enough to take the time to write them a note.

In addition, by writing down your thanks and gratitude, the caregiver has an item that they can look back on to remind them later.

2. Telephone calls/texts

Verbal recognition is one of the top ways caregivers like to be recognized. Try to call your top caregivers each month to tell them exactly how you see them excelling at their job. It is a free yet thoughtful way to let them know you are thinking of them, give praise and show your appreciation.

A similar feel-good factor can be achieved with regular ‘thank you’ texts. Use your home care software‘s chat messaging to quickly reach them for a “thank you,” this will go a long way.

You can also ask your office staff to record (with the client/patient’s permission) when they have positive things to say about their caregiver, and pass this feedback along to the caregiver when you call/text them.

3. Recognition in front of peers

Highlight your employees’ achievements by recognizing them in a company meeting, newsletter or on your agency’s social media platforms. You can even create monthly profile pieces to highlight individuals and their accomplishments.

Personal gifts

Depending on what your budget can support, a variety of personal gifts can really make your caregivers and staff feel valued and an important part of the team. This can be simple, focus on the thought more than the cost. Simple gifts have a huge impact.

A Harvard Business School study found that giving unexpected gifts/rewards to employees not only improves staff morale but also leads to higher productivity. The research found that ‘gifts are roughly as efficient as hiring more workers.’

4. The gift of time

Most caregivers have very little free time, so any impromptu time off work will be hugely appreciated. This can be as simple as gifting an afternoon or morning off, giving them time to run errands or have a lie-in while the rest of the world is working. Spontaneous late arrival or early departure days are always a great motivator.

You can introduce ‘time off coupons’ that caregivers and staff can collect for achieving specific goals. Starting at 20 minutes, the tokens can add up to leaving an hour early one day or coming in late another.

Gifting additional vacation time is also a great reward, which caregivers can use under the same conditions as their standard vacation allotment. Everyone appreciates a few extra days off. Paid vacation helps caregivers feel valued, better engaged and gives them time to recharge and work more effectively when they return.

5. Monthly food clubs/meal delivery

There are other ways to gift time, like having food delivered to your caregiver’s door. After a long week of caring for others, this can be a real treat for many caregivers.

Whether you opt for full meal delivery options or fresh, boxed produce, you are offering your staff a break from the daily grind of food shopping and meal preparation. 

6. Laundry/cleaning service

Similar to kitchen duties, after a long week at work, the last thing most caregivers and staff want to do when the weekend arrives is face laundry and cleaning chores. Arrange a laundry service to pick up/drop off their laundry – or treat them to a cleaning service for their home on a Friday afternoon. This reward gives employees more than just fresh laundry/a clean house; it helps restore some work-life balance.

7. Self-care

The number one reason behind caregiver burn-out is stress, so when choosing a gift for your caregivers, keep self-care in mind. Gifts that give them the time to care for themselves, take a break from the day-to-day routine, or make them feel pampered are perfect ways to say ‘thank you!’

Ideas can include anything that provides a feeling of indulgence and relaxation, such as spa gift baskets, a manicure or pedicure, a haircut, a gift certificate for a pampering day of beauty or a soothing massage. Keep in mind any gift salon or spa certificates you choose should be at a convenient location, as well as having the tip included.

8. Gift cards/vouchers

Gift cards or vouchers can be a great treat to show appreciation to your caregivers, giving immediate value and some degree of choice. The list of options is endless, for example:

  • local coffee shop
  • local gas station
  • grocery stores
  • bookstore
  • Uber/Lyft
  • local restaurants/Uber Eats/Grub Hub
  • clothing retailers.

Alternatively, you can choose a generic credit card type of gift card that can be used anywhere. Always make sure you enclose a personal thank you note as well, to add a personal touch.

9. Company merchandise

Everyone loves free baseball caps, t-shirts, mugs, bags and drink bottles! Offering your caregivers free company apparel and other logo merchandise can be a simple, inexpensive way to remind them that they are valued members of the team.

10. Practical equipment

Think about gifts that would make your caregivers lives easier or more comfortable. Being on their feet all day, supportive shoes or comforting insoles can be a godsend. Equally, those who do a lot of driving might really benefit from car seat warmers.

Listen to regular complaints about discomfort from the work environment and find gift solutions to make your caregivers more comfortable – and feel listened to – in their work.

11. Discounted gym membership

Caregiving is physically challenging and requires a fit and strong body. Why not contract with a local gym or other sports’ facility for discounted company rates to help your employees stay fit and healthy.

12. Personalize a gift 

The simplest item becomes unique when it is personalized. For example, drink bottles, phone cases, key chains and accessories of all types can be personalized with initials, full names or heartfelt messages and presented as sentimental keepsakes. 

13. Subscription-based

At a time when everyone is trying to stay home, a grocery delivery or book club subscription can help to ease the stress of public outings. Subscriptions can be simple rewards but are guaranteed to be well received and used.

Ideas include: movie channels or Netflix / music streaming / online grocery shopping / magazines / virtual gym membership / wine delivery / meal delivery services / book clubs / Uber / Lyft / and online gaming channels.

14. Pay raises and bonuses

Most of us are motivated by money to some extent, and pay rises are a good way of showing caregivers and staff their value. Bonuses can also be highly effective in recognizing employees for meeting or exceeding expectations while remaining cost-effective for your care home agency in the long-term.

Exclusive experiences

team experiences smartcare

The science says it all, as studies repeatedly show that people derive more pleasure from experiences than things.

Whether delighting in a passion (i.e. art/craft classes, beer tasting or riding lessons) or challenging a comfort zone (i.e. zip lining or hot air ballooning), rewarding caregivers and staff with experiences that are meaningful and can be treasured is a great way to show you care about and appreciate them.

Whilst there are obviously some limitations to what you can offer during COVID-times, ideas for future ‘experience’ rewards include:

15. Tickets to cultural events/cinema/theatre

Cultural events are invigorating and get caregivers out of the house and back into society. Like gift cards, free tickets to an event are another relatively cheap option to show your employees that you recognize their hard work and appreciate it.Give enough tickets so they can take friends or family members along too.

16. Relaxation and pampering

Whether a spa day, free massage, meditation class or yoga session, caregivers will really appreciate some ‘me time’ to relax, refresh and restore.

17. A night out

Dinner for two, in a restaurant or as home delivery, provides a welcome and relaxing respite from a hard day’s work, particularly if a bottle of wine and tip are included. Pair this reward up with paid time-off, and you’ve created a truly valuable ‘thank you.’

18. Music festival/sporting event tickets

Everyone loves a certain type of music or a specific sport/team. Find out what events are happening locally and purchase pairs of tickets as a reward.

19. A pre-paid course/lessons

Find out what your caregivers and staff love to do, or dream of doing, if only they had the time or the money. Perhaps they want to learn a new language, master a new craft skill, develop their cookery/baking talent or jump out of a plane!

This type of reward shows employees you don’t just value them for the work they do, but also for the unique individuals that they are.

Professional/personal development

personal development and training

If you can establish a professional development budget – money specifically set aside for professional education and conference opportunities – you can reward caregivers and staff who have the ambition to learn. You are communicating that they are worth the investment and that you care about them, which goes a long way towards building loyalty and trust.

Once established, this budget can be used for a wide variety of staff development opportunities to reward employees, including:

20. Attending a conference of their choice

Helping your employees improve professionally, not only rewards them but benefits your company too. Look out for conferences in your city or state that you know your team will be interested in (and that are offering what you want them to learn!) and pay for them to attend. As an added incentive, buy multiple tickets so caregivers and staff can attend together in small groups.

21. Supporting education costs

For employees trying to increase their skills and knowledge, offering to pay all or part of their tuition fees can be a great reward, for example, providing financial support for non-medical caregivers to get CNA certification.

Certifications help caregivers feel professionally valued and more proficient in their roles. Investing in your staffs’ education not only rewards them but rewards your company too.

Also consider helping caregivers and staff to pay off any student loans or other educational debts they may have. This can mean so much more than simply giving cash rewards, and also gives peace of mind over any lingering debt.

22. Invest in ongoing training

More training may seem like an unusual way to reward your caregivers and staff, but a frequent comment in interviews conducted with caregivers is that they want more training. Providing ongoing training – for individuals as well as the team – shows them you are listening.

You can even set up a ‘training suggestions’ box (on- or offline) to further encourage and motivate the team.

Team building

Team building

Whilst it is important to reward individual members of the team, it’s also valuable to regularly bring the team together and reward them as a whole.

Meaningful experiences that build connection and community within your team are not only a great reward, but also allow your employees to get to know each other outside of the work environment.

23. Start a recognition program

Depending on the size of your business, create one (or more) awards to give out monthly. Winners can be chosen by you or be peer-nominated. Keep track of all your caregivers and the rewards they have received, to ensure that no one is excluded and that there aren’t long time gaps between acknowledgements.

These are a fun way to bring the team together and to recognize your talented staff publicly. Not only can you publicly recognize many different employees over time, but each one will enjoy their time in the spotlight. Ideas include:

  • Caregiver of the month – client/patient praise received or nominated by other staff.
  • Most supportive – a team member who is always willing to lend a helping hand to others.
  • Zero absences – no unexcused absences for the entire month.
  • Create your own – choose a behavior you want to reinforce and create an award for it!

Hold a celebration team breakfast or lunch (via Zoom if necessary) to bring everyone together and award certificates, badges or prizes to the staff selected for their achievements, as a physical token of your appreciation.  

24. Reward programs

In a rewards program, employees accumulate points/tokens that can be redeemed for prizes of their choice. This is a straightforward way to keep caregivers and staff motivated, engaged, happy and loyal – and provides a perfect platform for ongoing recognition.

Use the features of your home care platform like Smartcare’s to help track and manage this program for you.

By making rewards and competitions part of your agency culture, you’ll be building an educated and emotionally invested workforce that will stick with you for the long term. 

25. Annual appreciation lunches

Annual traditions are a great way to build company unity and enhance community spirit.

Whether your agency throws a pizza party or provides a more elaborate dinner, meals are a great way to reward staff and create milestones that caregivers can work towards.

26. Sweets and treats/feed the team

Surprise your team with occasional treats. From savory snacks to indulgent sweets like cupcakes or donuts, there are so many tasty treats to choose from! Bringing the team together for an hour a week/fortnight to chat and reflect on their highs and lows can really boost staff morale and ensure your caregivers and staff feel cared for.

27. Company offsite

A company-wide offsite is a great way to reward hitting team goals. It can be anything from an evening at the movies, a fun time at your local bowling alley, or a more extravagant weekend away. It can be a great team reward that promotes team building and helps strengthen your company culture.

28. Acts-of-service auction

At an employee appreciation lunch or company party, give everyone play money to use at an auction. The auction items should be small, personal things that the management team will do for the winning bidders: wash cars, walk the dog, cook a meal, bake a cake, be a chauffeur, do the employee’s job for a day, childcare, etc. This not only provides a fun team-building experience but also provides meaningful rewards for individual caregivers and staff.

Rewarding your caregivers and staff will have wonderful, long-lasting effects and is a great way to set your home care agency apart from the rest. Employees who feel their work is recognized and appreciated are guaranteed to work harder and become more loyal than those who don’t. 

Creating an environment where peers are also encouraged to recognize one another can take much of the burden from management, and provide an opportunity to reward contributions that may otherwise go unnoticed.

While using all of these ideas is obviously not practical, using a selection of them over the year will significantly contribute to creating a work culture that rewards hard work and helps every member of your team feel valued.

While tangible rewards can make a big impact on staff loyalty and retention, it’s important to remember that these are only one part of a larger equation. To truly boost caregiver engagement and retention, there needs to be a system of support and encouragement at the heart of all your recognition and reward programs.

Smartcare is a Complete Home Care Platform with Just the Right Amount of Everything Designed by Caregivers for Caregivers. With Smartcare, you can manage, schedule, and operate everything you need for your home care business. Achieve better outcomes, higher satisfaction, and increase caregiver retention with a system that supports your business and its goals.

Smartcare is currently offering our COVID-19 Toolset at no charge to all home care agencies. The Toolset App includes reminders, agency notices, symptom checks, contact tracing and other important virus risk mitigation tools to help you manage your response to the pandemic.

We are in this together. 

To find out more about Smartcare Software, email covid19@smartcaresoftware.com and let us know how we can help.

To find out how SmartCare™ software and support can help you differentiate your service and strategyplease contact us at 1+ (800) 450-9104 or via email: hello@smartcaresoftware.com