Fostering a culture of employee appreciation all year-round


Compensation & Benefits

Culture & Engagement

Christine D. Roberts MBA
The Medical Group Management Association’s most recent MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders, “Do staff get a holiday monetary bonus or other gift?” A majority (77%) responded “yes,” while 23% reported “no”
Respondents who stated “yes” were then invited to elaborate on their answer here are some of the highlights:
  • Cash bonus and a small gift
  • Monetary and Christmas party
  • We provide each hourly employee who has been here at least nine months a week's extra pay. Less than nine months gets a flat dollar amount.
  • Holiday luncheon with gift exchange and a gift from the practice
  • Five paid days off
Respondents who indicated “no” went on to elucidate:
  • They do get a free holiday meal but no monetary gift.
  • No gift or monetary bonus from the group, but we pay for a nice Christmas party and include their families.
  • We are part of a large academic healthcare organization, no ability to offer holiday bonuses
This poll was conducted on December 10, 2019, with 1628 applicable responses.
Engaging our staff is paramount to developing a healthy organizational culture. With reports of burnout so prevalent in healthcare today, it is more important than ever for practice leaders to show their staff that their work is valued?
The holidays are a perfect time for showing staff appreciation, from potlucks to company parties, but it’s important to show that same appreciation consistently through the year to remind employees that they are valued members of the organization.
To help us understand how we may work some of these habits into our practice, MGMA has invited Christine D. Roberts, MBA, Chief Operations Officer, Craig H. Lichtblau MD PA, North Palm Beach, Fla. to share what has worked for her practice with employee recognition year-round:      
I work for an organization that allows me to foster an atmosphere of appreciation for our employees. When I started at Craig H. Lichtblau MD PA, there was little in the way of making employees feel valued. Most of the “fun stuff” had gone to the wayside. After more than 20 years under the same old management, I was brought in to revamp the organization. My company was ready and looking for change. After six months of company clean up, I was able to begin making more employee-focused changes.
In doing so, I found that showing appreciation can be done in many various ways throughout the year.
Over the past four years, the organization made small yet significant additions to our employee appreciation activities. Every birthday is marked with a token of remembrance — usually by candy and a gift. Anniversaries are celebrated with a handwritten card and a gift that lets employees know that their boss thinks highly of them. Throughout the year, there are random treats of donuts, cake or bagels. A brag board was added to give staff an opportunity to brag about their teammates, who are rewarded with a gift card.
Our holiday season starts with our annual Halloween contest and pot luck - everyone who participates gets a monetary prize, with a top prize of $400. Before Thanksgiving, the staff receives “We are thankful” gift cards. I personally hand these out and thank each one of our staff members for supporting the organization. A few weeks later, we have our annual holiday lunch and ugly sweater contest, in which again anyone who participates gets a monetary prize, with a top prize of $500. At the in-office luncheon, the entire staff gets a monetary bonus and a gift.
So why does our organization emphasize staff appreciation?
  • Research shows that employee recognition (in the form of monetary bonus, gifts or benefits) leads to happier employees.1
  • Happier employees stick around: According to my facilities turnover report from ADP, our turnover rate has been less than 1% in the past three years. When you appreciate your staff, they appreciate you. They will become vested in the organization’s success.
The best example of how this has paid off for my organization is the support I received from my staff during this hurricane season. I was out of town when hurricane Dorian was anticipated to hit, so several staff members called me to keep me posted about the storm and offered to put up hurricane shutters at the clinic. I was blown away by their concern. You can’t put a price on that kind of investment.
To implement a program for staff appreciation, you must start with an employer who values hard work. Initially, start small in scope and expense. I started with something that cost nothing: words of affirmation. I handwrote notes of appreciation for anniversaries, birthdays and for everyday good performance. I decided to personally invest in $5 gift cards for Dunkin’ Donuts. Four years later, I now have a flexible budget for employee appreciation. 
It begins with saying good morning to the staff on a daily basis and extends through saying goodnight at the end of each day.


Craig W. “3 Reasons Why Employee Recognition Will Always MatterForbes. July 17, 2017.

Other considerations

When an employer gives a gift to an employee, they need to be aware of the tax implications to that employee. Most gifts with any kind of cash value or equivalent will require that taxes are paid, the only exceptions are generally de minimus (e.g. coffee and donuts, etc.) and some non-cash awards. For example, a gift card for $50 or a television worth $300 as a holiday gift would be taxable under the IRS rules. The employee will have to pay the taxes on those gifts, or another option is for the employer to “gross up” the gift to cover the taxable portion. If you wanted an employee to receive a $100 cash holiday gift, you would have to give them around $130 to compensate for the taxes that will be taken out. MGMA recommends that you work with a tax advisor or accountant on the specific needs of your organization around gifts to employees.

Additional resources:

  1. “Keeping stress in check for medical practice staff around the holidays” (MGMA Insight Article)
  2. “11 Unique Ways to Reward Your Staff for the Holidays” (Physician Practice)
  3. Factors of a Positive Culture: Behavior Modeling, Communication, Engagement & Empowerment (an MGMA Research & Analysis report)
  4. “Tax Rules of employee Gifts and Company Parties”
  5. "Reminder: Holiday Gifts, Prizes or Parties Can Be Taxable Wages”
Would you like to join our polling panel to voice your opinion on important practice management topics? MGMA Stat is a national poll that addresses practice management issues, the impact of new legislation and related topics. Participation is open to all healthcare leaders. Results of other polls and information on how to participate in MGMA Stat are available at:

About the Author

Christine D. Roberts MBA
Chief Operations Officer Craig H. Lichtblau MD PA

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