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Staff aglow: Herzberg had it right

April 29, 2008
by Ann Borders
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You've all seen Fredric Herzberg's seminal work on employee motivation: achievement, recognition and the work itself are the key motivators. Salary, security, and work conditions are simply maintenance factors. Good news for those of us in behavioral health! According to the US Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean wage for outpatient behavioral health workers is 16% lower than their counterparts in ambulatory health offices. On average, employees of psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals earn 14% less than those who work for medical surgical hospitals. During a youth recognition banquet we sponsored last week, we had an opportunity to see Herzberg's theories in action. The 25 award winners, with full police escort, were transported by limousines to the banquet hall. (BTW, we learned that a child's idea of heaven is riding in a Hummer limo!) They crossed a red carpet and entered with "We are the Champions" playing as over 200 people cheered them on. I am often thunderstruck as I learn the personal stories of these young award winners. Despite almost unimaginable adversity, our children have achieved the seemingly impossible, given their life circumstances. Following such events, I've heard our staff reflect that "this is our REAL pay day." They struggle to describe the pride and excitement on the faces of the children being honored. But I was also watching our staff, and they were every bit as aglow as the young honorees. I think Herzberg had it right. As behavioral health administrators, we often share the frustration that we will never be able to make our employees rich. However, we are able to provide our staff with some of the richest experiences that can be found in any work place, anywhere.

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You said it. I am sure that this has made an impression on the children and hopefully it will help them strive for further success. I also feel that this event equally had an impact on our staff as many of them came to work the next day and still had trouble keeping dry eyes. It is always worth while to see the impact we are having in the lives of the people we serve.

Ann Borders

President and CEO, Cummins Behavioral Health Systems, Inc

http://cumminsbhs.org/

Ann Borders is president and CEO of Cummins Behavioral Health Systems, Inc., serving eight...