Everyone likes to be recognized for a job well-done. When you work hard on something, or go above and beyond to exceed expectations, it’s nice to know that others notice and appreciate the effort. Many employers also recognize that employee recognition can go a long way toward increasing morale, improving loyalty to the company, keeping productivity high and improving employee retention and recruitment, among other benefits.
Unfortunately, though, many employee recognition programs are lackluster and do not adequately recognize the contributions and achievements of employees. According to one study, nearly 90 percent of employee recognition programs are based on length of service rather than accomplishments. While it’s nice to recognize individuals who have met certain service milestones with the company, a truly effective program that makes employees happy needs to go above and beyond 5- or 10-year service awards.
The key to any effective employee recognition program is making it meaningful to employees, and that means giving recognition on an ongoing basis. If you’ve been feeling as if your employee recognition isn’t working as well as you would like, and you need to give it a kickstart, try some of these ideas.
Make It Immediate
Recognition needs to be timely to be effective. No one wants to wait for five years to have an accomplishment acknowledged. When developing your employee recognition program, create mechanisms for employee achievements to be acknowledged and celebrated right away. Some managers, for instance, have instituted a recognition agenda item during weekly staff meetings, in which colleagues can thank and recognize each other. Other companies have created more formal programs, in which leaders can give out immediate cash bonuses or other rewards to employees who exceed expectations. Either way, it’s important for rewards and recognition to be timely and to not wait to give praise.
Make It Specific
One of the major problems with tenure-based recognition programs is that they don’t recognize anything other than longevity. But employees don’t necessarily have to be with a company for a long time to make a positive impact, and only recognizing years of service essentially ignores specific accomplishments along the way — and potentially recognizes employees who have been mediocre at best but still managed to stay with the company. To make your reward program meaningful, make it specific, and tell people exactly why they are being rewarded. This can be accomplished by sending an email to the team, including a letter or note in the employee file or sending a personal note to the employee. Acknowledging specific behaviors or actions not only reinforces those actions, but it shows the employee that their efforts aren’t going unnoticed.
Give Meaningful Gifts
While a simple note acknowledging something an employee did is always appreciated, for significant achievements, gifts and awards are appropriate. Giving employees custom plaques to recognize accomplishments, for instance, is always welcome; most people like to display evidence of their accomplishments, and seeing a plaque on the wall can be an effective motivator to continue working hard.
However, not all rewards need to be as formal as an engraved trophy or plaque. Almost everyone likes to receive cash or a cash equivalent, like gift cards. Company swag is a welcome gift as well, as long as it’s something useful. If budgets are tight, consider rewarding employees with non-cash gifts, such as extra time off or a prime parking spot for a month. Get creative with your recognition gifts, but remember that whatever you give should be accompanied by a letter or note thanking the employee for his or her efforts and explaining why they are being recognized. Once the gift card is spent or the vacation time has been used, that written reminder will keep the recognition fresh and help motivate the employee.
Make It Public
Finally, make your employee recognition efforts public. Giving people credit in front of others not only reinforces your appreciation, but can also serve as motivation for the rest of the team. Don’t do it behind closed doors or wait until a designated time to make an announcement. Do it now and do it in publicly.
Employee recognition is an important part of a well-functioning company, but only if it’s done right. If you feel like morale is flagging, or you want to pump up the energy in your company, giving your recognition program a boost with these ideas will help.