All the hard decisions that had to be made by management because of the recession still shape the employees definition of what normal really is. Companies are still dealing with an attitude of getting by with less, spending only when necessary. Management is wondering why or even if they should invest in employee recognition systems. Coming out of the last major recession, these types of attitudes persisted for several years.
But employee recognition still matters. It is still a key element in employee engagement and can help drive increased employee performance. HR thought leaders understand this and are focusing this investment in recognition to increase the impact on the bottom line. Suggestions systems designed to reduce overall costs, wellness efforts that have shown to reduce medical costs, safety award systems that can reduce incidents of injuries and accidents, and team based sales and marketing efforts that combine internal support groups and field personnel are all tactics to drive incremental profits.
Now is the time to use employee awards to promote collaboration within cross-functional departments. Properly planned and implemented reward systems can put your employees back on the offense instead of staying on defense to protect their jobs. Employee recognition systems can be designed and promoted around encouraging idea creation, innovation and sharing. They can align corporate goals and objectives into the goals and objectives of your employees.
So start your year off right. Dust off the recognition system that may have been put on the shelf or gathering dust because of lack of budgets. If you have some money to spend, you might even want to give each employee a $25 Award of Choice card and thank them for all the time and effort they put in while you were going through tougher times. You might be amazed at how that simple gesture can strike a spark that ignites a fire of optimism.
We’ve written many posts on employee recognition, how to do it, why it fails, how to make it successful, why you should do it, when you should do it etc., etc., etc.
It’s hard to look at a HR publication that doesn’t speak of employee recognition and the positive effects it has on employee engagement. There also seems to be a study a week on the same subject. There are even some people in the awards industry that feel employee recognition and employee engagement should be synonymous. With so much being said about it, why would we even ask the question “Is Employee Recognition Scarce?” Simply because in many places it still is.
The single most used recognition system today is the ubiquitous years of service program where we recognize an employee’s longevity with the company. These programs can be traced back to the beginning of the 20th century, and they are still going strong. They are the easiest to implement, and frankly they don’t take much involvement from the management.
Does your management really believe in employee recognition? Are they as involved as they were in the beginning (if they were)? Do they take the time to do it and do they do it right, or do you have to remind them all along the way? Have your recognition efforts turned into employee complaining, jealously or dissatisfaction? Does your management know how to provide recognition, or have they had bad experiences when they do?
It’s that time of the year to do an inventory of your recognition program and ask these tough questions. Or, ask around your organization and see what your people really think. Or, take a quick analysis of your program and see how many of your employees were truly recognized for their performance this year, and what they received for it. What % of your employees do you think should be recognized on an annual basis? If you are recognizing less than 40%, does that mean that 60% of your employees don’t deserve it?
In the end, you are the judge of whether or not you think that employee recognition is scarce.
‘Nobody motivates today’s workers. If it doesn’t come from within, it doesn’t come. Fun helps remove the barriers that allow people to motivate themselves.’, Herman Cain. Founder Godfather Pizza
According to Alan Fairweather, an International speaker and successful author and purveyor of employee motivation as the “Motivation Doc”:
“The number 1 motivator for people at work is – the work itself. Not money as many people still think it is, or even recognition. In all the surveys that have been done over the years with employees, this is the most important motivator that comes up every time. It doesn’t matter in what country the research is done or the industry, they results are always the same.”
Employees will be highly motivated and engaged if they think their jobs are meaningful and important to the success of the company. They will be motivated if their job is interesting and they like what they do. So the simple answer on how to motivate the workforce is to make the jobs important to the individual.
Obviously this a bit more complex than just making someone’s job interesting, but it’s not a bad place to start. Most individuals in the workplace can and will motivate themselves to positive performance, but there will always be degrees of that. To get the majority of the employee base to move up the performance scale will take more a bit more effort.
As stated in the post, you might want to try other practical steps to make the job more meaningful such as varying the tasks they actually perform, give them more responsibility, ask them to assist co-workers, to occasionally attend management meetings, and provide further training. And when all that works, make sure you recognize them for efforts.
One of the most important things you can do to positively affect the performance of your employee recognition program is to make sure it is communicated properly. With the advent of social media in the workplace there seems to be an automatic assumption that communication of these programs will take of care of itself and we don’t have to do much. Maybe we do get a lot out of these social media sources, but don’t rely on them so heavily that you forget to promote your program whenever possible.
To start, make sure that the program is kicked off successfully. Use senior management, either on video or in person to announce it and share why it is so important. If it’s already in place, once a year you should re-introduce the program using senior management. No one has the skills of the great orators of our history, but some pre-planning will help make that introduction a success. This post from TLNT, a popular HR management blog, gives some excellent advice on how to get your message out to your audience. Simple ideas for doing this include:
- Analyzing Your Audience….who you’re talking to, what they want, how they can benefit
- Understanding the Reactions You Want to Produce….what do you want them to do
- Modify the Delivery to Achieve Those Reactions….use passion while delivering your message
The launch is critical, but ongoing communication with participants is equally as important. When you motivate your employees with a proper launch, they have a choice: they either stay engaged, they stay involved, they take a proactive stance to sort of continue to be involved in that vision, and/or they shut down. Ongoing communications help ensure that they don’t shut down.
Thought we’d bring this research from late 2012 on what gifts that adults wanted for the holidays.
It’s a little dated, but parallels more current data we’ve seen from the incentive industry. In light of all the discussion of late about employee engagement award platforms, we thought this would be helpful. Since the founding of this blog, we have been stating that gift cards are the #1 award in the incentive industry, for the fundamental reason that it’s what people want. That hasn’t changed. And when it does, don’t worry, gift cards competitors will tout that to the heavens.
In terms of what outlets these gift cards are for, this same IRF survey revealed that the largest number are for department stores at 39% followed by restaurants at 33%, bookstores at 21%, coffee shops at 18%, discount stores like Costco at 14%, grocery stores/gas stations at 13% and online retailers rounding it out at 11%.
It was interesting for us to note that when the traditional merchandise award supplier’s harangue on the main problem of using gift cards the main reasons is that they can be used for groceries and gasoline. And they are right, but 87% of the time, they wrong! Frankly it really shouldn’t make much difference to the incentive planner; the participant has to perform in order to receive the award. There are some schools of thought that think you should let them have what they want anyway. Who are we to determine those preferences?