communication 2

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.

Dec12 research gift cards

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?



Here’s a post on employee recognition that is well worth the read.  It comes from The Fistful of Talent blog and was written by Paul Hebert, a well-known and respected incentive industry consultant with Symbolist.

His point that there is no shortage of platforms on which to run any and all types of employee engagement (read reward) systems is almost an understatement.  Everyone and anyone who wants to sell any kind of reward will have one.  And, if you bring them all in for a presentation you’ll find that they are all very similar, with cute little features that promise to give you the ultimate in employee recognition systems.

Recently, Google ruffled the feathers of the reward industry by doing away with a standard points based approach and develop their own platform…obviously easier and more cost effective for them to do.  But they mentioned that a primary reason for doing it themselves was to be able to control the award delivery and give their people what they wanted, based of course on the analytics!

Google spent their planning time focusing on the value of their employees and what they needed to do motivate increased high performance.  And that is what a well-designed platform should do.

If you are in that phase of planning (or have had a platform in place for some time and are thinking about revisions) you need to realize that unless the platform supplier is a strictly a software company, they will typically sell their system and the support of it at extremely low competitive pricing or even giving it away.   This is done in order to pack the award side of it with awards that provide them with the high margin items that provide the profit to be able to give away the platform.  It’s like the sales strategy employed by Gillette many years ago.  They gave away the razors to sell the blades.

So if you want robot recognition as shown today by hundreds of suppliers, be careful that you get the kind of award delivery system that will truly excite your people.

global team

Every leader and executive has their own way of doing things, and there are more lists of the “top five”, “top ten” etc. ways to motivate your employees than there is space on any blog to write them down.

But here’s another one we think is worthwhile.  Steve Tobak, a consultant, former high-tech senior executive and writer for MoneyWatch, has come up with some great ideas of how to motivate your team.  None of these needs a budget to do them.  The list is paraphrased below: 

  • Let your people know why their job and performance is important to the organization as well as to your customers
  • Managers need to hold themselves accountable for goal achievement. When they do, employees will follow.
  • Follow up on goals with real-time, good or bad, feedback of the performance
  • Celebrate/recognize achievements publicly, and take the blame for failures and then offer constructive feedback privately
  • Provide all the tools the employees need to do their job, and then get out of the way.
  • Challenge your team and give them responsibility to succeed or fail on their own
  • Communicate what’s going on as openly as possible, but maintain confidential issue
  • Be flexible, we are all different and do things differently. Let the team have the freedom to do their best
  • Show empathy, humility and a sense of humor along the way. 


We go a little “nutso” every time someone in the incentive/award industry uses the word “gift” when they mean an “award”.  If you are conveying a gift to someone, they didn’t have to do anything to get it, that’s why it’s a gift.  If you are presenting an award to someone, that person actually earned the right to receive that award.

Now let’s go a little deeper into the world of employee recognition and incentives.  Frankly there is a part of the incentive industry that has an “everyone should win the prize mentality,” which doesn’t make much sense. The prize should be presented to the winners of a competition in recognition of outstanding achievement.  We found this interview with Tom Coughlin, the coach of New York Giants, and his feelings on motivation to be very interesting.  His view is fairly simple.  People earn the right to win, just as employees in any recognition or incentive program have the opportunity to earn the right to win. The have to work for it.

Essentially Mr. Coughlin explains that motivation is a process that involves learning.  Most people inherently want to be the best they can be.  They want good managers who are interested in their performance and success, they want to be coached.  Most employees have pride in what they do.  To use that pride in the success of your organization, help your employees set realistic goals for achievement, and then show them how to attack those goals.

You can’t go anywhere in the Human Resources world without running into the discussion of employee engagement.  It’s the piece of their world that drives performance in the company.  But you can’t just expect engagement to exist without setting up the process to help the employees along the way.

When you do, the awards they receive will be received with the pride knowing that they Earned the Right to Win.

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