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  taj mahal

One of the buildings above is the Taj Mahal, the other is the corporate headquarters of the largest employee Years of Service award company in the industry.

Believe it or not, the latest market research conducted by Incentive Magazine showed that close to 40% of all Years of Service programs use gift cards as some of their award options.

It wasn’t too long ago that you would never see gift cards in employee anniversary programs for several reasons.  First, the major recognition companies spent millions of dollars marketing their traditional awards such as company identified jewelry items, crystal, clocks, watches and the like.  Second they used very sophisticated training programs for their salesforces as well as for clients building a mystique that only deluxe trophy type merchandise would be proper to recognize an employee who remained at a company for a period of time usually in 5 year cycles  starting at 1, 3, or 5 years.  And lastly, they created excellent software platforms that made is very easy for a client to purchase a turnkey employee service award program.

So what changed?  How did gift cards start to become an option in these programs?  It certainly wasn’t because the companies that specialized in gift card systems spent millions in advertising, or marketing or a sales force that was trained to call on the clients. And it wasn’t because they built sophisticated electronic platforms to implement them.  It came about because clients were getting tired of paying very hefty premiums over retail price and employees were asking for more choice and a better value.

With the age of the internet anyone could do a quick search to determine the value of an award, it didn’t take long for the employees to ask why the award that they understood cost $250 or $500 actually had a value of only $125 or $250.  That was the rule rather than the exception.

Gift cards are a part of Years of Service programs because it gives your employees what they want without incremental cost to you.  If you are going to spend $250 or $500 on an award, wouldn’t it make sense to make sure that your employee receives as much of that budget as possible?  The traditional recognition companies will fight long and hard to keep you from putting gift cards in program.  They know that once in, they will lose prized profit dollars year after year.  But do you really want to support their Taj Mahal corporate offices at the expense of your employees?

If you’re interested in learning about a high value, low cost gift card recognition system that is easy to implement please contact us above.


communications leader

These three statements were originally posted in the Booher Banter Blog.  Booher Consultants is a communication skills training firm that works with organizations to increase productivity and profitability through more effective communications.

We all know that effective communications is key in any employee recognition system.  You may want to consider reconsidering not saying these three things, especially if you are in a position of leadership in your organization.

“Don’t take this personally.” 

Now, how else would you take this statement?  Of course it’s personal.  It is probably being delivered just before some kind of a critique of you or your work.  The speaker may think it’s a way of softening the message but frankly it’s condescending and won’t set up the discussion to be positively received at all.  Avoid it if possible.

 “Don’t bring me a problem unless you bring me an answer.” 

We’re sure when leaders say this they mean not to just drop problems on them and expect them to solve them for you.  But if you had the answers it wouldn’t be a problem in the first place would it?  Unfortunately these kinds of comments can produce unintended consequences.  Without guidance from leadership many delayed decisions can bring unwanted problems often too late to be solved.

“We need to talk about that sometime.” 

If something is a problem, the time to discuss it is now!  This comment will only shut down communications.  And when leaders aren’t listening many bad things can happen.

Employee recognition efforts don’t do much good when they don’t have the attention and respect from your employees.  Effective communications should be the first thing you have in place to have a truly engaged workforce.

If you’re interested in learning about a high value, low cost gift card recognition system that is easy to implement please contact us above.



There are many research projects that measure the number of engaged vs. not engaged employees, but a study conducted by Carnegie Training in conjunction with MSW research looked into  the functional and emotional elements of employee engagement to determine why ?  They uncovered that one of the three key drivers of employee engagement was the relationship with immediate supervision.  About the same time, WorldatWork conducted a year-long engagement survey and came to the same conclusion.

If one of the key drivers in the success of these programs is the immediate supervisor, doesn’t it just make sense to include this important level in your reward strategy?  With turnover rates approaching 65% and the cost of hiring and training new employees at about 1.5 times salary, there is more than sufficient financial justification to include management in your employee award systems.

Here are some methods WorldatWork generated in their survey to include management in your programs:

  • Track the engagement in your organization and create actionable tasks for managers that can be measured, such as timely recognition of employees 
  • Have a special recognition for managers, who achieve assigned objectives of the measures above 
  • Define employee engagement strategically to be communicated to and by the upper levels of management. 

Companies that are serious about engagement take time to identify areas for improvement, track relevant metrics, and create a diverse collection of initiatives that touches every level of the organization, including and especially supervisory management.

On The Spot is a very effective way for you to include management in your program, for a short paper that will give you a brief overview of this award system, please click here.  

medal of honor

That’s what they do, that’s what they will always do, and that’s what they will continue to do.  And your superstars will always be the ones who get the recognition, who get the awards, who get the promotions.  And frankly that’s as it should be.

But we keep hearing from managers and employees alike, that’s there a whole group of just regular performers out there who rarely if ever get any of recognition or appreciation at work.  We see that all the time in employee surveys that say that lack of recognition and appreciation are top reasons why people leave their company and search for a new career.

It’s unfortunate, but while managers know this exists they are either reluctant of uncommitted to find a way to recognize performance at all levels.  It’s easy to reward someone who hit the cover off the ball, but what do you do with the consistent faithful workers who are there day after day just doing their job?  They probably represent the middle 70-80% of your workforce that is called just “regular” employees.  They are the hard working people you can’t do without.  They are the one who quietly slip out the back door for another company who will respect them more than you do.  They are the backbone of your company.

Unlike superstars, there might not be any standout performance or above and beyond behaviors in this group, but we all know that nothing would get done without them.  And it’s precisely because they don’t produce standout exceptional work that they are ignored, and if you are implementing a recognition program based on the above and beyond, these will never be winners.

Do you know what it’s like to go through you work life and not be recognized?

In any well planned recognition system you must be careful to not just recognize the superstars.  A great way to accomplish that is to apportion some of your recognition budget for a peer to peer program and let your employees recognize themselves.  You may be surprised who they find to reward, and as easily surprised at the reasons for the award.

The United States has a long and proud history of our men and women in the military.  Did you know that the vast majority of the recipients of the Medal of Honor were not the standouts, the superstars, the leading officers of their time?  They came from the “regular army, navy air force and marines.”  They were just the middle of the pack that did extraordinary things at extraordinary times.  We often term the majority of our employees as “regulars.”  Is it time to see them in a different light?

These are the people who are trained and focused on doing the right thing and they do it day in and day out.  These truly deserve your appreciation.  Don’t forget them when you plan your next recognition campaign.

If you would like a short paper on a recognition award that is cost effective and easy to use in programs that can recognize every level or for peer to peer applications, please let us know. 

tug of war

Over the years we have seen companies ascribe many different objectives to employee recognition or incentive programs.  Programs that don’t work well or produce results have at least one thing in common… when the participants don’t perceive the objectives are attainable, they were doomed to fail from the beginning.

When you are in your planning phase here are some things to keep in mind that incentive or recognition programs can’t address.  Avoid them if at all possible:

  • Don’t be lulled into the comfort level that every participant can achieve results.  The 80/20 rule is alive and well in any incentive program.  You’ll have the top 10% of winners just like you’ve always had, and you’ll have the bottom 10% that fail like you’ve always had.  But the middle 80% can be moved to improve performance. 
  • Periodic incentives are not a substitute for good feedback to your participants.  Regular feedback should be ongoing.  The more you measure and report performance, the better performance you will have.  Believe in the adage that “What gets measured gets done and what gets rewarded gets repeated.  
  • You can’t use incentives as a replacement for enforcing policy, although you can make the enforcement a qualifier for participation. 
  • Incentives or recognition won’t resolve the design of a bad job description or staffing decisions.  When you have issues in staffing or work responsibilities that stand in the way of good performance, an award for better performance can’t be achieved. 
  • You can’t fix broken organizational structures or processes.  Even if you dangled a new car for everyone in the program for achieving results, you’re better off investing the money on the real problem.  If not, your participants are likely to develop their own “workarounds” that can cause further damage. 

Incentive and recognition programs can and will backfire when you aren’t honest about your current situation, business climate or culture.  When you implement your program, objectives that make upper management warm and fuzzy won’t produce results unless your participants know that they are realistic and achievable.  Without that, you won’t have a program, so save the money, and the headache.

If you’re interested in learning about a high value, low cost gift card recognition system that is easy to implement please contact us above.

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