Employee Recognition: More than Money

Employee Recognition GraphicCategory: Employees

Employee recognition extends beyond dollars and cents. Today’s workplace requires more than gifting monetary rewards, gold watches, and restaurant cards. These isolated acts are important, yet need to be part of a comprehensive, results-driven program that is both meaningful and engaging for all team members. Supported by visual and digital communications that showcase each achievement, employee recognition programs are instrumental in helping to create and maintain a high-performance culture.

Defining Recognition.
Recognition fuels employee motivation to increase productivity and teamwork. However, recognition can backfire if employees don’t understand the “rules of the game”. Even worse, it can be viewed as unfair when employees’ witness the same folks being regularly feted, whereas they never get toasted.

Therefore, it’s essential that every employee understands exactly what performance areas are recognized. The recognition should be clearly defined and reflect a key performance objective of the company. To illustrate, a top corporate priority for a manufacturer is workplace safety.

• The production team is recognized for “no accidents for the last 90 days.”
• A production worker is recognized for completing a folklift driver safety course.
• Corporate communications produces a video on workplace accident prevention.

All of the above actions exemplify positive behaviors that contribute towards the performance objective of workplace safety. Tactics that range from achievement certificates, special parking space privileges and bonus incentives, to pizza parties and president’s awards ceremonies could be deployed based on the type and level of performance achieved. All should be planned and executed consistently as to demonstrate the company’s commitment to a high-performance culture.

Management Makes the Difference.
The key ingredient to any employee recognition program is the staunch participation of management. When an organization’s leadership lauds an employee’s high performance, it boosts morale and teamwork, while fostering an atmosphere of trust and loyalty to the organization.

According to a recent Gallop workplace survey, 60% of employees responded that their most memorable recognition came from management, which includes 24% from a high-level leader or CEO. Another employee satisfaction survey asked what would make the employees feel as if the company cared about them. Fifty-five percent of the respondents said that praise and attention from their supervisor would make them feel as if the company cared about them and their well-being. As you would expect money and benefits scored high, however, recognition from the supervisor ranked the highest of all choices provided.

Top Performer Retention Impacts the Bottom Line.
If you still believe that employee recognition is the “soft stuff” that allows you to easily pay periodic plaudits to the daily grind of your employees, think again. The only impact in “pay” will most likely be to your company’s bottom line. Increased absenteeism and turnover, coupled with decreased productivity are too often casualties tied to passive or non-existent employee recognition.

The Bureau of National Affairs estimates U.S. businesses lose $11 billion annually due to employee turnover. This turnover is felt most severely when it includes the departure of your company’s top performers. Some leave as they do not feel valued or challenged. For others, minimal recognition is interpreted as limited growth potential. When top performers depart for greener pastures, they pack up their knowledge and training (which you had invested in) and often head for the competition.
Some of the world’s leading brands utilize employee recognition programs as a strategic tool to retain and engage their best talent.  These results-driven programs reduce turnover and provide an environment to cultivate creativity and innovation.

The late Steve Jobs’ left a roadmap for employee engagement at Apple that endures to this day. Under Jobs, Apple became a pioneer of 360-degree management. The concept includes emphasizing employee retention and building a sense of community, amongst other areas. Key to the concept is how communication is instrumental to nurturing dedicated and loyal employees.

Different Routes, Same Destination.
Everyone likes to be recognized. However, it’s not a one-size-fits-all proposition. This is especially true of millennials. For this next generation of leaders, a monetary award in itself is not the key motivator.

Being selected as part of new project development team or being tapped for Six Sigma training trumps trophies and trinkets for millennials. These “awards,” are often deemed more valuable as they provide technical knowledge and opportunities for career advancement. Additionally, millennials place a high value on being part of the conversation. So corporate communication programs that incorporate social media enable them to provide feedback and be recognized for their ideas and contributions. Beyond the generational divide, an employee’s position in the company also influences the type and preference of communications. Sales and marketing colleagues may welcome being interviewed for a broadcast to be splashed on digital display boards throughout the company’s campus. They may also be enthusiastic about giving an acceptance speech at an awards luncheon. Both are natural activities, given that these interpersonal and verbal skills are showcased to customers on a daily basis.

However, not everyone wants the up close and personal treatment. Some consider such activities as the exclusive domain for “sales and marketing types”. Others may be camera-shy and feel uncomfortable under the spotlight. They may prefer to have someone speak on their behalf. Better yet, skip the ceremony, and write a personal note of thanks for a job well done.
No matter how well intentioned the recognition, there should be a degree of flexibility. No one should feel inadvertently pressured to participate in the same manner. Wherever possible, individualize the recognition so it is authentic to the employee.

Digital Employee Recognition Drives Communication.
With so many communication alternatives, companies have a choice as to what works best for recognition. Digital employee recognition via   electronic display boards, video walls and digital signage can complement traditional approaches such as safety posters, employee events calendars and newsletters.

Once considered the exclusive domain to promote new products and services at customer tradeshows and conferences, today’s digital signage is strategically positioned throughout corporate campuses and often accessible via employees’ laptops and mobile devices. Employee recognition can now be reviewed—and most importantly acknowledged and appreciated—-in a dynamic format that enriches both images and text. From pre-taped to real-time broadcasts of award ceremonies, recognition can be immediately communicated within moments of an event or concurrently with other announcements.

Creating a High-Performance Culture.
Successful employee recognition bolsters the company’s brand and reflects the vision of the organization to the marketplace —as well as to current and prospective employees. It sets the tone and expectations of how business is conducted both in and outside the company walls.

Corporations that commit to results-driven, employee recognition programs are advancing a culture of trust and teamwork, while reinforcing positive behaviors and expectations of high-performance.

Barry Lee Cohen
April 11, 2017

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