Most companies have some formal employee recognition programs, and many invest big bucks in them. But they don’t all work.
Studies suggest that up to 79% of people who leave their jobs say “lack of appreciation” was the main reason. Now is the time to look at your recognition program and consider if it’s ripe for an update.
It’s important to remember that what motivates top management may not work for front-line, hourly, or other employees. Consider this scenario: After a successful year, management brings top performers to a luxury retreat for a weekend of brainstorming and socializing. Sounds great, right? Well, for employees with families, a weekend away from home might be a sacrifice. Others may think of it as more work, just in a nicer place. Still others don’t feel like they can relax and enjoy themselves with management present. Remember that recognition programs aren’t one-size-fits all. Start by learning what employees want—what motivates them and makes them feel appreciated—instead of assuming you know or that they all value the same things.
Some other tips:
· Identify program objectives. Determine the goals of your program and communicate these to employees. Let them know that you are putting time and money into this because you value their contributions and recognize their role in the organization’s success. It is essential to get management on board up front as well.
· Establish a structure. Set an implementation plan and budget.
· Communicate consistently. Make sure all employees know about recognition programs and how they work. If the “rules” aren’t clear, it can do more harm than good if employees think they’ve earned a reward and don’t get it.
· Offer both tangible (such as gift cards, gift baskets, and/or time off) and intangible (recognition at meetings or in the organizational newsletter) rewards.
· Keep the program agile and fresh. A gift card for certain actions or achievements might get stale or lose meaning after someone gets five or six of them. In a recent online program on maximizing motivation, marketing expert and author Bob Nelson, PhD, observed, “A recognition program loses about 7% of energy each year. You need variety to keep it fresh. It needs to be organic, living, breathing. It can’t be something you just set up and drop on the organization.”
· Be creative. Working parents might enjoy a day at an amusement park with the kids, or an opportunity for a date night without the kids. Young ambitious managers might appreciate lunch with the CEO or an invitation to a board meeting.
· Don’t be afraid of feedback. Seek input from employees informally and formally. For instance, segmentation research, a technique that businesses use to learn about their customers, can help understand employee motivators.
A culture of appreciation and recognition is essential. Nelson noted, “For cultures where management thinks a paycheck is enough for employees, you need to help them realize that it’s not like that anymore.”