We all want a successful recognition programme in place. After all, the aims of any reward and recognition programme are all about benefits. Benefits to employees, your business, even employee acquisition and retention.
However, the sad fact is that some recognition programmes just don’t work. The results you’re looking for don’t come. If you’ve launched an employee recognition scheme without success, don’t lose heart – just change your tactics.
Recognition schemes tend to perpetuate a number of common mistakes. See if you can spot yourself on this list.
You don’t consult employees
Employees are at the heart of your business, so it makes sense that when you recognise them, you are giving them what they actually want as opposed to what you think they need. It isn’t just about the recognition on offer, but also about how you reward.
If your current plans include a big song and dance and company presentation, you may have your introverts hiding under the table to avoid something that makes them squirm.
If you decide to reward top performers with an annual exotic break, single parents and carers are probably sighing in exasperation.
Consulting employees with a survey, or getting to grips with what gets them going face-to-face, is the only way to get a real understanding of what your employees want. You might even be surprised that it’s predominantly verbal recognition and respect that resonates most with your teams.
Then, when you’re putting your recognition plans together, make sure you carefully consider what your employees have told you and plan accordingly.
Your communication is too sparse
We know that communicating recognition often feels low priority, but every business gets busy. If you have a recognition and reward programme in place, there can never be too much communication around it.
Tell your new employees. Remind your current employees. Shout about the winners and highly commended team members in your newsletters, meetings and noticeboards, even on social media.
A recognition programme ceases to be relevant when it’s not top of mind. Keep it fresh and breathe life into it – harness your marketing team to get it alive and kicking once again. Making it a priority is essential for your managers as well and now is the time to reiterate why recognition is so vital to your business.
You rely on manual intervention
We mentioned that your business is busy, but if you rely on manual work to keep your recognition programme going, it’s always going to fail in some way unless you are hyper-vigilant. Technology is the answer.
Recognition platforms are available to help you reward and recognise employees and improve the morale in your company.
Technology allows you to take a step back and introduce employee-led elements into the programme, whether that’s a peer-to-peer mechanic, leader boards, real-time engagement or the ability to self-select rewards. Technology can simplify employee recognition and make it more effective.
Remember that when it comes to recognising employees, the whole point is to ensure that employees are in the spotlight for the work that they do. Make sure that they receive valuable recognition and rewards in a way that works for them, and you’ll find your employees are more productive, happier and even healthier, resulting in sustained business success.
About the author:
Elaine Keep is the owner and director of Incentive & Motivation, among the longest standing titles in the employee and customer reward space catering to HR pros. Elaine is also the founder of Your Marketing Managed, offering marketing management, content production and copy writing services.
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The saying is, that what gets rewarded is what gets done.
If you manage a team and want to really ace employee rewards and recognition, you need a few strategies in place. Your criteria needs not only to be known to you internally, in whatever position you sit, but also be understood by all your employees.
So that they can achieve what you want, and meet your business goals, while also boosting morale. But what criteria is best?
Before we jump into some areas you can reward, let’s look at some of the housekeeping areas around an excellent recognition programme.
Two of the reasons employee recognition programmes fail are:
Managers don’t recognise consistently, and;
Employers give the total power of choice over who deserves to win to other employees
Neither of these strategies are fair, and it will soon demoralise teams. When it comes to recognising employees, timing is everything.
If you only acknowledge and reward employees quarterly and try and ‘catch up’ or ‘think back’ you only get a partial benefit of recognising that you would if you did it every single month, or even sooner.
If you have a current programme or plan where employees can pick the winners themselves or vote for the winner, and this is the final say, you might need to change this, fast.
While peer to peer recognition has incredible results when used in conjunction with an overall culture of reward and recognition from a higher level of business, when it comes to overall recognition, you need to do all you can to prevent it ever becoming a competition around popularity.
Know what you want
You need to know what you really want your business to stand for and to work with that. It can be beneficial to remind your managers and supervisors of your brand vision.
Perhaps let’s say you are a start-up with a big charitable ethos. You have values of being open, honest, going the extra mile at any cost, and being seen as friendly.
You might then want to reward someone for getting a customer their product on a next day delivery, just because they needed it – even if this was a monetary loss.
Or you might reward someone who suggested a different item, even if it cost less, just because that built trust. A range of great tweets might mean the world to you.
On the other hand, perhaps you are a business that is all about growth, challenging norms, breaking down ways of working and failing fast.
In this business, you might want to reward someone who worked overtime to get a release out or someone who called out a manager in a meeting over a strategy or a concept, or someone who refused a client based on a specific value unique to you.
In short, your business is unique. Reward what you want your employees to do, and you will likely get more of the same.
Recognise by division
It is also key to ensure that you are rating employees within their departments and then selecting an overall winner. If your business is large, you might have a sales employee competing with a customer care advisor or the tech department.
How could you rank or compare their performance? You simply can’t! By making recognition divisional, you increase your understanding of each area. And you get a vast array of achievements you can highlight.
Being told ‘hey, great job’ isn’t great recognition. You need real criteria, but that doesn’t just have to be numbers.
As well as sales, achieving KPI’s and meeting targets like time on the phone, seeing customers, responding to issues, beating speeds you might also choose to showcase examples by asking
How helpful are they ?
Have they committed to the company recently (overtime, new ideas)?
If they have cross-trained or learned new skills
Are they positive and collaborative?
If they have developed something that changes the company
If they have had positive feedback externally
If they are engaged and interested in providing ideas for growth
Whatever you pick, make it a policy that is company-wide, and make it easy for employees to know what matters to you and who won and WHY. Consistently mention what matters, whether that’s sales, attitude or ideas and celebrate the greatness that you see with a ceremony or announcement.
As Pareto’s law shows, 80% of the results come from 20% of the employees. If you can move this just a small percentage, you can see results across the whole business, so treat your programme with the seriousness it deserves.
About the author:
Elaine Keep is the owner and director of Incentive & Motivation, among the longest standing titles in the employee and customer reward space catering to HR pros. Elaine is also the founder of Your Marketing Managed, offering marketing management, content production and copy writing services.
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There are two things that need to be acknowledged when putting together an employee of the month scheme for a contemporary workforce. The first is that all employee of the month schemes are a form of recognition.
The second is that they’re not perfect. There are great benefits, but there are drawbacks. By playing up the strengths and accommodating the weaknesses, you can design an employee of the month scheme that has a huge positive effect on your business.
Your employee of the month scheme could bring your business:
A feel-good factor – Sharing positive thoughts and achievements boosts morale.
Loyalty – We’ve talked before about the benefits of recognition, and loyalty is one of the key areas improved by quality recognition.
Good habits– Making celebration a monthly habit helps ingrain a culture of respect and recognition in your staff.
Employee sentiment – Improve how your employees see their own company, and how quality candidates will see your company’s culture.
This blog will take you through the key thoughts that need to be considered to make your employee of the month scheme a roaring success.
1. Know what you need your employee of the month scheme to achieve
What kind of noticeable effect are you trying to generate with your employee of the month scheme?
It could be to increase employee motivation, to experiment with starting a recognition scheme, or to improve morale around the office. They’re all valid needs, and valid reasons to try a new scheme.
It’s a worthy question, because it gives you clarity of purpose. It focuses your other decision-making, which makes it easier to put the rest of your employee of the month scheme together; if it doesn’t serve your clear outcomes, it doesn’t need to be part of your plan.
Keep this outcome in mind when you’re going through the rest this blog, and when you’re organising your own scheme.
2. Treasure consistency
Expectation has a powerful influence on our minds, especially when expectations aren’t met. When you start an employee of the month scheme, your employees will anticipate that you consistently deliver what you set out to do. And they’ll notice if the scheme misses a month or falters.
Consistently delivering your employee of the month scheme makes it easier for staff to anticipate it and stay engaged.
Being consistent helps make sure you’re timely, and being timely is important for recognition. The impact of recognition is at its most powerful when it’s close to the behaviour or achievement you’re recognising.
Keeping your scheme consistent means you’re always as close as possible to something that happened in the last 30 days. While that’s not as good for morale as instant recognition, it’s a huge improvement over 60 days or more.
3. Embrace transparency and communicate effectively
The most common stereotype of employee of the month is the portrait on the wall, with the little bronze “employee of the month” plaque on the frame. It doesn’t really tell you that much, does it?
It also doesn’t really benefit anyone outside the manager/employee relationship. Especially if there’s no explanation for what that employee did to earn their recognition for the month.
Explaining why that employee merits special recognition would have two positive effects for your company.
First, you have a chance to explain your decision making process. Failure to communicate is often at the heart of workplace distrust and angst.
Explaining your decision making process clears up the ambiguity, leaving much less chance that an employee is going to become disgruntled.
Second, you can take an opportunity to reinforce your values. Assuming, of course, you take our advice and make sure the scheme integrates with an overall recognition plan.
As with recognition overall, what you choose to recognise is an endorsement of the business you want to build. Explaining why you’re issuing recognition is an opportunity to build a picture of the kind of values and behaviour you want your company to embody.
4. Boast about your big timers
Share your employee of the month winners, and their achievements, with the public.
Making your appreciation for your staff public has two major benefits. First, you’re showing the world that your company is staffed by employees that excel, and produce achievements worth celebrating.
This improves your public reputation, positioning your company as a place of collaboration, success and recognition. And thus, a desirable partner or supplier.
However, while it’s important to control the external perception of your company, your internal one matters too. How staff perceive your company will influence their motivation, their loyalty, and their behaviour.
By boasting about your staff to the public, and putting their achievements in a public spotlight, you show your staff they work for a company that values them. And that’s a huge part of what recognition is all about – making staff see how important they see they are to your business, and feel that value.
Just be sure to get the permission of any employee you want to feature before putting them in the public sphere!
5. Refresh your scheme occasionally
Companies change. Employees’ work changes, your staff change, and your company’s culture grows.
Which makes it wise to stop and reflect now and then on whether your processes are right for your business today. That includes employee of the month schemes.
Take the time to ask yourself:
Does this produce the outcomes we wanted it to?
Do the processes work?
Is our workforce interested in, and interacting with, the scheme?
If the answers are no, it’s time to think about a refresh in your approach. This conversation would be a great time to open the door to your staff’s thoughts. After all, they’re the group that are supposed to get the most benefit from the scheme itself.
If they’re not getting what they need out of the scheme, it’s worth asking how you can change the scheme to achieve your aims.
6. Don’t let a few stars steal the spotlight
One of the big signs of a stale, ineffective employee of the month scheme is repetition of winners.
Whether they go out of their way to do it or not, a niche group can consistently find themselves passing the baton between themselves.
This could be because of how you measure, who feels enlivened and engaged, or because you aren’t putting the time aside to really think about awarding winners. However you arrive at this point, it’s not a good thing.
It would be easy to say “well, the winners are the winners” and carry on, but that doesn’t cut it with the rest of your staff. Remember, this is part of your overall recognition system.
Alienating most of your staff to focus on a tiny group of number-hitters ruins enthusiasm for the scheme, and can even create distrust.
Consistently rewarding a small group for the sake achievements every month is a sign of poor employee of the month scheme design. Account for areas beyond just numbers.
7. Left-field employee of the month ideas
To make your employee of the month scheme accessible to all staff, you don’t have to stick to celebrating stereotypical individual performances. You can celebrate:
The best mistake
No, it’s not a typo! Sometimes we need to make a mistake and get something wrong to learn the best way to do something. A mistake that leads to significant growth and development, handled correctly, can be cause for celebration. It also downplays the idea that failures are fatal, and encourages staff to accept risk and failure as long as they’re educational.
A big personality
Some staff create huge value to your workplace in ways that are difficult to measure. They bring the mood up on difficult days, they make other staff see their value, they bring calm in emergencies, they uplift the performance of peers. Celebrate the stuff that everyone notices but doesn’t end up on a spread sheet.
Not only do employees expect to be recognised for their long service, but long serving employees are a huge asset to your company. Their intimate knowledge of your business and industry, experience and knowledge help others in their own work. Longevity is a trait well worth celebrating in your valuable employees.
An entire department or team
As we’ve pointed out elsewhere in this blog, almost no one at work is an island. Achievements are usually down to the efforts of a team, even if one person appears to be the focal point. A whole team
A whole year’s achievement
Not everyone has a “big” month. Some employees’ value isn’t in their most prolific achievements, but their consistency. Particularly in an uncertain business like sales, someone that produces a dependable and commendable string of results merits recognition. Just as much as some employees merit recognition for one big moment during a year.
The point is, you don’t have to bind your own hands. You don’t have to stick to measuring KPIs and metrics to determine an employee’s worth to your business. And those elements don’t have to be the sole focus of your employee of the month scheme – it’s up to you and what’s important to your company.
8. Scale the scheme to your teams
If you think of the impact of recognition as a pebble being skipped across a pond, the impact runs out of steam the further it goes.
It’s the same for the impact of public recognition among your staff; the further away you go, the lower the impact is.
If your business has 500 staff spread across three sites and 10 teams, it’s unlikely everyone will have intimate knowledge of what other teams and individuals are up to. Or what makes their work so important to the company.
Why does this matter? Because the wider positive effects of public recognition rest on employees understanding the value of their colleagues’ work. And, in turn, understanding why they merit that recognition.
You don’t have to use only one employee of the month scheme for a whole business (more on that later…). If your warehouse team isn’t likely to get much out of seeing the customer support team celebrated, run smaller schemes. Design a scheme, and help your managers carry it out for their departments.
9. Put collaboration before competition
While you can only put one person in the spotlight at a time, you can focus the conversation around the award on how their efforts are collaborative.
Rather than focusing on someone’s individual performance, also focus on how their work contributed to a wider whole.
Put simple KPI measurement and number chases aside for something that’s more valuable to your company’s culture. While it will mean having to put a bit more effort into your scheme, it will pay dividends.
When a scheme shines a light on collaborative success, one individual being highlighted doesn’t alienate others. They become the focal point of a team’s success instead.
10. Recognise that employee of the month schemes are recognition
You will know by now that recognition is extremely valuable to your company. If you’re not sold, take a look at our recent blog on recognition stats here. And as we said at the start of this article, employee of the month schemes and recognition are peas in the same pod.
As a result, an employee of the month scheme should be an extension of your overall recognition system. To be consistent, it should reflect the same values and goals you have in mind for recognition overall. To reap the most benefits of employee recognition, all of your efforts should be complementary.
When recognition efforts dovetail, they bring the best out of each other. And they provide a cohesive, easily understood set of values and behaviours that your company wants to celebrate.
11. Bring your leaders’ personalities in
Your leadership figures need to play an active role in employee of the month schemes.
Recognition in general just isn’t something that can be handed off to a PA or a line manager. There has a be personal element.
Employees are smart enough to see when leaders aren’t invested, and it harms their perception of recognition in your company. And as we discussed earlier, internal brand perception matters as much as external.
As much as is reasonable, make sure your business’ leaders are involved in your employee of the month scheme. It legitimises your scheme, and shows the company’s overall investment in employee recognition.
12. Don’t literally call it “employee of the month”
You might think this is a bit of a petty point, but just calling your scheme “employee of the month” is a bit of a missed opportunity.
You’re immediately robbing yourself of a chance to reflect the best of your company culture in the name, and make that culture an element of your employee of the month scheme.
It’s also a signal to your employees. When you put the time aside to think of a name that reflects your staff and your work culture, you’re showing your own investment in the scheme.
Exercising your own creativity and effort won’t go unnoticed by your employees. In turn, it’s much easier for them to become invested in the scheme themselves.
On both counts your scheme is losing out without a good reason.
13. Include worthy rewards
Rewards are perfect for capping off an employee achievement, and they turn professional success into a lasting trophy.
Going for something like a gift card, reward code or vouchers doesn’t burden you with having to pick the reward.
You set the reward level you feel is appropriate, and let the employee pick something they’ll love for themselves.
Gift cards, vouchers and reward codes to delight and excite your staff
Our employee reward range puts the joy of choice in your employees’ hands. Whatever your staff love to do, they can find it through our selection of cards, codes and vouchers.
Digital rewards do the job right
Earlier we were talking about how important it is to be consistent and timely with recognition. It’s not that much different for rewards. Digital rewards make it easy to send rewards quickly, because digital reward codes are sent, received and redeemed digitally.
It’s simple, fast, and gives your staff access to potentially thousands of rewards with just one email or text message. And if your employee chooses to redeem their reward digitally, they don’t involve any single-use paper or plastic cards or vouchers. No postage fees either.
You also don’t have to lose any of the benefits of face-to-face employee recognition by using digital rewards. While the reward can arrive, and be spent, digitally, you’re always free to capitalise in other ways. Like making a speech for the office, sending them a hand-written note, or just a conversation about what they did to merit the congratulations.
14. Think about colleague of the month, not just employee of the month
One typical employee of the month scheme will recognise 12 people a year. You don’t need to be a maths wizard to figure that out. Which is great if you have exactly 12 employees – everyone could earn a spot in the lime light!
But most companies have more than 12 employees. An overwhelming majority of the UK’s workforce, for example, work for a company with more than 20 employees. You are most likely going to have a fair few employees leftover after you’ve counted to 12.
The good news is there’s a way to address this, and it could significantly improve your employee of the month scheme. Democratise the employee of the month selection process and let your employees pick a winner themselves. Instead of employee of the month, think colleague of the month.
Having a hand in choosing a monthly winner gives your staff a stake in the scheme itself. It’s much harder to argue with the outcome when it’s a consensus generated among colleagues.
As long as voters can justify their choices, within your company’s values and goals, you don’t have to stress about your scheme being a straight up popularity contest.
Instead of one person being held up as a winner every month, everyone is a stakeholder and everyone has a voice.
You can read more about our thoughts on colleague, not employee, of the month here.
15. Make gathering employee of the month scheme nominations easy
So, if you’re anything like us, you’ve read the bit above and thought: “I love the idea of letting everyone cast a vote, but I hate the idea of gathering the votes.” And that’s not an unreasonable thought, chasing something that’s not directly work related can be like herding cats.
You can also include special fields to make sure your staff include sound reasoning for their nominations, and provides nominations measured against your company’s values.
Great employee of the month schemes are worth the effort
Putting together an effective employee of the month scheme is worth the effort. You’ll be making a more positive, collaborative, celebratory workplace.
Use the advice here to steer around the rocks of:
Jealousy – Poor communication and lack of strategy lets some departments and individuals feel they’re not as valuable as others.
Inequality – Effectively “locking out” most employees through poor scheme design, measurement, and measurement.
Missed expectations – Damaging internal brand sentiment by falling short of expectations and appearing inconsistent.
Disappointing rewards – Rewards that don’t suit your employees, are hard to use, or don’t arrive in time harm your employee of the month scheme.
Taking the time to get them right ahead of time, and maintain them properly, will pay dividends. If you have any questions, about recognition or rewards, feel free to get in touch with our team. They’d be delighted to hear from you.
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If there’s one place to start to improve your company culture, it’s staff recognition. And the stats prove it.
We have eight key staff recognition stats in this blog that show how much you stand to gain from embracing recognition.
Recognition affects key areas in your business like:
*2015 SHRM/Globoforce survey
*Bersin by Doloitte research
*2015 SHRM/|Globoforce survey
*SHRM/Globoforce survey 2012
*2015 SHRM/Globoforce survey
*2015 SHRM/Globoforce survey
*2015 SHRM/Globoforce survey
*SHRM 2012 survey
As the stats show, every company needs to be thinking about employee recognition. There are clear arguments for the benefits of embracing recognition, so why not put these to your senior leadership team?
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The leaders in your company must understand the value an employee recognition scheme brings and how it impacts on overall business success. Any business that values its employees and wants them to stay needs to understand that regularly showing appreciation is a key driver of engagement and retention.
Having constant flow of employee recognition is vital to productivity, engagement, morale and retention. You’re doomed if you ignore it while your competitors embrace it.
This blog gives covers the fundamentals of what everyone, from middle management to CEOs, needs to know about employee recognition.
What’s covered in this article:
1. What employee recognition is 2. Why employee recognition matters (the business case) 3. When to recognise your employees, and for what 4. How to recognise staff 5. Getting started on employee recognition
What is employee recognition?
By definition, employee recognition is:
“Communication that seeks to highlight or celebrate achievements, with the intent of reinforcing behaviour and building positive habits.”
That’s a very staid and plain way of describing recognition, however accurate it is.
When you recognise employees, you’re highlighting positive behaviour. Behaviour you want to see repeated and celebrated. We’ll go into details on what you might want to highlight later.
But for now, you can see from that definition that recognition has always existed. It was there every time someone said “good job.”
It just hasn’t always been understood or embraced as a tool for your business.
Peer-to-peer and social recognition are different
Traditional recognition schemes tend to focus heavily on top-down recognition.
Managers recognise employees and senior leaders recognise managers in turn. There’s nothing outright wrong with that, managers should recognise staff for their work. It’s just so constrictive. Peer-to-peer and social recognition put the hierarchy aside and let anyone recognise anyone.
Giving employees the chance to recognise anyone across the business is empowering. It offers them a voice, and an opportunity to talk about what’s important to them in the workplace.
How recognition and rewards interact
Your recognition efforts aren’t inherently separate from your rewards. But they’re not really the same thing, either.
We have a good longer read on everything you need to know about rewards here if you want to read up.
To summarise in a hurry: they’re connected, but separate. Recognition doesn’t have to involve any kind of cash-value reward, but rewards are inherently a form of recognition when they’re the result of behaviour at work.
Pay isn’t the same as employee recognition, by the way
Despite what the more curmudgeonly business leaders think.
Pay is a transaction. It’s cold. It’s also something employees fast become accustomed to. That’s why cash is so questionable as a reward. Our blog goes into more detail on that here.
The emotions you’re trying to create with recognition shouldn’t be associated with being paid on time. You and your employee have already agreed about what their work is worth. Recognition, and reward, are always in addition to being paid.
Why employee recognition matters
Employee recognition is more than just a feel-good exercise. Even though it does feel good. It’s a valuable tool for your business.
Companies that embrace recognition, and take the spirit of recognition the right way, see genuine benefits to their business.
The tangible outcome of embracing recognition is more motivated, productive and loyal employees.
No one wants to feel like their achievements aren’t valued or noticed. When staff feel unappreciated or ignored, they lose heart. It’s only a natural reaction.
By pointing out and highlighting achievements, we make sure people know they’re valuable.
This makes employees feel good about their work and their place at your company. Their morale will improve, improving the mood of the employees around them.
Receiving employee recognition, whether from peers or managers, is validating.
If you’re feeling a bit more callous, you might say to yourself: “Why do I care about employees being happy as long as they get the job done?”
Simple answer: happy employees do more work. They also do better work, they’re easier to collaborate with, and their happiness rubs off on other staff.
Feeling unappreciated is one of the biggest reasons employees cite when they leave a company. And recognition is a proven pathway to make employees feel more valued.
As we talked about in one of our longer read blogs, retention costs companies thousands of pounds a year. It costs as much as £30,000 to replace a skilled employee once recruitment, training and productivity dips have been accounted for.
There’s no real room for argument here. Not when your company can start recognising employees for free, and it could save you tens of thousands a year.
How employee recognition affects your company culture
When you embrace employee recognition, it becomes a feedback loop for your company culture.
What you recognise is by default what you treasure and want to promote about your workplace.
You’re signalling that to staff when you recognise them. It’s only natural human behaviour to seek out validation, and to seek to replicate behaviour that results in positive reactions.
Your leadership need to understand this
The link between recognition and culture is why it’s so important leadership understands their role in recognition.
They’re building a company culture, for better or worse. Whether or not they even know they’re doing it.
What your leadership recognise and reward is a way of telling staff how to behave. Regardless of whether your employee handbook says otherwise.
It’s essentially your staff getting invested in your company purpose and values. That investment influences their behaviour at work.
Employee recognition has a positive effect on engagement. As long as you get it right.
For many companies, embracing recognition is an extension of their company culture. Seeking and highlighting the value other colleagues bring to the company is a part of how they work.
For other companies, the recognition is what makes the values in your company come to life. By asking employees to express the company values when recognising employees, those ideals are kept alive in the workplace.
This makes it easier for staff to identify and invest in what your company stands for, improving their engagement with your business.
Where’s the proof?
We don’t advocate for the benefits of recognition for no reason. There’s plenty of evidence to show that recognition generates real improvements in your company. As long as you execute it properly.
When there are measurable, tangible benefits to employee recognition, you sort of have to be mad to refuse to take it seriously.
97% of public sector managers agree recognition improves morale, and 98% of managers agree recognition improves a sense of belonging
55% of employees say they would move for a company that clearly recognises its employee contributions , and recognition rich environments have a 31% lower turnover rate. 
Happy employees are, on average, 12% more productive, and and strategic peer-to-peer recognition improves productivity by 32%. 
Employee engagement increases by 61% when employee recognition programs are offered , and a 15% uplift in engagement correlates with a 2% uplift in operating margin. 
When to recognise employees, and for what
Employee recognition isn’t a magic staff happiness button. You can’t dish out recognition for everything and anything and expect to see the benefits in line. Pick your moments.
It might cross your mind that we talked about social and peer-to-peer recognition earlier. When your company puts the power to recognise in your employees’ hands, you have to give up a bit of control.
That’s no bad thing, staff need that freedom to feel in control. And you can keep the recognition on track with your social recognition platform – just ask staff to match all their recognition up to one of your company values.
Picking the right time to recognise staff
Choosing the right time to recognise – Use a similar checklist to our when to reward section but make some changes.
Much like rewards, it’s handy to have a little mental checklist. When you’re thinking about employee recognition, especially as a manager, think about:
Values – Ask yourself whether what you want to recognise is part of your company values.
Notable – Making a coffee, or completing standard job tasks isn’t notable. For recognition to be effective it has to highlight behaviour both the employee and management would acknowledge as notable.
Timely – Millennials especially feel the need to see quick recognition for the best work. But it doesn’t matter what generation your staff belong to, being close to the event is helpful.
Positive – Remember what we said about what you recognise becomes what you see in the workplace. Only recognise employees for behaviour you would want the public to see.
Repeatable – This harks back to what we said about recognition being about generating positive behaviour. If you want to see certain behaviours more often, it helps if what you recognise is repeatable. If not the actual task itself, then the spirit of the achievement.
Employee recognition suggestions
Take a look at these ideas as a starting point. Every business is different, so please don’t feel like you should be constrained by these suggestions.
Employee achievements – Put employee accomplishments in the spotlight and show they’re valued.
Longevity – The longer your staff stay, the more valuable they are. And the more important it is to keep them around. Recognise their longevity milestones to make it clear.
Good ideas – Improving processes, products or services with creativity or knowledge.
Problem prevention – Spotting a roadblock and prevent a crisis could save you huge amounts of hours and money fixing a problem.
Project delivery – Making sure vital projects go live on time.
Working on initiative – Acting on good ideas when the chance comes along and turning them into something workable and valuable to the business.
Helping colleagues – Offering time and care to help colleagues hit deadlines, or help other departments deliver projects.
Going above and beyond – Employees who go outside their job role and take responsibility for projects or ideas.
Putting values first – Finding ethical solutions to problems requires ingenuity and skill. That often merits recognition.
Hero of the month – Focus on your stand-out performer of the month. And, as we suggested in another blog, consider democratising that process and letting your staff have a say.
Milestones – Recognise your teams and employees when they bring you closer to organisational goals.
And many more possibilities – Without a crystal ball, we can’t look into your company and tell you what matters most in your workplace. Your values and your day-to-day needs will tell you that.
Focus on outcomes
The most effective employee recognition will focus on tangible outcomes.
Differences and improvements employees, and their colleagues, will recognise in the workplace.
By staying in the visible spectrum, so to speak, what you recognise is always easy to understand.
And it’s easy for employees to latch on to what’s important and encouraged in your business.
How to recognise your employees
Employee recognition channels
In broad terms, you have three avenues to recognise employees; verbal, physical and digital. For example:
Verbal recognition would include face-to-face talks, or vocally celebrating someone’s achievement in a huddle or department meeting.
Digital recognition would include highlighting achievements on your social media or your website. It would also cover using a recognition platform or an online wall of fame. You might also choose to send out emails to celebrate staff achievements.
Physical recognition uses items to create trophies. That might include literal trophies, but you don’t have to stop there. It also includes recognition letters, handwritten notes, certificates and placards.
Mix and match your approach
The best employee recognition schemes don’t just stick to one way of communicating. There are benefits and limitations to every approach, so it’s best to mix and match.
Verbal recognition is personal, immediate and emotional. But it’s fleeting. A digital recognition is more permanent, but needs a public element to influence other staff.
Trophies and plaques are nice mementos, but need an accompanying personal message for proper context.
Be funkier if you can
Get creative if your company culture and environment let you. Like we’ve said a few times already on this blog, if you get the basics right you can be as creative as you like.
Work the flavour and personality of your team and company culture into your employee recognition scheme.
Some companies hand out custom Lego miniatures. Others use stickers on the back of chairs, or a Wall of Fame on the wall of the office. You’re only limited by your imagination the boundaries of your company culture.
Platforms make employee recognition easy to manage
Using an employee recognition platform simplifies issuing, tracking and managing employee recognition.
Issuing recognition over a platform is versatile. You’re no longer bound by the need to be in the same room as the person receiving recognition. Email makes a nice alternative, but you forgo the benefits of recognition being public: a central, digital, visible place to recognise employees.
Tracking and learning
Platforms offer you a top-down view of employee recognition. You can see who receives recognition. And what they’re recognised for. This gives you valuable insight on how your company interacts. When recognition is quiet, or private, there’s no opportunity to use it as a business learning tool.
Often, recognition in between employees is private. Delivered through emails or verbal. In turn, it’s fleeting. When recognition goes public, managers can see it. There are two benefits to that. First, senior leadership can see the virtues and achievements of teams they don’t always get to interact with. Second, they can measure it and better understand the business.
While verbal recognition is personal and real, it makes it harder to incorporate values. Your staff live your values, they don’t generally sit around talking about them. A digital record lets you frame recognition in your values without being stilted or coming off awkward in a conversation.
It’s much easier to integrate rewards into your employee recognition with a platform. Many recognition platforms have reward options built-in, or have simple reward plug-ins. That makes it easy to top recognition off with a reward.
For more on the advantages of using a platform, read more on our Shout! employee recognition product page.
Or, if you’re shopping around, you can read our blog on how to pick quality employee recognition software.
How to get an employee recognition scheme off the ground
You could introduce an effective employee recognition platform with just the time it takes to plan and implement it.
Make sure you have a clear idea of what your company culture is about, and the behaviours and values you want to see reflected.
This will form the basis of which behaviours you want to recognise later on.
Your company’s leadership need to understand and buy into your values, and the concept of employee recognition.
This is important – the success of new ideas depends on buy-in for two reasons.
First, your senior leaders must believe it’s necessary, and must agree to put the resources aside to achieve it. Second, your middle management must have the motivation, and the breathing room, to execute the new idea.
Get a clear idea of what should merit recognition in your business. This will be based on the details of how your company works, and what achievement looks like in your company. Then communicate this decision to your management teams.
Tell your employees what to expect
Tell your staff about employee recognition. Explain why you’re taking employee recognition more seriously, and what kind of changes they can expect to see.
Name your scheme or concept
Give your employee recognition efforts a name. By giving it an internal identity, something that reflects your employees’ personality and culture, you make it easy to remember and become attached to.
Measure and reflect
Use an anonymous survey ahead of time to gauge how your employees feel. Ask about the areas you’d like to see influenced by an employee recognition scheme.
Ask your managers to keep track of what recognition they’re issuing, and when (assuming you don’t have a platform to manage this for you).
After enough time, ask your staff’s opinion again with another survey. A year would be enough time to get a feeling of your success.
However, you might want to use pulse surveys at shorter intervals for top-ups.
Good today, perfect tomorrow
Start with something simple, repeatable and effective. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to make something completely perfect before getting started.
Over time you can implement platforms, rewards, social recognition and more. But the benefits of embracing employee recognition are available regardless of whether or not you have a formalised piece of software.
Easy to learn, difficult to master
Once you have your head wrapped around the concept of recognition, it’s easy to get started. But like many worthwhile things, it’s easier to get started than it is to master.
Platforms, as we discussed earlier, are a great way to gain an understanding of how recognition is affecting your company. But you need the expertise and time inside your company to measure and understand what you’re getting out of them.
Take us as an example of employee recognition in action
Park Group, our parent company, has a company culture informed by four ideas. We call it our Trademark Behaviour. We always aim to be:
Collaborative – We value each other and we work together as colleagues, clients and partners so that we exceed our goals effectively.
Respectful – We appreciate the contribution and opinion of others; when we act with respect we optimise everything.
Empathetic – We are human and we value everyone.
Dynamic – We are curious about the world; we are passionate about agility and we love what we do.
We see our colleagues put these values into motion every day. How we treat each other, how we treat clients, and how we approach our work reflects those values. Leadership figures understand the need for recognition, and all of our colleagues are empowered to deliver it.
Recognition at Park and Appreciate is expressed over a variety of channels. We see verbal recognition straight after tasks, we see written recognition in notes and emails, we see recognition in our meetings and we see it in our internal communications.
Notably, you can also see it on our shared social recognition platform. By using a blend of techniques, we can see employees across department, divisions and sites receive recognition for their work.
Talk to us about your employee recognition scheme
Our Engagement Services team are experts in helping businesses deliver effective employee recognition schemes and platforms.
If you’re not sure how to get started with yours, or want to talk about using some effective recognition software, get in touch. Send us an email, use the web chat on this page, or call the number at the top and bottom of this page.
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An expert in compensation, Dr Franco-Santos argued that a cash, or cash-value, scheme only offers a temporary boost. Long term, they cause more problems than they solve.
We’re not surprised someone has pointed out there’s a danger to focusing exclusively on cash.
While we think those schemes are interesting, we think it’s a mistake to focus your peer-to-peer recognition scheme just on rewards. Recognition is what really makes a difference to your company.
Recognition is the real quiz
As we said, we’re surprised those companies are prioritising financial rewards over recognition itself.
Our platform, Shout!, puts the recognition before rewards for a good reason. Cash and cash-value rewards can encourage unusual, and even unethical, behaviour.
When only cash-value rewards are at stake, someone will almost inevitably participate in bad faith.
By putting recognition first, you put your company culture and the relationships between employees first.
The doctor’s orders
In her BBC interview, Dr Franco-Santos pointed to six assumptions that would have to be true to make a reward-focused peer-to-peer system reasonable.
We’ll share the expert’s list, and our response, but filtered through our recognition-first approach:
Performance can be measured in an accurate and reliable way
However, we’d argue the toss on this one. Recognition isn’t just about performance, it’s about culture and relationships.
There’s hard and soft metrics that need to be embraced. That includes turnover and productivity figures as well as engagement survey results and one-to-ones with staff.
Employees are unbiased
But who is? Everyone lives with their own set of pressures that influence our value system.
There’s always a separation between the pressures on a manager and the pressures shared between the team they manage.
Part of the foundation of peer-to-peer recognition is acknowledging that separation, and acknowledging that employees need a way to celebrate positive behaviour among themselves.
Employee pay attention to the “good” things their peers do
And our platform is the evidence, even just internally.
I know for a fact I can hop on to our internal deployment of Shout! and see employees recognising each other for achievements, being helpful, and more.
Employees have the knowledge to assess what matters to them, what reflects the company’s values, and highlight positive behaviour.
And, as we pointed out above, they can do that in ways that managers can’t.
Employees appreciate points or money above anything else
Definitely not true, but with a twist: employees value a feeling of appreciation almost as much as they value money.
In fact, a lot of employees would move just for a workplace where they feel like they’re an appreciated part of a team, even without a pay rise.
Recognition is what makes those staff feel valued.
Employees are willing to collaborate
Every day we see that employees are willing to collaborate.
We can only speak for our business, but being to collaborate and work towards a common goal is a vital element of our business, and we see that reflected in our clients too. In fact, collaboration between our own teams and our clients’ teams is also vital.
Everyone can think of a time in their life where money has poisoned a situation, socially or otherwise.
Focusing on building relationships between your staff members and your company culture is more valuable than any cash-value reward.
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Your employees’ engagement is important enough to justify priority on that level. You might feel a little bit overwhelmed by the providers, features and modules competing for your affection.
That’s no cause for panic. Refer to our checklist when you’re comparing and contrasting the field.
12 tips to pick the right employee recognition software
By credibility, we mean demonstrating a wider understanding of recognition and the role it plays in engaging employees.
If the supplier’s material is nothing but an unfiltered list of platform features, there’s a decent chance the developer is more enamoured with the software itself than how it actually helps your business and staff.
Ease of use
It’s unlikely your entire company is made up of tech wonks and millennials.
Employee recognition software should rely on familiar user interfaces, so staff will slip in and get to grips with minimal adjustment.
Recognition doesn’t have to be led by cash-value rewards, or even use them at all, but your employee recognition software should come with the power to incorporate them.
It gives you an extra string to your bow for truly excellent performances.
Not everyone has the budget to indulge staff with cash-value rewards on the back of a recognition platform. That’s where you need a bit of creativity from your supplier.
Ask yourself how the platform rewards top performers without having to use financial rewards.
We talk all the time on this blog about the benefits of employees recognising each other.
Worthwhile employee recognition software absolutely has to include the ability for employees to recognise one another. Manager-led recognition has its place but peer-to-peer is just as vital.
Recognition, especially peer-to-peer recognition, gets a boost from being public.
Your staff’s achievements are held up for their peers to see, and they become little trophies on a shared digital space.
A birds’ eye view of what’s happening on any platform you use is vital.
Keeping track of who is recognising whom, for what, and when, gives managers insights on how your teams are interacting.
That kind of understanding can drive managerial decisions to bring teams together or capitalise on already strong relationships to make projects succeed.
You don’t want a GDPR nightmare to ruin your brand new employee recognition software.
Make sure you know where your data gets stored, what kind of back-ups are in place, and how the supplier will respond to any outages.
While your staff will mean well when interacting with your employee recognition software, even good intentions can bleed into tricky areas.
Take a careful look at what kind of power your managers have to intervene in the software if it’s ever used in bad faith.
Suppliers will do everything they can to idiot-proof their software. But someone always builds a better idiot. At some point, you’ll have a problem and need help.
What happens when, despite the best efforts of all and sundry, the software falls over? You need to ask who will respond, what they’ll do, and what kind of time frame you can expect that to be in.
Never, ever buy or licence software based just on screenshots.
Insist on seeing a live demo and getting a chance to interact with the software live before even entertaining the idea of parting with your money.
Ask about a transition or implementation schedule before you buy.
Not only will it smooth the process if you have it ahead of time, but seeing that a company has navigated implementations and transitions before is a good sign of their competence.
Now it’s up to you
Run through our checklist, but most importantly use your own common sense and intuition.
If it’s too good to be true it often is. HR software is a buyer’s market; you can afford to shop around make sure you’re completely confident before making a decision.
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An employee recognition letter is a powerful tool for expressing your gratitude for staff. Taking the time and effort to put one together goes a lot further than just a hasty “thank you”.
That’s not to say you should be gripped with performance anxiety. You’re not presenting an episode of This Is Your Life, you’re just telling an employee what they mean to you.
Follow our simple guide, and you’ll knock it out of the park.
Write your simple employee recognition letter:
Be personal and earnest
The most important element of an employee recognition letter is that you put the effort and time into expressing yourself.
Be honest about what impressed you so much about someone’s efforts and achievements. Share your honest feelings. It’s the only way to have a genuine emotional impact.
Get to the point
Excessively flowery language is less effective than simple, honest statements. Say what you mean, say it simply, and rely on your honesty and confidence to make the impact.
Cite specific examples of achievement
Be sure to mention exactly which projects, jobs, or achievements you’re so impressed with. Don’t be vague, or washy, about why you’re recognising someone.
It diminishes the impact of celebrating them, and feels disingenuous.
Explain why those examples mattered to the company
Talk about how your employee’s achievements or behaviour affects the company overall.
Knowing that their work has a benefit to the business as a whole gives employees greater satisfaction and pride in their work.
Focus on tangible downstream impacts
Don’t just harp on about numbers. Only a few sales people can really get fired up about making graphs bigger. If you’re going to mention the outcome of work, relate to something more human and evocative than just numbers.
Mention your values and purpose
Relate positive behaviour back to what your company stands for, and why you come in every day.
Generating lasting employee engagement means letting employee see how their achievements at work relate back to your company’s ethical core and brand purpose.
Explain why they matter to their peers
Approval and acceptance from peers is a powerful motivator. It’s a part of being human no one can escape.
Even if you don’t have an actual peer-to-peer recognition program, your employee recognition letter should mention how vital your employee’s contribution to other people was.
The most important thing is sticking to point one; be honest and personal. A thoughtful, earnest employee recognition letter becomes a trophy.
Something your employees can treasure and reflect on. Something that increases their self-worth, improves their sense of belonging in the office, and helps them engage with your brand.
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Peer-to-peer recognition programs help build a sense of belonging and a positive place in a business. In turn, that leads to more motivated staff and better productivity.
A recent study from Harvard Business School (HSB) put this assertion to the test with a group of fruit pickers.
Their results back up what we tell all our clients. Recognising your staff, particularly peer-to-peer recognition, leads to happier and more productive employees.
How the study worked
HBS researched fruit harvesting staff in the Western United States. The work is relatively lonely. There’s minimal social interaction, and few chances for an employee to hear positive feedback from peers.
A sub-group of fruit pickers were asked to watched a short video. It was presented by colleague from their company, detailing how the work they do has a positive impact on the rest of the business.
The video was deliberately inclusive in tone. It focused heavily on how quality work benefited the company. Not just the company’s success, but how they affected the work of employees further down the production queue.
The employees exposed to positive expressions about their work were more motivated and did more work.
The motivating effect showed up again in a similar lab study too. Internal recognition and affirmation had a positive effect on employee motivation and productivity.
The key conclusion
The most important line in the study is this:
“Contact with an internal beneficiary…yielded a persistent increase in productivity.”
It’s something you need to embrace and utilise for the health of your company and your employees.
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Thank a colleague for what they do. It improves the physical and mental condition of both that colleague and you yourself. That’s the evidence from a recent study by Portland State University and Clemson State University.
The study explained
The university staff ran a study of 146 nurses practicing in Oregon, USA. Nurses in the USA are subject to burnout at an especially high rate.
That’s due to the physical and emotional stress of their work. The stress is why they were perfect for the study.
Over three months, the nurses completed surveys about their experience inside and outside work. There was a notable correlation between nurses being offered gratitude at work and uptick of mental health.
How “thank you” boosts health
Thanking colleagues affects both their mental and physical health. The two are inextricably linked, and inform each other.
Alleviation of mental stress from being thanked is the catalyst for other health benefits.
Improving a co-worker’s mental health is a noticeable result of taking the time to thank a colleague.
They’ll feel appreciated, and they know their work is appreciated. They enjoy a positive afterglow they’ll carry into the hours and days after hearing your thanks.
Feeling gratitude increases overall job satisfaction. And it lowers the stress employees feel while going about their work.
That lower stress makes it easier to handle difficult situations in the workplace. the result is a more overall more positive work experience.
Giving gratitude, in turn, makes us feel good. Contributing to a positive feedback mechanism gives us a sense of wellbeing of our own.
The physical health aspect comes down to two areas – lower stress and better self-care. Both have a strong link to the mental health benefits of hearing gratitude.
On a direct level, people who feel less stress from work get sick less often, and they enjoy better sleep. But there’s also a knock-on effect; less stress leads to employees exercising more self-care.
By lowering overall stress levels and making staff feel better, the nurses in the university study showed a greater level of self-care.
When hearing gratitude, the nurses in the study were more likely to make positive lifestyle choices. In turn, that fed back into their physical health.
Time to take action
Get out there and thank a colleague doing something worthwhile. When you see someone doing well, let them know.
Not just behaviour that benefits you and your work directly. Include performance that benefits the whole workplace.
Ethical behaviour, exemplary service, improvements in their performance, or even small but worthwhile gestures for other staff.
Or, if you’re in management, encourage and facilitate your employees showing gratitude for each other. Put systems and schemes in place that make it simple for your staff to express gratitude.
Good for you, good for your business
Thank a colleague today. It’s good for you. It’s good for your co-workers. And if you’re an employer, that’s good news for more than just your conscience.
Long term, having a more mentally and physically healthy workforce is good for business. Lower stress and healthier lifestyle choices reduce the amount of working days lost to sickness.
Mentally healthy employees, with lower levels of unhealthy stress, are more likely to be productive and stay in your company for longer.
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