Employee recognition programs are a major investment for most companies, yet much of this investment is wasted on recognition that doesn’t work.
A study by Bersin & Associates found that 87% of the $46 billion market for employee recognition programs goes toward ineffective tenure-based recognition.
“What our research found was that tenure-based rewards systems have virtually no impact on organizational performance,” writes lead researcher Josh Bersin in a Forbes column, “New Research Unlocks the Secret of Employee Recognition.”
“Did you stay an extra year at your last job so you could get a 10-year pin? I doubt it,” he writes.
Tenure-focused employee recognition programs were developed more than a century ago in response to pressure from unions, according to Bersin. The spirit of these efforts was in the right place, but now we know better.
The latest science shows employees respond better to on-the-spot, peer-to-peer and results-based recognition. Not only that, but researchers are finally documenting the incredible effect that successful employee recognition programs have on a company’s overall performance.
Do you know what all successful employee recognition programs have in common? Read on to find out.
The 10 Markers of Great Employee Recognition Programs
1. Rewarded Results
Staying with a company a long time deserves recognition, but ironically, as Bersin points out, it won’t lead to better retention. In contrast, rewarding employees based on their results is concrete, ongoing and motivational. When employees understand how their efforts correlate with company results, they feel part of something bigger than themselves and empowered to make a difference.
2. Rewarded Behavior
Sometimes good work isn’t easily quantifiable. Employees collaborating to help a sick coworker or solve a problem might not directly show up in quarterly earnings, but kindness and other helpful, team-oriented behaviors lead to a better workplace culture. So reward goodness! The end goal, Bersin says, is to create a culture of “doing the right thing.”
3. Recognition Happens Right Away
In seven months at the annual holiday party, are you going to remember the stellar client presentation your team did last week? Maybe, maybe not. More importantly, will the employees remember it?
When you tie recognition directly to a specific result or behavior and reward it immediately, your employees will a) understand exactly what they did right and b) want to do it again.
4. Gratitude is Shared Liberally
The little stuff matters, too. A well-written email, a kind exchange with a customer, a quick turnaround — share your gratitude frequently, especially for the little things. Nobody ever complained, “Gee, I’m just being thanked too much!” Gratitude is free to share, spreads good cheer and benefits exponentially as recipients are inspired to pass it on.
5. Every “Thank You” is Specific
Showering everyone with gratitude does have limits, however. Make sure you’re tying every “thank you” to a specific instance of good work and using concrete language. Frequent recognition that is too general will lose its meaning, or worse, make a recipient suspicious of the thanker’s ulterior motives.
5. Management Cares
Leaders set the tone for a company. Be sure it’s a tone of gratitude, appreciation and frequent recognition. If HR is excited about recognition but managers drag their feet, employees will sense this disconnect immediately and be disheartened. The first step to any great employee recognition program is involving leaders in its creation and implementation.
6. Employees Are Empowered to Say “Thank You”
Who knows your work better than your peers? This insider knowledge makes peer-to-peer recognition extra meaningful. When employees are empowered to tell each other “thank you,” it strengthens teamwork and creates a strong culture of gratitude. In a truly vibrant workplace culture, employees are hearing “thanks” from management and from coworkers.
7. Recognition is Public
Shout it from the rooftops: your employees are the best! Public recognition is validating and motivating. Share recognition stories in the company newsletter, on social media and in other public forums. Companies have been slow to adapt social media recognition, but it’s only a matter of time before it is standard, according to an Accelir recognition trends study.
8. No “Compliment Sandwiches”
A compliment sandwich is a compliment followed by a criticism — at the cost of the compliment. It’s supposed to be kind, but it isn’t. When someone says, “You’re doing great, but…”, you’ll likely forget the compliment and remember only what the person said after “but.” Let your gratitude stand on its own.
9. Recognition is Uncomplicated
Anderson Schoenrock of ScanDigital tells Business Collective what he learned about the dangers of overthinking a recognition program.
“We created a really awesome, but elaborate point system, only to discover that it was too much for people to keep track of and actually deterred them from doing their job,” he says.
The exact system for recognition isn’t so important as just making sure it happens. What employees want is simple, he says: “People love to be recognized in front of their peers.”
10. Always Fresh, Always New
Don’t let your rewards program get stale. Continually self-evaluate and adjust to keep employees delighted and feeling appreciated. Keep adding rewards. Remember the importance of surprise to any good employee gift!
For more great tips and insights into building a vibrant culture of workplace gratitude, engagement and appreciation, be sure to download our free downloadable Gratitude Guide today!
About gThankYou, LLC
Turkey Gift Certificates and Turkey Or Ham Gift Certificates by gThankYou! are two of America’s favorite employee gifts and can be redeemed for any Brand (Turkey or Turkey Or Ham), at virtually any Grocery Store in the U.S.
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