You have great employees, and you want to keep them that way. An employee recognition program can be just what you need to make that wish a reality. Here are some employee recognition ideas you may want to try.
1. Celebrate milestones regularly.
We all know how important milestones are in your personal life, so, yes, your employees will appreciate it when you care about big moments in their lives, like birthdays and work anniversaries. Even if they don't care, showing them that these big moments matter to you may impress them.
Kimberly Rath is president and a co-founder of Talent Plus, a human resources consulting firm headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska. The firm, which has 170 employees, routinely celebrates birthday and work anniversaries, and everybody is in the practice of sharing thank yous and praise from clients.
The company has “an appreciative culture," Rath says.
If your company is going to have an appreciative culture, you want to make sure that there's a consistent plan for celebrating employees. That could mean using an internal company calendar or a calendar software program or designating an HR staff member as the morale officer.
But whatever you do, be consistent. If you aren't organized, some people will be forgotten, and you might end up doing more harm than good.
2. Throw project parties into your project plans.
Ever run a marathon? Then you know what happens when you cross that finish line. Not only do you feel awesome, there's also the anticipation of the crowd going wild, the possibility of breaking a record or getting a medal.
Imagining that during Mile 21 surely helps a runner eventually reach Mile 26.
Well, in the same way, it helps to give your team an idea of what will happen when they finish a big project. That's where a party can be a nice motivator. Organize a bash, or offer to buy everybody lunch at a nice restaurant when the project is over. It may help them from dragging in Mile 21.
You could also invite clients, vendors or any partners who helped you with the project, if it's appropriate. It might be a good way to thank everyone, and at the same time, start a conversation about the next big project.
3. Build a mission statement that recognizes your employee's contributions.
Is your mission statement only business focused? What is the company's mission as it relates to its employees? You want your company's mission statement to praise employees' performances and make it clear as to what types of behavior you value.
This isn't just corporate mumbo jumbo. According to Sambrita Basu, the best employee recognition programs are tied into the company's culture and brand, “and not simply to monetary performance metrics." (Basu is principal consultant and coach at Culture Counts, a human resources and organizational behavioral consultancy in New York City.)
“For example, if a company is aiming to differentiate itself on agility and innovation, then employees who exemplify these values should be recognized just as strongly as those who meet more traditional performance metrics," Basu says.
And if your company's key goal in the next year is to improve diversity and inclusion, “then individuals who champion these initiatives should be explicitly recognized for their contributions," she adds.
4. Let staff define awards.
“One of the biggest mistakes a company makes is the failure to ask their employees how they would like to be recognized," says Elliott Jaffa, a behavioral and marketing psychologist in Arlington, Virginia.
After all, people give gifts all the time that end up being re-gifted. Everybody's idea of what an awesome reward looks like is going to be different.
Jaffa recommends offering a prize over money.
“That check can go to a variety of expenses, such as the mortgage and utilities," he says. “However, a 65-inch TV may be a better option."
“That TV is watched daily, thus, a daily reminder [of] how it was earned," he explains. "When company comes over and sees that TV, the owner tells a story [of] how it was earned."
Give cash, and chances are, the employee will forget about it in a few months. That said, it's still probably best to ask the employee how they'd like to be rewarded. They may prefer cash, and may have a 70-inch TV.
5. Be social with your praise.
This goes back to the importance of an appreciative culture. Spread the word. If an employee does something awesome, tell them and everybody else.
Whether cc'ing the team or sharing through your website or social platforms, calling out an above-and-beyond effort shows everyone that hard work doesn't go unrewarded at your company. You may also want to consider setting up a formal system for employees to recognize their colleagues' contributions.
This can all help encourage other workers to step up and do cool things for the company that are worthy of praise, too. After all, don't we all like getting public recognition?
6. Offer company swag.
If your company has high-quality swag, add it in as an extra when you're praising your employees. But only do it if you and your employees consider it truly a cool thing to have. Otherwise, it could backfire; you don't want employees to feel as though they've done an amazing job only to be awarded the equivalent of those cheesy vacation “My parents went to [insert really cool tourist destination] and all they got me was this lousy T-shirt" souvenirs.
If you aren't careful, employee recognition programs can backfire in other ways, says Sayeed Islam, an associate professor and organizational psychologist at Farmingdale State College in Farmingdale, New York. (He also is the vice president of consulting for management consulting firm Talent Metrics.)
If you're doing employee recognition programs with big rewards, you want to get feedback from a variety of sources, so you're sure the person getting recognized truly deserves it, Islam advises.
You also want to be transparent in how employees are rewarded, Islam recommends.
One of the biggest mistakes a company makes is the failure to ask their employees how they would like to be recognized.
—Elliott Jaffa, behavioral and marketing psychologist
“Don't hide the process by which you recognize," he says. “Let employees know the rules for getting recognition. You cannot play the game if you don't know the rules."
And when you're brainstorming employee recognition ideas, that may be the best way to look them: You're creating fun games that you want employees to win. And if your employees are winning, your business is winning, too.
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