Keep it Creative with Employee Recognition Programs

Keep it Creative with Employee Recognition Programs

January 23, 2018

A creative employee recognition program that reflects a company’s culture is the key to incentivising employee motivation.

By Shuchita Dua Dullu

There is nothing worse than not receiving any recognition or acknowledgement for one’s efforts at work. Let alone working towards establishing a proper employee recognition program in place, employers who don’t even acknowledge the employee’s efforts with a simple thank you or an occasional pat on the back, are possibly considered as the worst kind of employers to work for.

A survey conducted by World at Work reported that less than a quarter of businesses believe their employees are actually engaged at work – which is largely due to a lack of employee recognition.

The importance of employee recognition is further reflected from a report by Career Builder and Badgeville. Results of the report show that while forty per cent of employees who don’t feel meaningfully recognised will not go above their formal responsibilities, fifty per cent of employees believe that increased recognition would reduce voluntary turnover. Therefore for an employer who doesn’t want their brand taking a beating, the focus should be on employee recognition over and above anything else.

The said survey by World at Work also reported that 88 per cent of organisations have some sort of staff recognition program in place, yet only one in four employees feel valued at work. This means that most recognition programs in the form of cash bonuses or awards that are in place simply aren’t working. This is because each company is different. A program that may work for one might not work for another. Recognition is not just about giving something to an employee who has performed well, it is about creating a culture that provides continuous and comprehensive feedback to all employees about their performance.

Essentially, recognition programs need to be organic and constantly evolving alongside the company’s growth. Most successful employee recognition programs are tied closely to the company’s culture and values and focuses on creating a strong bond between the employee and the company.

According to a 2015 Employee Recognition Report by the Society for Human Resource Management and Globoforce, values-based employee recognition programs significantly contributes to bottom-line organisational metrics and helps create a stronger culture and more human workplace. Of a total of 823 Human Resource professionals who took part in this survey, eighty six per cent reported that feeling recognised increased employee happiness and eighty four per cent said recognition improved employee relations. Furthermore, a total of ninety per cent reported that recognition impacted engagement positively.

With the needs of employees constantly evolving based on fast-moving trends, employers should shift their focus from gift vouchers, employee of the month celebrations to things that are culturally and socially relevant; a personal touch acknowledges the employee’s unique contribution and effort towards reaching organisational goals.

To get you inspired, we’ve listed a few unique employee recognition programs that companies across the globe adopt to keep up the levels of employee engagement high and attrition rates to all-time low. What’s important to note is that these programs are unique in the sense that they are strongly centred around the company’s culture and values.

Companies that are smart, address the employee recognition issue by actually providing employees more opportunities to engage. They address the key areas of employee recognition and employee engagement together. Such companies provide their employees opportunities to handle new tasks or expand their skills to keep them happy. By providing employees training or growth opportunities, thereby investing in the careers of the employees, employers show that they care about the employee’s individual and collective achievements. A research by ReportLinker showed that 83 per cent of employees who are provided opportunities to take on new challenges are more likely to stay with the organisation.

Limiting oneself to providing recognition and rewards for a job well done is now a thing of the past for organisations that recognise the importance and believe in celebrating their employees. Today organisations apart from rewarding successes, believe in rewarding employees for ideas and experiments that didn’t come through or failed. They understand that if they want their employees to think out of the box, risk-taking behaviour needs to be celebrated. Tata is one such company that celebrates their employee’s bold attempts through their Dare to Try award. This award celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit that pushes employees to take risks. The company Tata believes that recognising employees for their risk taking capabilities and creative ideas is imperative to the individual and company-wide success.

Moving on, employee recognition no more follows the top-down path. Today, employee recognition is carried out through peer-to-peer recognition programs. Companies are beginning to put bonus granting in the hands of the employees themselves. Zappos, the popular online retailer, runs a co-worker bonus program. This bonus program allows employees to award and extra USD 50 to a colleague who displays the ability to go above and beyond for themselves and their team each month.  The advantage of such program is that recognition comes from a colleague that the employee works with day in and day out. Encouraging employees to recognize each other’s hard work and accomplishments can make a world of difference when it comes to job satisfaction.

Another organisation that takes advantage of the benefits of the peer-to- peer recognition program is Red Velvet Events. Its employees use a small plastic troll doll to recognise each other. During their weekly staff meeting, a team member gives the doll to another employee and describes the recipient’s work efforts during the previous week. Each person who receives the doll adds an accessory (earrings, a tattoo, a bow tie, etc.) and presents it to another team member the following week. This eccentric tradition not only reflects the company’s fun loving culture, but it also ensures that the employees are consistently being recognised for their hard work by their own team.

Technology Company Motley Fool celebrates their employees every day. Motley Food asserts that one day a year was simply not enough to recognize all the great things their employees do; therefore, they made every day an Employee Recognition Day. They host fun events throughout the year and use a peer-to-peer recognition tool. The tool allows employees to give each other shout-outs that can later be converted into prizes. The program’s been a success, with employees letting each other know about a job well done 35 times a day.

Another way of keeping employee morale high is by recognising important work milestones. Be it the first year mark, five years or ten years, recognising employees for reaching an important milestone is a great way to thank them for their contribution to the organisation, making them feel important and encouraging them to give extra, thereby increasing employee retention rates. Groupon is one such company that never fails to celebrate an employee’s work anniversary. Referred to as Grouponiversary, Groupon recognises their employee’s first milestone by awarding a bright green Adidas track jacket. Employees have the liberty of personalising their jacket with unique nicknames of their choice and also receive star patches for each additional year at the company.

Another company, Influence & Co. too publicly rewards their employee’s achievement with what they call “The Belt”. This professional wrestling style championship belt is awarded to those employees who make creative contributions to the growth of the company.

Recognition and positive reinforcement are two most important components of a successful company and with the world changing and turning social at a fast pace, social media is fast becoming an important contributor in providing recognition. These days’ companies are taking advantage of the online presence to highlight their employee’s contributions. Posting pictures of the employees, highlighting their contributions, not only increase employee engagement, but also helps the company gain and increase their follower base on social media.

When companies get innovative and provide customised benefits to recognise the efforts of their employees, engagement and retention are bound to be high.  In a research conducted by Metlife, 94 per cent of employees were of an opinion that if personalisation is crucial to marketing, it should be a key factor to employee appreciation too. Out of those surveyed by Metlife, 72 per cent also reported that customised benefits would increase loyalty towards employers. Offering flexible work schedule options, in response to output is one such example that helps retain loyalty and commitment, who may otherwise be going through a hard time managing work due to personal commitments.

One such innovating employee recognition idea that tops our list, is the one implemented by Walt Disney. Named after their long term employee Fred, an employee who exemplifies the qualities of dependability and friendliness, the winners are awarded with plaques of the Spirit of Fred Award. Disney also has bronze statuettes of the company’s most iconic character, Mickey Mouse, for the winners of the Lifetime Fred Award.

Employees want to know specifically the types of positive behaviours that are valued. Therefore, rather than handing out a one-size-fits-all employee of the month award, organisations should put in a little thought into recognizing smaller, more specific improvements, as such improvements are easier for others in the team to comprehend and emulate. The company Engrave, for instance, has conceptualised and partnered with clients to hand out very particular awards like the Merck Milestone Award and Push the Envelope Award.

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Other simple yet innovative employee centric recognition initiatives can involve helping employees with their children’s school admissions, providing pet allowances, on site wellness programs, technology allowances, paternity leave, free food, sabbaticals, etc. Viacom is one company that provides an annual stipend for employees to get a tattoo.

Finally, work-life balance opportunities are something employees of today value and seek. HR departments that facilitate this are appreciated. Many companies such as Google, Facebook and various other employee centric organisations are putting policies in place that limit checking email while out of office and working while on paid leave. Such companies are trying to be proactive about encouraging people to stay offline during paid leave.

Human Resources can look at many other ways to put in place initiatives that help their employees combat stress, increase loyalty and overall engagement by, making physical, mental, sabbatical, and wellness benefits an integral aspect of remuneration.

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