In this guest post, Allison Rice shares insight on the importance of matching your employee rewards program to the needs and interests of employees to increase morale and productivity.
Employee recognition programs offer benefits not only to the employees themselves, but also to the companies that utilize them. As a result, these programs are growing increasingly popular. A recent survey we conducted found that out of a sample of over 1000 businesses, 57% had some kind of employee recognition program. In addition, the bigger the business, the higher the likelihood that it would have such a system.
However, in order to maximize the positive effect on employee morale and productivity, it is important to ensure that the programs utilize appropriate rewards for relevant achievements. Here are some factors to keep in mind to help you make the most out of your employee rewards:
1) Use programs to improve employees' work environment
Our survey showed that employees felt that recognition programs positively impacted both their happiness and their productivity. There is a strong correlation between the two. When employees have high morale, they also work harder; as recognition programs improve morale by making workers feel more appreciated, the result is increased efficiency.
By using rewards to improve the work environment, such as the occasional pizza party or casual clothing day, you can have an especially positive impact on employees' state of mind.
2) Reward quantifiable achievements
Employees appear to value recognition programs that focus on tangible accomplishments, when compared to those that relate to abstract concepts such as "leadership," "innovation," or "flexibility." Tie your rewards to achievements that have a clear relationship to the focus of your business.
For example, a retail establishment could set up a program of incentives for making the highest number of sales in a week or a month, while a construction company could focus on rewarding teams for avoiding on-site accidents.
3) Give employees rewards that they care about
Although employees do value recognition from their company, in the form of plaques or written letters of appreciation, they still prefer more tangible benefits such as gift cards, cash or bonuses, or even personalized gifts themselves.
Surprisingly, employee perks such as days off or parking spaces scored comparatively low in popularity among employees as potential rewards. Of course, the size of your business and the number of employees may affect what types of recognition are practical for you.
4) Utilize different forms of recognition
Another finding of the survey was that three or four formal employee recognition programs are the optimal number. For example, one respondent commented that, "A lot of companies just have employee of the month, but the addition of the employees recognizing other employee contributions and management recognizing employee contributions is a bonus and helps make our company a great place to work for."
While one program might focus on cash bonuses to specific individuals, another program might implement group rewards such as a picnic or party for a department that excels in exceeding monthly/annual targets, or even for the company as a whole.
Overall, employee respondents to the survey focused their comments on the way potential recognition increases their motivation. It's not only that they want to do their best because they are seeking the reward; it is that they want to do their best because they feel appreciated.
As a result, they focus more on doing their job correctly and following company procedures, they care more about customer service, and they feel involved and excited about the business. By contrast, employees at businesses without these programs mentioned feeling "disheartened" and that they have "no incentive to do better."
The value of a rewards program is really summed up in this quote:
"It makes most employees want to do their best with each and every customer when they know there is going to be a reward and [that they will] be recognized for their hard work."
What ideas do you have about how to use rewards and recognition to motivate your employees? What has worked in your organization?