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The Academics of Employee Recognition

November 10, 2015

By Dan Jackson, Terryberry Business Development Manager, Midwest

EmployeeRecogniton101“What do you do for a living?”

When meeting someone for the first time, it’s customary to ask or be asked this question. For me, when I say “I’m in the employee recognition business,” often I receive a look like I have six heads.  This is typically followed by a response along the lines of “interesting…” or “what on earth does that mean?”

I have my standard 30-second speech which illustrates that I help organizations achieve optimum employee engagement levels through relevant and targeted recognition programs.   But after a decade in this industry, I thought I would try to illustrate in more detail as to what this actually means.

Like a good scholar, an organization’s employee recognition program(s) must be well rounded in science, art, and math in order to achieve its full potential.  (As you read this last sentence, you might have begun to wonder if I do have six heads). Allow me to explain what I mean.

The Science of Employee Recognition

In order to truly achieve a successful employee recognition program, you will need to identify what it is you want to accomplish through employee recognition.  After that, develop an infrastructure through which this can actually happen. Said in a different way, after you’ve taken the most important step of identifying what you want to accomplish with your program(s), put in place tools or mechanisms that make it easy and timely to deliver recognition.  Here are some questions to consider:

  • What type of employees do I have?
  • How should I communicate with my employees?
  • What type of programs will resonate with my employees?

The answers to these questions will give you direction for what tools to put in place.  Now you’ve taken the first critical steps in improving employee engagement.

The Art of Employee Recognition

This is the fun part of recognition.  When it comes to your specific recognition programs, you should be creative with purpose. Think about how you’re going to express appreciation to your employees when they demonstrate the attitudes, behaviors, and contributions that make your organization successful.  If you have a difficult time identifying those traits, take a look around at your top performers in your organization.  What do they do?  What don’t they do?  Tie your program in to your mission, vision, and values.  Create specific awards and programs your employees can only achieve at their work place.  Have fun with this!  Here are some things to consider:

  • Be relevant.  For example, don’t put your manufacturing people in a sales program.  You want to make sure there are programs which make sense to each of your employees.
  • Be timely.  Try not to wait too long to recognize people for their accomplishments.  If too much time passes, they will think no one noticed and they could become discouraged.
  • Communicate.  When you roll out a program, make sure everyone understands the program.  Make it simple to understand and participate.
  • Be consistent.  If you introduce recognition program(s) to your people and then don’t see it through with your managers and leadership, you have just wasted time and money.

The Math of Employee Recognition

This is where we talk about budget, but don’t tune me out yet.   Employee Recognition doesn’t have to be a huge line item in order to be effective, but there are a few items toward which you’ll want to dedicate some resources. Many organizations make the HUGE mistake of thinking about recognition as a cost.  It’s an investment much like a car that gets you to work or marketing materials and initiatives which grow your business.  Retaining your top talent, minimizing attrition, and developing more engaged employees will not only lead to a happier work environment, it will make your business more profitable.  Your turnover costs will go down and productivity will go up.  To set a benchmark, organizations with the most successful recognition programs spend an average of 2.7% of payroll on employee recognition.   Consider what it would mean if your turnover costs went down 15% or if your productivity went up 15%. This will give you an idea of what you can expect your return on investment to be. Now you have this information.  What should the next steps be?

  1. Contact Terryberry!  We’ll walk you through a process that has proven to be effective with 25,000 happy clients.

Okay, okay.  You want specifics. Here are the ABC’s:

a) Create a team of leaders/managers to set your goals.
b) Identify the budget.
c) Decide how best to communicate recognition to your employees
d) Put tools in place for a sustainable and successful program.

So, what can you expect from a successful employee recognition program centered on a goal of more engaged employees?  Simple…a happier work environment, more productivity, and more profitability!


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