Guest Column - November/December 2011

The Changing Face of Employee Recognition

By Sarah Rohlfing

Without question, employees are a critical asset to a company. In many cases they are the face of the organization. Thus, keeping your employees engaged and empowered to make a difference is essential. In fact, there is a direct connection between happy employees and top-performing employees.

In order for an organization to attract, engage and retain top performers, employees must be recognized for their achievements and hard work. And they must be rewarded. Recognition and rewards at their core are essentially the positive reinforcement that ensures top performers remain top performers, and those mid-level performers rise to the top of the pack.

While employee recognition is a well-known term, the extent of its role in motivating and retaining employees is a subject worth further discussion.

Now More Than Ever

It's no secret that the past few years have been a difficult economic climate for companies. As businesses lost profits, many had to make significant cutbacks in personnel. As a result, the job responsibilities of many employees increased significantly, perhaps into areas beyond their original scope. Many of these employees were thankful to be employed and worked doggedly to remain one of the lucky ones.

The American Psychological Association recently conducted a survey to study employee well-being. The findings of this study are quite telling.

When respondents were asked if they received adequate, non-monetary rewards and recognition for their contributions at work, only 43 percent assented. And, only 52 percent of respondents stated that they felt valued in their position. Unsurprisingly, only 66 percent reported being motivated to do their best.

As the economy begins to recover and companies are building their workforce again, opportunities are presenting themselves for eager individuals. Those who feel under-valued, disengaged or unrecognized are likely to explore other options. In the same study, 32 percent of respondents stated they intend to seek employment elsewhere within the next year. Companies would be wise to take action to prevent losing valued employees that they've invested in with both time and resources.

Demonstrate Commitment

Companies can leverage employee recognition programs to engage, or re-engage, their employee base and demonstrate the company's continued investment in the workforce. An effective, well-balanced employee recognition program rewards behavior, while encouraging and motivating employees to become more invested in a company. This ultimately creates a stronger, healthier and more productive organization.

From informal peer-to-peer acknowledgement or on-the-spot recognition, to more formal years of service awards or structured programs with public award ceremonies, a comprehensive strategy should take a multi-dimensional approach to recognition. These varied touch points will resonate with all employees, at all levels, within all departments.

Both the programs and the tools for communicating them to the workforce should be tailored for the organization, with goals and objectives centered on company values and then customized to the individual department and employee levels.

The program must start with buy-in from senior management and extend through all levels of the organization. Encouraging participation of managers is critical to ensuring staff members are recognized for their contribution to the company in timely, tangible and impactful ways.

Measurable Acknowledgement

To enforce regular recognition with consistent communication, programs can utilize a comprehensive points-based platform, with managers awarding points based on corporate, departmental and individual goals. This provides an opportunity for streamlining the process of recognizing years of service, encouraging training and job development, and rewarding employees who go above and beyond their daily responsibilities.

With a comprehensive points-based reward and recognition platform, the points can be banked and then redeemed for merchandise rewards of their choosing. This type of rewards-based recognition program encourages employee behavior and supports the overall goals of the organization, while providing a tangible reminder of their accomplishment.