Guest Column - March/April 2014

Engage Your Workforce With Effective Employee Recognition

By Paul Gordon

Companies must get off to a fast start in the first quarter of a new year to keep pace with the goals and expectations for the year. Budgets are set, new products and services are launched, and corporate expectations are laid out. But often the key component for success is the one that is overlooked, and that is the employee base.

If the employees are not brought into the process and are not engaged in the goals, the results will not be met. And what exacerbates this in today's economy is that an alarming number of employees are reportedly in pursuit of change. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2 million Americans are voluntarily leaving their jobs monthly. Amidst a troubling time for the American economy, this is a staggering statistic, especially when considering that a recent study found that 43 percent of those searching for new jobs cited a lack of recognition from their previous employer as the number one reason for resigning.

It goes without saying that an effective employee recognition program is the key to not only keeping talent, but motivating the rest of the workforce in order to achieve heights previously unmatched. So, why exactly is recognition in some organizations so hard to find these days? For one, it takes time. Not only to create, but to nurture along the way with continued interest from participants and managers. Despite earnest intentions, notable progress will not be made overnight.

A lack of commitment can also stymie management's attempts to implement programs. Executives either do not fully engage in creating a program or have been scared off by a bad past experience. They may also assume that rewards fall under a "one size fits all" model, with every type of recognition remaining applicable for every demographic. With up to four generations of employees currently in the workforce, this couldn't be a more incorrect assumption, yet far too many program managers remain reluctant to modify offerings that each employee will actually find rewarding.

An effective employee recognition program can be broken down into three steps: Creation, Application and Segmentation.

The first, Creation, comes into play as the importance of identifying what type of program your company will most benefit from, as recognition programs can tackle many objectives. It's imperative to narrow down what specific accomplishments you would like to see met with your program. We work with our clients and have the benefit of having an eclectic account portfolio that ranges in size, demographics and geographic territories, helping to design a program that will deliver the objectives our clients want to achieve and will guarantee a successful start to their program.

Once the program is ready to implement, measures must be taken to ensure that managers are up-to-date, knowledgeable and aware of the guidelines. It's vital that rules and expectations are communicated to participants. Instructions saved on a company-wide intranet, social media or printed on collateral are the most effective in conveying information, but can also include more hands-on methods like an informational workshop. The latter lends itself to unique opportunities for feedback and Q&A sessions that reinforce the program's expectations.