Departments - September/October 2016

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Employee Acknowledgement
Survey Shows Value of Workplace Recognition Programs

By Deborah L. Vence

A recent employee recognition survey proved the value of workplace recognition programs.

In fact, nearly three-quarters of the 300 human resources professionals who were queried said they plan to expand their recognition programs over the next year. The survey was conducted by Michael C. Fina Recognition, a New York-based organization that helps companies around the globe deliver recognition, rewards and incentive programs, at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition in Washington, D.C.

"We see a lot more organizations diversifying their recognition offering with a mix of formal and informal techniques," stated Cord Himelstein, vice president of marketing and communications for Michael C. Fina Recognition, in a press release. "Thanks to the technology that's available to modern recognition programs, HR departments have more flexibility with design than ever before."

He also said that "Tracking ROI data is crucial to program success. With so many analytics and reporting tools readily available, everyone should be using them to get the most out of their investment."

For the survey, respondents were asked which recognition initiative has the biggest impact on employee engagement. In response, they cited:

  1. Above and beyond performance awards (33 percent)
  2. Service anniversary awards (20 percent)
  3. Personal notes or e-cards (10 percent)

Budgets always are a factor, and companies increasingly are considering no- and low-cost recognition solutions such as e-cards or digital notes.

To boot, the majority (94 percent) of individuals surveyed indicated that they were either very interested, interested or somewhat interested in a no- or low-cost solution. Respondents also said they find low-cost solutions appealing because they encourage daily recognition among peers (35 percent), are easy to manage (22 percent) and help build company culture (18 percent).

In a blog post about the survey, Himelstein noted that "Previously, personal notes and e-cards were most often used informally to balance out other formal initiatives. Now, as these programs become more prevalent, HR professionals are more willing to give these easily administered programs credit for keeping employees engaged and providing overall convenience, with a very low initial investment," he said.

When addressing ROI measurement, more than one-third of survey respondents (39 percent) indicated that they evaluate recognition programs with employee surveys; while another one-third (35 percent) said they do not measure their employee recognition programs. The remaining HR professionals surveyed measure program success based on participation rates, customer surveys, employee turnover and productivity.

"The earlier organizations can start building a meaningful connection with an employee, the better," Himelstein stated on the blog. "For decades the five-year mark was the benchmark to start a service award program, but younger workers thrive on instant feedback and a more social workplace. For two consecutive years, our SHRM survey respondents have been split 50/50 on whether or not they recognize employees during their first year of service."

And, he expects that early recognition eventually will become a preferred outcome.

"Over the past few years, organizations have started to offer a comprehensive combination of formal and informal recognition," he said. "Many employers, even if they do not offer formal recognition early on, will provide an introduction to their recognition program to show an additional company benefit."

Respondents confirmed the importance of recognition programs, too, with the majority (51 percent) implementing at least three to five recognition initiatives.

Traditional service awards, Himelstein stated, were cited as being the most effective programs for one out of five respondents.

"A high-performing service anniversary program can increase employee loyalty, drive employee engagement and create a culture of positive feedback that improves overall performance," he said. "Celebrating milestones and rewarding individual achievements have typically been the most authentic and organic types of employee recognition. In fact, they are essential elements to any program and the backbone for all other recognition."

WorldatWork research, Himelstein noted, shows that currently 26 percent of organizations spend 1 to 2.9 percent of payroll on recognition programs—a 16 percent increase since the last time it was measured in 2013. The survey showed that 70 percent of respondents plan to make changes to their recognition programs in the next 12 months, an increase of 10 percent from last year.

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