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The Ultimate Cheat Sheet to Setting Up An Employee Recognition Program

woman_in_maze_yoh_blog.jpgA simple “Thank You!” can go a long way. For this reason, companies would be wise to consider implementing a recognition program that celebrates the achievements of their employees and motivates them to do their best.

According to Tom Rath and Donald Clifton’s How Full Is Your Bucket, 65% of Americans surveyed receive no recognition in the workplace. In fact, there exists an ideology that there are no two words more harmful than “Good job!”

But in actuality, lack of appreciation is one of the main reasons why people leave their jobs. Millennials, who constitute the bulk of today’s workforce, are known for frequent job hopping and commitment to achieving their own goals.

Basically, if they are not happy with their work situation, they have no problem finding the door. The mindset of ruling a company culture with an iron fist is simply not sustainable anymore.


How to Create an Employee Recognition Program

The challenge is setting up a program that effectively benefits both parties. Here are some things to keep in mind during the planning process.

Answer the “Why”

First and foremost, you will want to look at the big picture: why you are planning to implement a rewards program. The foundational answer to this question is typically to boost employee engagement. While these could be your primary goals, what is the greater purpose this program will provide to the company?

Look for standout behaviors and values that reinforce your companies mission and goals. Let’s say you are making it a point to provide excellent customer service. Therefore, a good idea might be to reward your representatives based on the reviews they get from clients. Or, for your sales team, you could set milestones and reward those who hit the mark.

For example, Chesapeake Energy, prides itself on practicing safety first. In turn, they reward employees for their dedication to the concept. From 2011 through 2016, the company paid out more than $8 million in “safety bonuses.”

Keep in mind, in addition to providing a level of job satisfaction to employees, the reward program you create should ultimately benefit the company and strengthen its values.

Choose the prize

This is the fun part. What is something that will really motivate your employees to go the extra mile?

Now is the time where you can get creative. No need to rush this. There are an incredible number of ways you can reward employees who do awesome work.

While you can always make the reward a surprise, a good strategy is to send out an employee survey and take a poll for what everyone wants. For example, you could offer additional vacation days, weekend getaways, or simply some extra cash. Regardless of whether you are rewarding an individual or an entire team, the prize should be a hot commodity that everyone wants.

A recent study found that non-cash rewards proved to be more effective than money in increasing employee engagement in the long term:

Basically, whatever you decide to use should either show employees that you put a good amount of thought into the prize, or listened to popular demand.

Determine selection criteria

Once you have pinpointed and chosen the perfect reward to offer your employees, it’s time to develop the criteria for how they can earn it.

Based on the size of your company and the departments involved, this can be a bit more complicated than you might imagine. For instance,

  • Can both the full-timers and part-timers be eligible for the program? What about interns or temps?
  • Can employees win multiple times?
  • Should managers be involved in the program?
  • Should there be a minimum duration of employment to be eligible?

There are many “what-ifs” to answer when determining who can be entered in the program.

Once you have clarity over who can and cannot win, you will need to put a system in place for how a winner is determined. How will specific employees be brought to your attention?

Choosing the winners yourself is one path to take. But, the last thing you want is any speculation of favoritism. Therefore, the criteria should not be subjective. It should be determined directly by the results employees produce. For example, if you’re rewarding the sales team, obviously, the representative with the highest revenue numbers should win.

However, it is not always black and white. In these cases, it’s always a safe bet to leave it to a democracy. Try using a nomination form for each of the participants to fill out. This way, winners are chosen on a level playing field.

Fairness and transparency is the name of the game here. Falling short can result in your entire rewards program backfiring.

Get organizational buy-in

Now that you’ve put together the whole program from A to Z, it’s finally time to present it to your faithful employees and let them know how great this new perk is.

There are a number of ways you can approach this task. For starters, you can make a formal announcement in a meeting with a stellar presentation. If you go this route, be sure you send a follow up email with plenty of details in regards to nomination periods and criteria. Also, consider sending weekly updates so everyone knows where they stand.

Another way would be to use a tool like Achievers, through which you can introduce the program and allow your employees to keep up with feedback throughout the entire duration. This platform enables you to set up in-depth leaderboards where employees can rack up points and see their standing on a daily basis. This approach is great for ongoing programs.

Parting words

At the end of the day, a reward program should be a win-win situation. Employees are motivated to do their best while you see top-notch results that grow your business. The harsh truth of the matter is that praise in the professional world can be scarce. That being said, creating a fun, interactive program is a phenomenal way to keep your workforce tuned in and looking ahead. Get creative and have some fun with it!


About the Author: Lori Wagoner is a marketing and business consultant. She helps small businesses put in place growth-focused digital strategies. Lori is also a prolific blogger; she writes for Tweak Your Biz, Project Eve, Small Biz Daily, and many other business publications. You can follow her on Twitter @LoriDWagoner.

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