Great Employee Recognition, Even if You Have Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget

Employee recognition can have a big impact on keeping employees happy and satisfied, which translates to increased productivity and retention. If budget or time concerns have kept you from creating a structured employee recognition program, more than just your employees are missing out. But not to worry – with a little bit of creativity and communication, you can create low cost/high impact employee recognition worthy of your champagne taste.

If you don’t have a recognition program, you’re not alone. The “2019 Trends in Employee Recognition Survey” conducted by WorldatWork found an increase in companies who have no employee recognition policy or strategy – 19% in 2019 as compared to 12% in 2015. And nearly all of the recognition programs measured by the survey have been in place for more than five years – which means not much has changed. But this is a slippery slope in today’s workplace.

Did you know that 43% of employees would likely leave their companies for just a 10% pay rise elsewhere? These were the findings of the 2019 Employee Engagement Report, “The End of Employee Loyalty” by TinyPulse which included data from over 25,000 thousand employees across 20 industries. The report also stated:  “Only a third of workers received recognition the last time they went the extra mile at work and just a quarter feel highly valued at work.”  Making employees feel valued can make the difference in keeping them on board.

Take heart – a great first step toward creating your recognition program is easy: simply talk to your employees. By communicating to your employees that recognition is important, and then giving them a chance to come up with ideas of their own, you are creating a culture of engagement. Pull together an employee focus group to find out what’s most meaningful to them. What’s important to them may surprise you. And it may be more attainable than you think.

Here are examples of what we’ve seen work well with our clients:

Give the gift of time. Who wouldn’t like to have a noon dismissal on Fridays in the summer? If that works for the structure of your business, it is a wonderful thank you to your team. If that’s not workable, how about an early release one day in thanks for a strong quarter, or other recent achievement? Or how about an extra PTO day to recognize an individual’s stellar performance? One of our clients, for example, has given employees the ability to work from home 4 days/month which has the team rejoicing. ‘Gifts’ like these take advantage of things you already have in place to recognize and incentivize.

Create a calendar of thoughtful treats. Especially for smaller companies, it can be inexpensive to schedule some treats throughout the year. Think ice cream on a hot day or hot chocolate and cookies in the winter or a surprise pizza day. You may even be able to recruit a team of enthusiastic employees to create the calendar. It’s a sure way to ensure that what’s chosen will be appreciated.

Speak up and out. Whenever you have a gathering of employees, use some part of the forum to verbally recognize good things happening and who is responsible for them.  In addition to giving individual employees a pat on the back, it also helps to build and enhance a positive and supportive culture. All-company meetings also can be a great opportunity for employers/executives to share business information with employees, to whatever extent possible. This could be high-level, “state of the business” reporting; new projects or clients on the horizon; an overview of quarterly financials; advancements in product development; upcoming manufacturing goals, etc. When employees are brought “into the fold,” they feel more connected to the mission of the company and they have a better sense of what other departments are working on and how it all fits together. And it is free to share info!

Spread the word in a monthly newsletter. Newsletters are NOT a thing of the past. If you have the ability to email your entire company, you have the ability to send a newsletter. It doesn’t have to be highly designed. Newsletters are a great internal communications tool for a geographically dispersed company. Use it to recognize individuals or teams, in writing. Everyone loves seeing their names “in print” and the goodwill it creates is immeasurable.

Salute service. Service awards are the stalwart of employee recognition programs. They typically have a monetary amount tied to them. Even a nominal amount is an expression of thanks for your employee’s commitment to the company. Be consistent about presenting them and include them in your communications.

Support your employees’ wellness and philanthropic passions.   – The most successful wellness and philanthropic initiatives we’ve seen have one thing in common: they are driven by an employee committee that works in tandem with HR or management. Employees receive positive recognition through new leadership roles and the opportunity to showcase their talents outside of their regular roles.  Given the opportunity to rally around and support a cause near and dear to them, they will become even further ingrained in your organization.

No matter how you decide to handle employee recognition, communication is key. You may want to consider using an employee feedback tool such as TINYpulse or Google Forms. These will give you the input you need to propel your recognition program. What’s more, even on a budget you’ll be able to create a high impact employee recognition program that helps to keep your employees happy and satisfied.

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