Not all employee awards are created equal. Here are top tips for how, when and why you should recognise employees on a job well done.
Since the days of early childhood when a pretty picture or good deed earned that coveted gold star, we’re conditioned to think that a job well-done deserves praise.
We might be immune (sort of) to the allure of shiny gold stars now, but the basic principle – that outstanding performance deserves recognition and validation – is one that is just as relevant in our working lives as it was back then.
Which means that when expected recognition isn’t forthcoming, we understandably become upset; perhaps not enough to fall on the floor and throw a tantrum, but certainly enough to become disenchanted with our employers.
Recent research from global engagement agency BI Worldwide, which analysed data from 30,000 employees across a range of corporations and industries, found staff turnover is 18 per cent less likely among employees whose efforts are ‘adequately’ recognised. In essence, the more employee awards you have, the less likely they are to leave.
Tricia Mikolai, managing director for BI Worldwide Australia, says a well-constructed employee recognition program pays dividends in engagement, loyalty and productivity.
“The analysis of the data from our clients clearly demonstrates the importance of meticulously planning recognition and rewards programs,” she says. “A well-constructed employee awards program increases engagement and productivity, and reduces staff turnover.”
The results of the analysis are supported by previous research titled The Effects of Employee Recognition and Appreciation from employee engagement and research firm TINYpulse. The research, which involved surveying more than 4500 employees in 500 organisations, found a strong correlation between how valued an employee feels at work, and the likelihood they would apply for their job again.
Additionally, the TINYpulse research found almost 80 per cent of the employees surveyed didn’t feel valued for the work they put in.
When should you hand out employee awards?
Research has shown again and again that the majority of people think they are above average employees – a statistical impossibility, which makes the job of recognising truly excellent work all the more complex.
In a piece published by Forbes, talent management guru Meghan M Biro laments the assumption that praise should be automatic, rather than earned.
“We’re becoming a culture in which people expect to be rewarded for drawing breath and taking up space, which makes the job of a human resources professional or business leader tasked with employee retention a difficult one indeed,” Biro writes. “If many of your employees expect routine and social praise and ‘badges’, how can you recognise extraordinary achievement? When should recognition and reward be linked?”
When recognition is warranted, Biro suggests steering away from financial incentives.
“In my opinion, this approach misses the point of recognition: people are motivated by more than money,” she writes. “People crave positive feedback, recognition they put in extra effort, acknowledgement of leaders and peers, the glow that comes with knowing an achievement has been seen, appreciated and celebrated.”
Biro suggests keeping these points in mind when considering an effective employee recognition program:
- Make the feedback as timely as possible.
- Think about the big picture and tie affirmations to business goals.
- Make the recognition appropriate in scale, and connect recognition to tangible results and effort.
- Be authentic, not automatic. Biro warns against relying on automated recognition systems, which – while convenient – can take the sincerity out of the praise.
- Don’t rely on the cheque book.