Do Your Staff Know You Give A Shit?

By Paul Slezak - Jun. 14, 2012
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Retaining good staff and keeping them motivated is not just about the money. It often comes down to the recognition they receive and the rewards they can aspire to beyond the bonuses.

Staff engagement surveys regularly reveal that employees believe non-monetary forms of recognition are a strong motivation to stay with their current employer.

Personally, as a manager in the past, I always found that my teams were far more driven to achieve if they knew there was an afternoon of sailing coming their way if they made budget, or that a day off or weekend away were up for grabs for ‘outstanding achievement’.

One thing most people need is recognition that they are doing a good job. Non-existent feedback breeds negativity and lethargy. We need to know we are appreciated for what we do and, when we are, we are more likely to try harder.

An effective rewards and recognition program can show your team that their efforts are appreciated, not only when they go over and above, but in a general sense as well. And it’s not hard or costly to set one up:

Put it in writing

Have a mission statement, outlining what you hope to achieve through the program. Define the possible milestones that could be recognised and the appropriate incentives, rewards and opportunities for appreciation. Rewards can range from relatively inexpensive things such as printed certificates and weekly prizes to larger gestures for more substantial achievements, such as staff lunches or days off.

Announce the program and get behind it

Tell everyone about it at the next staff meeting, send out the details in an email, and lead by example with unqualified enthusiasm.

Put it into practice and keep up with it

Create opportunities for appreciation, such as staff meetings, and encourage everyone to participate, with the aim of making it a part of the team’s culture. You may well find that, once it has become an accepted practice, team members will start recognising each other’s good work as well, which is definitely a morale booster. Be sure to provide the recognition as soon after the achievement as possible, in order to reinforce the desired behaviour in the employee.

Of course, for these sorts of incentives to work, they have to be deserved, not just handed out to everyone and certainly not in place of a fair wage or an annual salary review.

Also, everyone must be eligible, to avoid jealousy or negativity, which could occur if a chosen few constantly receive all the accolades.

Recognition and reward not only benefits employees, but also employers. Organisations who create formal recognition and reward programs do so for several reasons:

  • to inspire loyalty
  • to increase productivity
  • to improve morale
  • to reinforce company values
  • to reinforce desired behaviours
  • to reduce staff turnover.

Job satisfaction can also translate into better customer service. An employee who feels appreciated for going that extra mile is more likely to extend this behaviour to the way they treat their customers, which is very good for business.

However, a recognition and reward program needs to be well designed, otherwise it could have the opposite effect to the one desired and actually create negativity and lower morale.

Some common traps to avoid with employee recognition schemes

  • Singling out individuals for recognition who have done nothing particularly worthy
  • Making the criteria too hard or too exclusive for everyone to be able to compete
  • Using voting or other subjective criteria to determine winners
  • Promoting teamwork, yet only rewarding the top 5%.

The program needs to be morale-boosting, but it also needs to be firmly focused on company goals, otherwise it may not be worth the money and time spent on it.

The overall objective should be to gradually improve the attitude, performance and behaviour of the majority of team members, so little things such as an instance of exceptional customer service should be recognised just as much as larger productivity gains or cost savings.

If done well, a recognition and reward program can have very positive results and can turn an average group into a cohesive team of high performers, who enjoy coming to work and giving 110% to team objectives.

Again from personal experience, as an employee, when I knew that exceeding my targets or recognition for being nominated “most valuable player” might earn me a trip to the Whitsundays, I thought it was great and it definitely inspired me to work harder.

The trick is to make sure your recognition and reward program covers all the bases, by making it relevant, accessible, worthwhile and, above all, a bit of fun.

Cofounder and CEO at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for nearly 25 years.


Paul Slezak

Cofounder and CEO at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for nearly 25 years.

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