Employee recognition programs, once considered a “nice” but non-essential component of human resources, have changed dramatically over the past five years. This shift parallels a growing understanding of the importance of retaining top-performing employees and re-engineering employee recognition as a core business function.
What’s behind this change? Numerous studies demonstrate “that when companies include employee recognition as a line-item, employee behavior increases across engagement, productivity, retention, customer service, and morale.”
What trends have emerged in the recent past and what do they tell us about how employee recognition programs will be defined in 2017 and beyond? Here’s a look at how thinking has changed and the implications it has for your business today:
1. Employee recognition is being integrated into human capital management strategies
There’s a new strategic value being placed on not just motivating the team, but discerning more precisely the types of behavior that translate into business success. Increasingly, recognition programs are seen as valuable coaching opportunities that reinforce desired employee behaviors — which can result into more effective sales, enhanced customer experiences and longer-lasting customer loyalty.
2. Employee recognition takes place on a continuous basis, not once a quarter or at the end of the year
In past years, many businesses hosted an annual employee recognition day, in which prizes were handed out for individual achievements. Over time, thinking has evolved into a prevailing sense that frequentemployee recognition is a much more effective tool for reinforcing the behaviors businesses desire. Consistent praise has a more beneficial effect than intermittent recognition.
3. Peer-to-peer recognition is on the rise
Employees value praise from managers and others high up in the organization, but they greatly appreciate peer recognition as well. Social media can serve as a useful resource for employees to recognize one another’s efforts (status updates on LinkedIn and Facebook, for example, where people can leave comments and words of praise). Peer recognition also leads to a stronger sense of being part of a hard-working and high-achieving team.
4. New talent looks for cultures of recognition
In the red-hot competition for qualified new hires, it’s becoming clear that jobseekers respond favorably to businesses that actively promote a culture of recognition. Businesses with cultures that “clearly value innovation, people development and strategic thinking attract higher quality employees,” notes business author Rob Peters. “Intelligent organizations utilize recognition as a way to regularly advance the aspects that make up a high performing culture.”
5. Recognition is becoming more specific and personal
Handing out generic-sounding awards misses the mark when it comes to motivating employees to higher levels of excellence. If the reason behind recognition is vague or ambiguous, the objective of encouraging similar behavior among fellow employees gets lost. People want to know specifically the types of positive behavior their employers value. Rather than handing out a one-size-fits-all employee of the month award, “giving a more specific reward for providing legendary customer service makes more sense,” contends marketing expert Amy Blackburn. “Other employees, upon seeing such recognition, may want to rise to the occasion, too, and provide excellent customer service.”
6. Employee recognition programs play up the “fun” angle
Recognizing employees for individual or team achievements shouldn’t be a staid or solemn affair. The goal is advancing employee engagement, which is far more likely to come about as a result of informal and upbeat ways of recognizing outstanding on-the-job behaviors.
According to a recent study, businesses with “effective recognition programs have a 31 percent lower voluntary turnover than organizations with ineffective recognition programs.” This, in itself, is a compelling reason to find out more about trends in employee recognition programs and see how you can incorporate those trends into your own efforts to salute hard-working and dedicated employees.
Author: Julie Feece, Vice President North America – Marketing for RPG Card Services