Creative Strategies for Employee Recognition

Posted by Joseph Sherren on August 9, 2016

When was the last time you received a pat on the back, a sincere thank you, or heard the words, “great job” from your boss? Unfortunately, many managers do not think of this as one of their top priorities.

The reason people ‘show up’ to work is of course for the money, but after they show up, the best way to motivate them, inspire them, engage them, and make them want to come back, is not the money. This has been shown in study after study as well as my own interviews with hundreds of workers.

I am not saying that money is not important. It is certainly a way to let workers know their worth to the company. However, for most people, it is not a sustaining, motivational force. Salary raises and bonuses are great, but these do not motivate people to do their best on a daily basis.

It is all of the intangible rewards that engage employees and make them want to stay for the long term. To most of us this seems like such common sense. However, I find it is not common practice in most organizations today.

In PEI at the DP Murphy Group they have annual recognition events where top achievers are rewarded with expense paid trips to Cuba and other places. As well, they have formal recognition programs, which are great for developing relationships, and building a team.

But, according to Lou (Lorena) Taylor, VP of Operations at Tim Horton’s “It is the little things that really make the difference.” She says, “Especially for the off-shift or night workers who often get very little attention and need it the most.”

For instance, just one of the spontaneous things she did recently was pop into an Atlantic Superstore and purchase large boxes of fudgesicles. Then during her store visits, she would hand them out to each worker to enjoy on their break. Even Danny, when he sees a crew who is very busy or under stress, will often impulsively order pizza for everyone.

Well, Lou has it right. These simple acts of consideration, especially when spontaneous, go further to raise morale than any financial reimbursement.

According to a research study of 1,500 employees in a variety of work settings, Dr. Gerald Graham, author of Lead: How Effective Leaders Get Things Done, found that personalized, instant recognition from managers was reported to be the number one motivating incentive.

His study found that more than 80 percent of workers say receiving recognition from their manager makes them more satisfied with their jobs. But here’s the rub; the survey also reported that 58 percent of employees seldom, if ever, received personal, spontaneous thanks from their managers.

So what are the implications for those companies who do not have a culture of spontaneous recognition? His survey reported that 55 percent of the employees who say they are not receiving positive recognition are ready to quit their current jobs − they would prefer to work for a company where management recognized their efforts.

Here are just a few of the hundreds of employee recognition strategies that you could implement immediately:

  • Share lunch with them
  • Give them a movie pass
  • Write a complimentary letter to the employee’s spouse or family
  • Arrange coffee with a top executive
  • Dedicate a special parking space for a month
  • Create a “Wall of Fame” to honor special achievements
  • Surprise them spontaneously with fudgesicles or pizza

My question for managers this week: What spontaneous recognition, that is personally yours, do you do to show you appreciate your employees?

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