Recognition may be the answer to your engagement and retention challenges.
By Debbie Bolla
Todayâs recognition programs have quite a heavy load to carry on their shoulders. Organizations expect them to increase loyalty, productivity, and retention. And when executed properly, they are doing just that. Globoforceâs 2014 Workforce Mood Tracker survey found that 51 percent of those with values-based recognition programs are happy at work compared to only 35 percent of all respondents. The study also reveals that 73 percent of respondents name recognition as having a positive impact on their overall happiness at work.
The Yankee Candle Company is looking to their newly formed recognition program to drive loyalty within the organization. Working with Michael C. Fina for one year, the company enlists a services recognition program to award employee contributions. The program has a custom feel, which Donna Vance, benefits and HR administrative services manager for the firm, calls âuniquely Yankee.â
âAt each service level, employees receive an iconic gift that represents a Yankee Candle product or tradition,â she says. âWe have received a lot of positive feedback from employees on the uniqueness and meaningfulness of our custom awards, as well as the quality and selection of our gift items.â
Vanceâs own 5th year anniversary was marked with a Yankee Candle Vanilla Cupcake candle and a pair of amethyst earrings that she selected. She is half way to earning her 10th year service rewardâa brick in the sidewalk at the flagship store in Massachusetts or at the EMEA headquarters in the U.K. That reward is very well-received among the entire staff.
âSome of our U.S.-based employees have even made a special trip to our Flagship store to locate their brick and to take pictures of it to share with their friends and family,â she says.
Tying recognition to the values and culture of the companyâ¨is key to increasing an employeeâs commitment to the organization. âEmployees need to feel recognized forâ¨their work as though theyâre contributing meaningfully to company objectives,â says Cord Himelstein, vice presidentâ¨of marketing and communications for Michael C. Fina. âHigher engagement correlates with higher productivity and lower turnover, all of which lead to overall greater financial health.â
While the basis of all recognition programs is essentially the sameârewarding employees for a job well doneâcompany culture tends to dictate their execution. Recognition canâ¨be delivered through several different avenues including service awards, peer-to-peer, points-based, and on-the-spot recognition. Paul Hebert, vice president of solutions design for recognition provider Symbolist, is seeing two growth opportunities in terms of programs. Service anniversary rewards can be expanded to cover more than work anniversaries. Companies are looking to their programs to reward their workforce throughout more of the employee lifecycle: recruiting, onboarding, training, and major career milestones.
He also says that customer-facing organizations are thinking outside of the box and enlisting customers to deliver feedback on employees and their work. Some even provide access to the recognition platform customers can share their experiences with the organization and a particular employee. He notes itâs becoming more prevalent inÂ organizations where customer satisfaction is a key element of company and brand success.
Adding an Element of Fun
A large part of a successful recognition program is that the platform is easy to use and has an element of fun. Derek Irvine, vice president of client strategy and consulting for Globoforce, says that social recognitionâinterfaces that resemble social media channelsâprovides an interactive experience and visibility into how colleagues are being recognized and rewarding others. âIt adds an element of camaraderie and fun to the review process,â he says.
Introducing gaming to the employee experience through gamification is a newer approach that can get employees involved and engaged in several HR initiatives like training and onboarding. Sounds like a perfect fit for recognition, right? Not so, reports Globoforceâs Workforce Mood Tracker survey. Only 30 percent of respondents felt that gamification would be a positive addition to a recognition program.
This may stem from the innate competitive aspect of gaming. Irvine says, âSixty-two percent of respondents said recognition would be less meaningful if they knew someone received points on a leaderboard for giving that recognition, and 79 percent would not work harder if the number of recognition awards given or received was ranked on a leaderboard.â
Impacting Performance Management
Performance reviews have taken some heat in recent years with opponents arguing that they are invaluable and archaic. Earlier this year, The Washington Post published an article on its website entitled, Study finds that basically every single person hates performances reviews. The piece, based on research from psychologists at Kansas State University, Eastern Kentucky University, and Texas A&M University, looked at how damaging negative feedback can be on employees.
There are other ancillary problems with annual performance reviewsâemphasis on annual.
âThe annual performance review can be uncomfortable on both endsâespecially when the manager/employee relationship doesnât include regular feedback, and communication is weak,â says Himelstein. âFrequent recognition and feedback provided throughout the year not only gives employees those quick boosts and greater sense of purpose, but eliminates the mystery and awkwardness of the annual review.â
Razor Suleman, chairman and chief evangelist for recognition provider Achievers, argues that while recognition happens all the time, a performance review happens only once a year. Tracking recognition can allow managers to see trends, achievements, and milestonesâ¨for a more effective performance review process. âThe reality is that managers only remember 30 percent ofâ¨what employees do on a daily basis,â he says. âRecognition programs provide managers the visibility into the successes and achievements employees are being recognized for every day.â
Herbert offers an interesting consideration when tying recognition to performance management: âIâm not sure that recognition programs as a standalone entity are great for either performance management or succession planning unless they have something built in from the beginning that links proven behavioral assets to future leadership.
For example, empathy has been shown to be a great leader asset. Does your recognition program allow for peopleâ¨to identify and recognize âempatheticâ behaviors in the nomination process? If so, then I think you might have a way to incorporate that information into someoneâs permanent record,â he explains.
Suleman argues that organizations can leverage the visibility recognition delivers to track the performance of key employees. âRecognition programs provide the opportunity for employers to identify who their high performers and high potential performers are. Managers and executive teams are able to view what the entire company is saying about a certain individual, and donât just have to replyÂ on one managerâs feedback. From a succession planning standpoint, this information is integral to determining career paths and internal movement for employees,â he says.
High-Tech but High Touch
Todayâs technology allows companies to capture and track vital employee informationâand that is no different for recognition. SaaS-based platforms deliver the effectiveness and speed organizations seek for program deployment and innovation.
âAs workforces become increasingly global, the ability to recognize coworkers at anytime from anywhere in the world is a key factor in achieving the highest level of success in a recognition program,â says Globoforceâs Irvine.
Himelstein warns that while technology does have its place, it should be leveraged accordingly. âTruly thanking and acknowledging someone shouldnât happen with an automated email or ping from a mobile app,â he says. âRecognition needs to originate from a genuine place.â
Herbert agrees. âWhenever you have social sharing without a real life, face-to-face component, you can get unintended consequencesâunderstating what is really valuableâand overstating what has little value. Recognition is a very âhumanâ issue and without the human, the technology is simply a way to quickly give non-emotional praise,â he says. âUnless companies spend time training how to best use the technology to enable human connections, it will not work.â
When it comes to something as personal as recognition, organizations should focus on the touch not just the tech.