The COVID-19 situation has touched or will affect everyone on this planet. Not in my lifetime can I think of a singular event that has turned the world upside down, including Sept. 11, 2001. The death and disruption to families on so many levels have not fully been recognized yet. Companies and employees around the world are currently faced with the uncertainty of what a “new normal” will ultimately be in the short-run and the long-term. The big question is what will business leaders have learned that will prompt them to change their business models and employment models to maintain productivity and the ability to be agile enough to react when the next COVID-19 pandemic appears. There is one thing that is apparent right now, and that is you have to recognize employees during COVID-19 as it is critical to keep your employees engaged during this troubling time.
In the past several months, many of your employees have come close to their breaking points. The challenges of learning how to work from home, communicating effectively with their teammates and customers, wondering if their job is still safe, all while simultaneously managing children and a household, are too much to ask for most people. Things are tough for everyone, and one of the most natural things your company can do is to show your employees gratitude and appreciation for producing during these unprecedented times.
COVID-19 has changed the way we do our work and where we do our work. With many companies forced to mandate that employees work from home during this outbreak, the shock of isolation for employees that have been going to an office environment every day can’t just be dismissed. Being part of a team and having that sense of belonging is a basic human need, not to mention how critical it is to a company’s bottom line. From Forbes:
Excluded employees have a 50% higher rate of turnover than employees who feel they belong, costing organizations about $10 million annually per 10,000 employees.
Employees see a 56% in job performance when they feel like they belong, resulting in a gain of $52 million per year for every 10,000 employees.
Managing and inspiring a world-class team in good times is challenging enough for a manager, and now more than ever, with teams spread out and isolated, an effective manager needs to have the ability to engage all of their team members to hit their business goals and that of the company. Even if your business is experiencing hard times due to COVID-19, you have to find ways to recognize employees during COVID-19 to keep your employees engaged in the ways that they like to be recognized.
During tough times like we are experiencing today, you are going to see some employees step up to the challenge, while others falter. Recognizing your employees even in the good times is easier for some companies than others, let alone while we are experiencing one of the most massive global disruptions that we have ever faced. The fact remains the same however, employees who report they’re not adequately recognized at work are three times more likely to say they’ll quit in the next year according to a Gallup study. This should not surprise anyone, especially if you have children. Praise and recognition are basic human needs required by everyone. Some more than others, but to have the drive and perform to a higher level, employees need ongoing recognition, especially if they are going above and beyond for your company. The message here is, during times of high stress and strain, the last thing people need is for their employer to treat them poorly or not recognize them for stepping up. When things get better, they will be looking for the door.
Effective Recognition During Times of Trouble
While many think of employee recognition in terms of a monetary reward, this is like taking an aspirin for a migraine. It may help a little, but there will be no breakthrough to alleviate the pain.
Fortunately, there are numerous creative and cost-effective ways to say thank you to your employees during these tough COVID-19 times or any other times. Even if financially strained, the investment to recognize employees during COVID-19 will pay dividends and make your organization stronger.
Make Recognition About the Individual
One size does not fit all when it comes to employee recognition. Your programs should tailor recognition to the individual, or each individual in the team. It is essential to understand each member of your team and cater to their recognition appropriately. Remember that every human needs recognition, but not every employee likes to be the center of attention when receiving recognition. For some, a personal note via email or through a private social post will be thrilled. For others, they want the world to know, and a comprehensive recognition platform with built-in social walls will meet their exact desire. Every employee is different, so really think about each person and how they might want to be recognized.
If you currently have a manager to peer recognition program or no recognition program at all, consider implementing an effective peer to peer recognition component to your overall program. A ton of research exists that gives apparent indicators that a peer-to-peer recognition approach is excellent for your company’s bottom line. In a SHRM study, they found that a peer-to-peer recognition model, when compared to a manager only recognition model, is 35.7% more likely to have a positive impact on the financial results of a company.
People love to be thanked and recognized by their peers. It is very genuine, with no hidden meanings. Given the COVID-19 situation that we are all in, receiving praise from a peer when, in most cases, there is no face to face interaction will mean the world to the employee receiving that praise. Use your social networking technology you have in-house now. If you are considering a new program, make sure your vendor has built-in social recognition tools inherent in their platform. It becomes contagious and spreads through the team. This is the type of virus we all want to have!
Implement a multi-pronged approach to employee recognition. Your employees are going to react to several different methods, so consider the research conducted by Deloitte, where their study found that there are two different types of recognition: praise and emblematic recognition, and token and monetary rewards. Both types of recognition are essential to your employees and will resonate on different levels. Consider corporate logo merchandise or apparel. The time is perfect with the change of seasons. A simple, low-cost t-shirt or cap will be welcomed with summer drawing near.
Ways to Leverage and Recognize Employees During COVID-19
An excellent recognition platform will offer numerous free or low-cost options to continually allow for daily or weekly recognition opportunities to keep employees engaged. E-cards or deploying strategic gamification opportunities keep people engaged and will enable them to receive recognition “touches” from managers and peers, and also allows the opportunity for people to earn points to accumulate toward a gift or experience redemption.
Here are several ways to continue to strengthen your relationships with your employees during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Buy Your Team Lunch
Send out food e-gift cards during a scheduled meeting. Tell your team that you are proud of their work, and you would like to buy them lunch then email them the cards at that time, making it a real-time recognition opportunity. Look for a restaurant chain that will deliver to their homes, making the experience seamless. Think of how grateful your employees will be when they have to cook one less meal.
Leverage Social Recognition
If your recognition technology platform has a social recognition component, now is the time to use it. These tools are used to provide a “collective forum” where all of your employees can convene together, share their appreciation to their subordinates of peers for tasks and goals accomplished, and reward or just recognize, in a public way, their accomplishments. MIT has a great example of this in practice. Public recognition provides a considerable uptick in motivation for the employee receiving it, but also for the entire team. It pushes many people to perform better as they would like to be recognized as well.
Reward Desired Behaviors
During this crisis, it is a great time to watch for your employees who are living your corporate values. Look for specific actions where an employee is engaged in the behaviors that you like to see, reward the employee with some points, and recognize them publicly for all to see. This action will encourage other employees to follow the example. Also, look to identify those employees that have upped their performance during this pandemic. Has their attention to detail or their efficiencies increased during this period. Change is difficult for anyone, mainly if you are not accustomed to working remotely. Let those employees that have risen to the challenge know that their efforts are noticed and appreciated.
Reward for Charitable Activities
There have been several challenges that dealt to society as a result of COVID-19. From a blood shortage early on to the lack of personal protective equipment, needs have arisen where the public has stepped in to help, including your employees. Provide a mechanism for employees to report on charitable activities that they are involved with that have improved their community. Award some points if your budget allows, as a way to say thank you to employees for stepping up and helping to meet these challenges head-on. If you are utilizing a recognition platform, make sure to highlight the ability for your employees to donate their points to a charity as one of their point redemption options. Publicize these options in your company feed or intranet. Don’t assume that everyone knows that this option is available.
Encourage Professional Development
Professional development opportunities through online learning offer a tremendous opportunity to push your employees to be proactive in bettering themselves. Take a missing skills inventory across your organization and identify where gaps exist or will exist soon. Create incentives for your employees to increase their skill levels and reward and recognize them for doing so. Look at free or discounted training available on LinkedIn or Udemy. Some of your employees may have more time available to them now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the timing for a program like this may be perfect for your organization. Award your employees through recognition and reward some points to them for their accomplishments. There may even exist opportunities to support local professionals that are offering online classes. I am sure these professionals would relish the opportunity in these tough times. SHRM has a great article on “Why You Need to Encourage Professional Development for Your Employees,” which goes much deeper in creating the win-win for employee and employer.
What Can We Learn from the COVID-19 Pandemic and Recognition?
Well, one this is for sure, life and business will never be the same. There is much still to be analyzed and learned from this great social experience. Some of the findings will be good and will increase efficiencies and preparedness by organizations should this happen again. In contrast, others will not be so good, and we will likely learn much more about what social creatures the human race is. Some employees will adapt to isolation and continue or improve their productivity, while others will not be able to rise to the challenge. We are all different and will thrive in different ways, but similar difficulties will continue to exist as it was before the pandemic as it is now. The challenge of managers and their organizations is to move the needle on the 69% of unengaged employees, and through recognizing your employees virtually or in-person, during a pandemic or not, is critical to increasing engagement and building a strong team for the next challenge that comes along.
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