The Definitive Guide on How to Create an Employee Recognition Program

Why Employee Recognition Programs are Important?

Many jobs in today’s working environment are busy, with demanding schedules and deadlines. Workers value being appreciated, but how do you do this meaningfully that doesn’t appear cheesy and false? Integrating an employee recognition program into your organization as a formal structure is fundamental as it sets the foundation for development and positive working culture. Here are a few ideas for creating a meaningful and sustainable employee recognition program.

Think Corporate Culture

It’s easy to set up a few award systems to get the employee recognition program in place. But that’s only a small part of the work. So that staff feel valued and appreciated, there are a few steps to take before implementing awards. One of those is working on the organizational culture to ensure that staff feels valued at work and that the employee recognition system is meaningful to workers. Start by doing a cultural audit which will indicate areas that need to be improved. Openness and a positive culture of development will all help build the blocks for that successful employee recognition program.

Get to Know Your Staff

Believe it or not, there are some places where the boss doesn’t know the names of their employees. Just asking your staff if they had a good vacation, how their kids are doing, and remembering special events or that someone has a creative hobby makes the employee feel that you are interested in them as a person. Share those thank you letters you get from clients as examples of the fantastic job that people do at work. Continual and spontaneous positive feedback is an excellent way of recognizing the value of employees and creating a positive culture in an organization. This is a fundamental step in showing staff that someone recognizes the good they do.

Ask Your Employees

It is important to be in touch with the feelings of the workers in your organization. Asking for feedback is vital as it promotes an open culture and gives you insight into things you may not consider relevant but in fact are highly significant to an employee. Maybe you have a staff presentation coming up soon. Instead of blinding your staff with data, take a minute to prepare by walking round the company and asking them what they would like to hear from you. The answers may surprise you, and you will need to be responsive to some of the requests. It does show you recognize their opinions. Significantly, it gives you some focus on where to direct attention to create a positive workplace culture.

Create Meaningful Employee Incentives

There are many ways of rewarding staff for meeting targets and achieving success. These are popular and drive competitive behaviors, but you can reward other talents that go towards creating a healthy working environment. What about an award for the employee who supported another staff member or team to get a difficult job done on time? Or the worker who stepped up to do something special for a colleague in a crisis? Having a reward system where peers nominate someone will identify those folk who may never have come to your attention — and it encourages team spirit. Rewards don’t have to be ostentatious either. Sometimes, just giving a worker an extra day off to be with their family is reward enough.

Formalize Your Employee Recognition Program

By formalizing your employee recognition program, the program gets embedded in your organization and the culture. Make sure there’s an innovative development program aimed at all levels of employees which actively encourages growth on a personal and professional level. Ensure it includes courses on improving cultures, such as coaching and positive conversation with others, as these build the healthy working environment culture you need. Keep the program high profile by having a monthly celebration of an employee who went above and beyond the call of duty to do something special.

Be the Recognition Catalyst in Your Organization

As a leader, you need to emulate the behavior you expect to see in others. Building trust is vital, as is listening. Take time to embed these ways of working in your company, especially those that value employees. Make opportunities available for staff development and learning, so there are routes to promotion for all levels of employees. Ensure people are clear on objectives and have an appraisal annually so their achievements can be supported and celebrated. Giving opportunities for people to suggest new ways of working or trialing initiatives creates interest and innovation, which helps develop a learning environment. This gets your company on the map as a positive place to work and one where talented people want to be employed.

Go the Extra Mile

An employee recognition program does not stop at your doors. Make sure you get your staff nominated for national awards and other prizes. This type of recognition raises their profile, creates a positive working environment, and showcases your workplace for its achievements. By submitting award nominations to high-profile programs your workers will see how valued their projects are. It will also encourage others to see your organization in a positive light, consider it as a potential place to work, and even collaborate on projects.

The Easiest Way to Create Recognition at Work: Just Say Thank You

It costs nothing but means a lot to staff who spend most of their working lives in your company. Appreciating the effort people go to is a big deal. When you give a staff briefing, give a shout-out to those who deserve it. After a complicated meeting where staff supported you, go find them and show how much you appreciated their hard work. Or how about thanking the caretaker who swept the snow off the sidewalk outside your office? Saying thank you shows you care and have recognized the work your teams have done. It indicates your respect for them, and chances are they will step up for the next challenge.

Take these first steps today and start rewarding your teams with a few simple but meaningful actions.

Employee Engagement

How to Engage Disengaged Employees with an Employee Recognition Program

Workers can get disengaged for a variety of different reasons. Disengaged employees can be disruptive to the core business of a company. Employee disengagement can be due to restructuring, a lack of leadership, or a toxic work  culture. If you have a department of disengaged employees or inherited a team that is out of synchronization with the core strategic business, here’s how to get people motivated about employee engagement.

Listen and Learn

When you have disengaged employees, it is vital to find out why. You can resolve some problems quickly. Others take longer and involve significant organizational development. One of the first things to do is to listen so you build a picture of what is going on and why people may behave as they do. Set up meetings with individuals, and offer to attend team meetings to get a handle on the situation. Listening to people about their concerns could challenge your assumptions about their disengagement.

Communicate with Employees

Employees become disengaged when not told what is happening in their company. Lack of transparency leads to rumors and a lack of clarity on the business’s goals. Be very clear with employees about the organization and your plans. When you do a staff briefing, the employees are not only listening to what you are saying. They are watching your body language and how you respond to their questions. By being open and upfront, you build trust and engage the employees in the company’s business.

There will be issues you cannot communicate to a broad audience. Regular staff briefings will help build the trust needed and start engaging people. It is also an opportunity for disengaged workers who don’t want to work with you to consider moving to another organization. If staff is leaving, offer the chance for an exit interview. An exit interview can reveal issues that need to change to fix employee engagement in a positive way.

Introduce an Organizational Development Program

Continuing to work in the same way with disengaged employees will not solve entrenched problems. When you establish a program of organizational development to address the culture and give the employees professional skills, you show you are serious about change for the better. It also creates a supportive working culture that positively engages employees. Design the employee engagement program to include full team participation in culture. Participation ensures ownership of the issues from everyone.
There are opportunities to include other developmental tools. Include one-to-one coaching, focus groups, and action learning sets. This is also the time to baseline your issues. Include employee engagement indicators such as a cultural audit or a survey report. By establishing the baseline, you will be able to show the differences made to influence positive employee engagement .

Establish a Staff Forum

Show you mean business in improving employee engagement by establishing a staff forum. In a large or medium-sized organization, a representative from each team works with others to improve workplace issues. The intermingling instills staff ownership of the problems and is a straightforward process for solving issues. 

Be Clear on Objectives

One of the reasons employees become disengaged is a lack of direction or clear opportunity for development. Make sure all employees have clear written objectives linked to strategy. These objectives need to be achievable and understandable. They need to include some that address personal development and departmental objectives. Personal development encourages growth in the teams and creates developmental opportunities. Using SMART objectives is a standardized way of setting out aims to achieve. These SMART objectives must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time specified.

Develop Employee Incentives

Introducing employee incentives is an excellent way to engage staff. These include health insurance schemes, fitness programs such as access to a gym, and sabbaticals for longer-term employees. You need to ensure that you link at least some of the incentives for working at your company to achieving objectives. The link to outcomes helps to ensure employees will have a degree of focus on the incentives available. Examples include an extra day of paid annual leave for achieving a target or having no sickness absences. Other incentives include funding higher education programs or attendance at a conference.

Introduce an Employee Recognition Program

Celebrating success is a valued motivator in organizations. It is an excellent way to get people to engage and focus on achieving success. If you have disengaged employees, you have a perfect opportunity to boost their engagement, but make sure that some of your reward schemes are team-based. Team-based employee recognition will encourage people to work together and use their collective strengths to make things happen. Examples of rewards include Team of the Year; Team That Has Made the Most Progress, and Most Significant Team Achievement. Recognition can go to individuals as well, to reward successes and progress. Don’t forget to include rewards for those who go beyond the call of duty to do something, as well as length-of-service awards.

Take an Interest in your Employees

Without being intrusive, you can achieve a lot by simply taking an interest in the staff themselves. Asking whether someone enjoyed their weekend or asking after an employee’s family shows you take an interest in them as an individual and not just as someone on the payroll. Acknowledging the backroom staff is vital too, as they frequently work unnoticed. By thanking employees for what they do, you build bridges with culture, trust, and positive employee engagement.

Establish a Program of Continual Review

You took on a department of disengaged employees. As the boss, you need to check in and monitor the impact of your changes. Potential impact may include the difference they are making to the business. A baseline cultural audit will reveal things that need to change through developments. Make time to revisit the areas of concern and see how the cultural indicators have changed. You can also introduce 360-degree feedback on issues, including your performance as a manager. Transparency encourages an open culture, and gives the opportunity for employees to critique things they would like to see change. By being open to change and constructive feedback, you will encourage positive behaviors. 

When you use a variety of techniques to address culture and motivation, you can change a disengaged employee into one that engages. They will also be more focused on the work program.Take the first step to positive employee engagement today by getting professional support and advice from CoreCentive

Employee Service Awards Program

Employee Service Award Programs

Reportedly, 75% of employees who received monthly recognition feel satisfied with their job.

This speaks for itself on how practicing employee recognition can change the outcome and the outlook in the workplace. Outdated or nonexistent programs add little to nothing to employee satisfaction or to your bottom line. Understanding the value of a service award program for employees can be the first step towards a transformation. Begin by learning how to structure such programs for a better return on your investment.

The Advantages of Employee Service Award Programs

Employee service awards acknowledge employees’ longevity and continued commitment to the company.

Everyone likes to receive recognition for their hard work, which is no different at the workplace. Workers who don’t receive recognition are more unsatisfied, leading to laziness and carelessness. In this situation, workers feel they are only working for money, which is not satisfying enough. They want to feel as if they are doing a good job and appreciated for what they give to the workplace. This acknowledgment provides several positive benefits.

Here are some thoughts to consider:

  • Service awards are a simple way to provide staff recognition and show appreciation. Achievement is straightforward and objective. All employees, regardless of performance level, can achieve longevity.
  • Though the recognition reflects on the individual employee, the award also reflects upon the company. The employee service award acknowledges that the company has retained employees for a specific time. Tenure suggests that the company is an excellent workplace and deserves employee loyalty. Employee loyalty contributes to a positive corporate reputation, which in turn helps when recruiting new employees.
  • A length-of-service milestone anniversary is like an employee’s corporate birthday. Take the opportunity to celebrate.

When an employee feels recognized by you as an employer, that employee likely feels more engaged. Employee engagement keeps staff productive, committed and more satisfied. All companies should incorporate ways to recognize their employees in their retention strategies.

Structuring Your Employee Service Award Program

Incorporate a service award program that goes beyond a physical gift. Tokens of appreciation can take many forms. Take into consideration that average employee tenure has dropped over the years. Because of this, incorporate rewards often and at expected milestones. At a minimum, every organization should be recognizing employees at their three-year anniversary and, ideally, their one-year anniversary.

The expectations of younger generations of the workforce are different than older generations. Younger people are more transient and are quick to leave a job if that employer does not recognize them for their hard work and accomplishments. 

Consider Outsourcing Your Service Award Program

Consider partnering with a trusted employee recognition vendor who specializes in developing award programs on behalf of employers if you haven’t already done so. Identify a service provider that will provide your employees with a wide selection of various awards, lifestyle categories, and even charitable organization donation options. People want choices, and it is impossible to forecast what kind of gift an individual will choose that will be meaningful to them. People appreciate the recognition, but they also appreciate choice and quality gifts.

Follow Internal Revenue Service Guidelines

The service award should reward recipients, not punish them with extra taxes. You must follow specific tax code guidelines so that the award is not part of an employee’s wages. Don’t worry; this process can be simple and easy to put in place. Working with a service award program will ensure that your rewards fit these guidelines. Although to be excluded from an employee’s taxable wages, an award for length-of-service or safety achievement must meet certain requirements:

  • The award must be an item of personal, tangible property.
  • The company must give the award during a meaningful presentation.
  • No more than 10% of eligible employees may get the safety award during the same year. (This excludes managers, administrators, clerical employees or other professional employees).
  • They limit the length-of-service awards to only once every five years. They also have limited the award exclusion to $400 per employee per year if there is no qualified plan and up to $1,600 under a qualified plan.
  • A qualified plan award is an achievement award. This award is a part of an established, written awards program and doesn’t favor highly compensated employees.

The following are not tangible personal property, and if given as an award, their value is a taxable wage:

  • Cash and cash equivalents
  • Gift cards, coupons, and certificates
  • Vacations
  • Meals
  • Lodging
  • Theater and sporting event tickets
  • Stocks, bonds, and other securities

Federal and State tax regulations change over time. CoreCentive cannot provide actual tax advice, so always consult with your organization’s tax experts or legal team to ensure that your program is compliant.

Achieving Results With an Employee Service Award Program

Implementing an employee service award program can change the foundation of the workplace. The program can provide more significant results, happier employees, and a better work environment for everyone. An employee service award program is relatively easy to implement. The hard work is to set a plan that will honor all the steps it takes to reach results. There should be no shortcuts. An employee service award program should meet the following minimum criteria:

  • The recognition milestone is about the employee and not about the company.
  • Based on your demographics and the average tenure of employees, serious consideration for setting the milestone years, starting at one-year or three-year, is a necessity in creating a meaningful program.
  • Whether in person or online for remote workers, make the employee milestone a memorable event. Gather the team and make it personal for the employee to be recognized.
  • Train your managers and leaders on how to recognize one of their employees appropriately. There is a right and wrong way to do it.
  • Have a robust choice of gifts for your employee to choose from. Poor gift selection is the number one complaint from employees when surveyed about their company’s employee service award program.

Employee Recognition Programs

Develop a Strong and Meaningful Employee Recognition Program

Companies that have taken thoughtful and strategic steps to deploy strong recognition programs have proven that the effect on employees and the organization is positive.  A company can expect increased candidates during the employee recruiting process, higher retention rates, increased productivity, and greater returns on investment compared to companies within the same industry. Here are a few tips to get the greatest return from your employee recognition program:

  • Simple expressions and statements of gratitude tend to be the best ways to show appreciation to your employees. Show appreciation for exemplary performance and desirable behavior. A simple “thank-you” or a personal note to your employee demonstrates your appreciation. You can combine recognition and appreciation in a public presentation to an audience of co-workers.
  • Involve staff in the program creation. Regularly seek feedback and make adjustments as appropriate. An employee recognition program that employees don’t find rewarding is not motivating or inspiring.
  • Incorporate rewards beyond a physical gift. Tokens of appreciation can take many forms.
  • Consider providing service awards to shorter tenured employees as well, since, on average, employees will stay with the same employer for just 4.2 years
  • Partner with a trusted recognition vendor to develop and maintain awards programs for organizations. Choose a recognition and incentives service provider that will allow your employees to choose from millions of awards. People appreciate recognition, true, but people also appreciate quality and choice.

Employee Bonuses vs. Employee Rewards

There are many creative ways to reward your employees.  Cash can motivate some of your workers, but it is not your best choice. Salespeople are a great example. Commissioned salespeople are motivated by money, and it is easy to measure their performance quantitatively. This type of motivation is very successful and will lead to higher sales and better customer service.

Consider your audience when giving cash or bonuses.  In younger generations, a job has become more than a paycheck as these workers are looking for more than just a reward for doing work. They are interested in discovering meaning in their work, and the recognition of money, especially when unaccompanied by a personal interaction between them and their boss or peer, will not achieve the outcome desired.

Another potential problem with cash incentives is that employees will likely spend cash bonuses on necessities such as food, fuel, diapers, groceries, etc. These gifts do not provide the ongoing memory or recollection of the recognition event or milestones achieved like electronics, trips, or other merchandise does.

Providing employees the opportunity to be rewarded with the gifts they want will make their recognition more meaningful in the long run.  Remember that when looking to partner with a recognition solutions provider, ensure they have a robust gift “catalog” that will appeal to your employee demographics and geographical regions. Currently, there are four generations in the workforce.

With this diverse set of employees and consumers accustomed to choice when shopping, giving them the ability to get exactly what they want will generate the excitement and engagement that you are looking to achieve from your employee recognition program.  Whether it is electronics, home goods, apparel, experiential rewards, event tickets, gift cards, or even charitable donations, giving the choice of 10’s of thousands of gifts will be sure to engage your employees.

Need help structuring your employee rewards program? Want employee reward ideas from an expert in the incentives industry? Contact CoreCentive to start a conversation that will benefit your employees and your bottom line.