Planning works best when there are known dates, known staffing needs, known budgets, known likely productivity goals, and more. But what do you do when there are many moving targets? How do you plan employee recognition in a COVID-19 year?
In a normal year, preparation for new recognition, years-of-service, or spot reward programs starts 3 or 4 months in advance. It’s a normal cycle to prepare and launch programs that allow appropriate time to work through the details. But we are in a very different place right now with many fundamental unknowns. Different yes, but there is a growing restlessness and tension building at the “starting line”, waiting for the word, state by state, region by region, to get back to work.
At the April 16th Presidential Daily Briefing it was announced that, based on the medical data, some areas are getting close to being able to start the multi-stage process of reopening, directed by the Governors, with strict criteria and following very precise guidelines, state by state, county by county.
Planning for Employees Return
Regardless of the unknowns, there are a few things we can be reasonably certain about to guide planning for Employee Recognition and Rewards:
1. In many places in the country, we are closer to the end of the virus than the beginning
2. There will be significant changes in workplace procedures to create environments for employees as well as customers to feel safe
3. Remote work procedures and management will be a bigger part of our future
4. It is essential… absolutely essential… that businesses open again for our economic and social survival and it is vitally important that every business be ready to operate at high efficiency and productivity
5. The relationship between management and employees has changed and mutual trust and respect will have to be manifest and meaningful with robust recognition and other reward programs to say “thank you” for employee loyalty and productivity
As some or all of the key variables come into focus, there are elements of planning in Human Resource departments that can be discussed based on each organizations situation, market, current status and position of their product/service and where it stands along the continuum from “absolute necessity” to “completely discretionary”.
Give Recognition for Behavior Worth Repeating
In a recent article on SHRM.org, HR leaders finding themselves also at their “home office” are recognizing the challenges of productivity in that environment and shared a seven-part program to implement immediately to better engage with their employees with item #2 being “Give recognition and thanks for every behavior worth repeating” … they are planning now and reacting to the new realities.
Consider that with or without COVID 19, over the last 10 years the increase of remote workers is close to 115% so recognition programs need to consider better ways to connect with and motivate employees who need a different model for communication. Various video platforms are coming into use faster than ever, as one example. In an online article on lumapps.com titled “8 Ways to Keep Remote Employees Motivated During Crisis,” they point out the reality that “Employee engagement is of extreme importance in every company…” so creative and regular communication is a must.
Item 4 on the Lumaapps list is “Recognize employee efforts”. Using social boards to post “thank you” notes and recognizing extra efforts tells remote people that managers are paying attention and appreciate every effort that adds to productive work habits. The article states that everyone in the recognition world knows, which is that recognizing hard work results in higher satisfaction and engagement. It’s not difficult or complicated, but it does take a plan and a properly funded and implemented program.
Employee Recognition and Economic Impacts
We know that business must open again. Our past experience with disease has seen various response times to economic and social recovery after broad-reaching health crisis depending on the level of impact on the population and disruption to business function. In the big picture, the U.S. has weathered many storms and in the longer arc of history, obviously, we are still here, still growing, still leading the world in many areas of industry and innovation.
From an article by MIT News, March 31, 2020, in studying the response to the Spanish Flu, they found that “Stronger pandemic response yields better economic recovery”. The article goes on to say that “taking care of public health first is precisely what generates a stronger economic rebound later”. The article considers various angles and issues but the overall message is that the economic recovery, where there were aggressive measures to defeat the virus, is not only possible but highly likely. Considering the extreme measures that we have seen implemented around the country we have very good reasons for hope.
Human Resources needs to match the extreme efforts and cooperation seen from employees with more flexible, dynamic, and properly funded employee engagement programs. This is more important and valuable than ever. Human Resources leaders need to take an inventory of current programs and see where the gaps are, what needs to be changed, improved, or replaced. The tools are available with current technology to offer higher value, flexible and engaging programs.
Management needs tools like “spot rewards” to identify and reward the creative and productive actions of employees, especially remote workers, who are going above and beyond to help the organization survive and their colleagues feel safe. It will also help to give employees “spot reward” tools to thank colleagues for support, safe work habits and unique contributions, in particular under times of extreme stress, to help form deeper working relationships
The bottom line… this is not the time to wait. Planning should start now to bring recognition and engagement programs into the 21st century to better connect with today’s diverse, talented, and highly sophisticated employees and offer the flexibility needed to handle changing needs.
If we have learned anything in this challenging time it’s this… now is the time to show employees they truly are the most important asset of all. Let CoreCentive help guide you through the “new normal” with a comprehensive plan that is designed around your specific needs and employee dynamics.