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Workplace Rewards: How to Do It Right

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In the age of the Great Resignation, it’s becoming increasingly important to keep employees engaged. Many organizations are taking the time to develop a workplace rewards program to boost employee morale, engagement, productivity, and company culture. But too many of these businesses are failing to create programs that deliver meaningful results.

So, what goes into a successful employee recognition program? Why are some companies failing to give relevant and meaningful rewards, and how can you be a company that excels in recognizing your employees well?

Why Your Workplace Rewards Progam Isn’t Working

Are you giving the same old rewards that no longer excite your employees? If so, you’re doing workplace rewards wrong.

What do the yearly luncheon, the company logo imprinted souvenir, and the classic money reward all have in common? None of them require much thought because everyone is receiving these rewards. There’s no personalization behind any of them.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with these rewards, having them as the center of your workplace rewards program is ineffective. Your employees need rewards and recognition that have more meaning — a system that makes employees feel appreciated individually and not like just another employee.

With that being said, let’s take a deeper dive into some mistakes that can ruin a recognition system.

Rewarding Only Performance

When you reward employees only for key performance traits such as integrity, punctuality, and excellent communication skills, it can send the message that performance is the only thing that matters. While these things are vitally important, there is so much more to your employees.

That said, rewarding employees for other things, like collaborating with colleagues, participating in a workplace wellness program, or investing their time in learning and development, can add depth and meaning to your recognition program.

Having Only Yearly Rewards

Since the central goal of an employee recognition program is to boost morale, giving out annual rewards won’t have the effect you’re looking to achieve.

You want your employees to be motivated and committed to their work year-round, not just a certain time of year when they receive rewards. Working towards a goal that is a year away can be less than exciting. So, to maximize the effectiveness of your recognition program, recognize your employees frequently. 

This might involve handing out rewards multiple times a year, i.e., weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc.). If you use a rewards platform that offers point-based recognition, you could frequently award points that would build up to a less frequent cashing-in for a larger reward.

Giving Everyone the Same Reward

Every employee is different. They all have their own individual strengths and weaknesses. And even though they have the same ultimate goal, they approach work differently and perform in their own way. This means your rewards program should be tailored to each employee’s specific needs, wants, and preferences as much as possible.

For example, some employees may love public recognition, while others might feel uncomfortable in the spotlight.

One team member might enjoy tangible gifts, while another may love something more sentimental like a letter of appreciation. A good way to get to know your employees and what they like is to conduct a survey.

This will allow you to understand their likes and dislikes, and in the long run, show that you’re going the extra mile to get to know them. In the end, the reward will be more meaningful.

Abandoning the Program

Building an employee recognition program is half the battle. The other half is maintaining that program. And the key to successfully maintaining the program is having a clear plan. Without a roadmap to guide you through program implementation, you won’t reap the full benefits.

As a result, you might notice a drop in employee morale and productivity. And if you haven’t had the plan in place long enough, you might not see a change in performance at all. So, regularly monitor, maintain, and update your workplace rewards program to avoid the risk of it becoming obsolete.

Making it About the Money

Whether you’re giving out bonuses, cash rewards, or commissions, it’s likely not enough to keep your employees motivated.

While monetary rewards can be effective motivators for improving employee performance, it’s not a good idea to rely solely on them. Why? Because you can easily lose employees to another company if they’re offering more money, and this kind of reward doesn’t offer the benefit of showing your employee your personal investment in them as an individual.

It’s good practice to offer something more—something your employees can’t really find elsewhere.

For example, rewards that are personal — but not too personal — like family vacations, movie tickets, or even a couple’s retreat, can go a long way in making employees feel like you genuinely put some thought into their individual rewards. 

How to Create and Implement a Rewards Program That’s Actually Valuable to Employees

Is your current workplace rewards program not doing enough to make your employees feel like they’re a valuable part of your team?

If so, you might consider redesigning your engagement program. Or maybe you’re completely new to workplace rewards. Whatever the case, you need a detailed plan to get started.

Here, we’ve outlined a few steps to help you create an employee recognition program that actually works.

1. Define Your Vision

What are the reasons why you want to start a recognition program? Is your goal to inspire and motivate employees? Do you want to improve company culture? Are you looking to boost performance?

All of these are viable goals. But if you want to be really laser-focused, it’s a good idea to choose one. This will make it a lot easier to build a program that will work to fulfill your objectives.

2. Talk to Your Employees

As we mentioned earlier, employees can be as different as night and day. So, try to get to know them. Learn what makes them tick, what inspires them, and what motivates them to come to work every day (other than money).

You can do this either by conducting surveys or having face-to-face conversations with employees. The latter is a more personal experience that allows you to get a feel for their personality and perspective on things. But if you don’t have time to sit down with each employee, send out a quick survey with some open-ended questions that allow them to elaborate on their choices.

3. Form a Committee

To implement your employee rewards and recognition efficiently, the first step is to build a committee. Get a few people together who will be responsible for implementing, managing, and establishing reward programs.

Task your committee with creating methods of recognition and rewards based on survey responses. For example, if some employees indicated that they’d like to get rewards for learning a new skill, your committee might plan to implement professional development seminars.

On the other hand, if a few employees would like to get recognition from immediate colleagues, peer-to-peer rewards can be a good option. Those could be simple certificates or even thank you lunches.

Once you form your committee, consider using automation software to keep track of employee milestones like anniversaries and promotions. These present great opportunities for rewards and recognition.

4. Define Clear Characteristics

To create a successful workplace rewards program, setting clear characteristics for implementation is critical. Your employee rewards programs should be:

  • Frequent: As we discussed earlier, if you don’t reward your employees enough, your rewards program won’t reach its full potential. So, consider setting the frequency at which you’ll reward your team members. Will it be weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly? Or, you can reward and recognize employees on a case-by-case basis, in real-time. The key to making employees feel appreciated is recognizing them, sometimes for even the smallest achievements, which will happen a lot more often than more significant milestones.
  • Timely: Timely recognition has the most impact, so don’t wait to appreciate top performers. Recognize them as they’ve achieved their goals. On the other hand, when you delay recognition, employees will forget the context of the reward, which could lessen the meaning and impact.
  • Specific: When recognizing your employees, be specific about the behaviors and actions you’re appreciating and rewarding. Otherwise, they won’t understand which contributions are valuable to you.
  • Value-based: If the rewards you’re giving out don’t align with your company’s values, then it’s defeating the entire purpose of your recognition program. When designing your workplace rewards program, make sure you’re translating your company’s core values into specific behaviors.

5. Develop Criteria

The next step to creating an employee rewards and recognition program is specifically defining and outlining which employee behaviors and actions you’re going to reward.

Doing so will help you create a more organized program that isn’t all over the place. You don’t want to be the company that does the odd “nice things for staff” with no real cohesion to their employee engagement ideas.

From the very beginning, decide why and how you’ll reward people. For example, will these rewards focus on sales targets? What about customer service feedbacK? Outstanding team performance?

Having a good idea of which aspects of performance and behaviors you’ll be rewarding will help you set measurable targets that everyone on your staff can strive to reach.

6. Design the Program

Now that you’ve taken care of the basics, it’s time to start creating the program. A key thing to remember when designing a workplace rewards program is to make it adaptable. This will enable you to try out new ways to recognize employees. Also, make sure it’s easy to use to fit into each employee’s workflow.

Below are some best practices for designing a successful rewards program.

Align With the Culture

Company culture is one of the most powerful business performance drivers. But a great company culture offers more than just perks and social activities. It should also serve as the foundation that informs employee engagement. So, make sure you’re tying recognition to company values.

Allocate Budget

Estimate the program’s potential cost to make sure you don’t overspend or end up with a negative return on investment (ROI).

You should factor in things like a great recognition platform service, the types of rewards you’ll want to offer, and even tools that help you track and modify your program spending. Doing so will help you determine how much to allocate towards your recognition program.

Outline Policies

Set clear policies that will inform your recognition program. This will help employees understand how and when you’ll recognize their behavior.

This could involve showing staff examples of “good recognition” and how points correspond to different tiers of rewards for certain behaviors. Before implementation, get everyone together and review these policies to ensure you’re all on the same page.

Choose Rewards That Matter

There are so many ways in which you can recognize staff contributions. But for the most effective rewards program, it’s important to give your team something they’ll actually want. For example, rewards that align with their hobbies and interests can be highly effective. You might also choose rewards that relate to the type of organization you run. For example, if you’re a tech company, you can reward employees with new gadgets or a team trip to an industry event.

Other employee engagement ideas and rewards you might consider include:

  • Posting updates in your employee recognition platform that celebrate individual contributions
  • Years of service rewards like certificates, plaques, service pins, trophies, recognition letters from leadership, etc.
  • Experiences like tickets to an event, food vouchers, etc.
  • Gift cards and coupons
  • Little surprises like a free lunch or gourmet food hamper
  • Verbal praise

When it comes to employee rewards, there are so many possibilities. However, one of the best ways to recognize staff is to offer a choice of meaningful rewards. This is a highly effective way to accelerate your employee engagement program.

7. Introduce the New Program

Now it’s time to put your new workplace rewards program into action. Start allocating people hours to training and communication.

Each contributor within your organization, from executives to employees, should know how to use the program and understand why sincere recognition is a key aspect of your culture. Host company-wide meetings to announce the program and introduce the concept of recognition in terms of a positive company culture.

After some time, test your workplace rewards program to measure its effectiveness. Run an employee satisfaction survey to gather data from employees. The survey should ask them whether their engagement level has improved since implementing the program.

Use the Right Recognition Platform

If you’ve made it to this point, you hopefully understand the importance of creating a plan to implement a rewards program that’s valuable to employees, makes them feel noticed and recognized and improves the company culture.

A great plan includes the vital step of having a well-rounded rewards system. This system would help you offer tailored rewards through an online platform, where employees can choose the specific rewards that are meaningful to them.

That’s where Xceleration comes in. Our platform offers a robust suite of features to help you streamline and achieve your recognition and engagement goals. Contact us today to learn more.

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