Workforce & Workplace
Boost Employee Recognition without Breaking the Bank
Mia Mends
Mia Mends
Benefits & Rewards Services
Sodexo USA

RecognitionAccording to a The Gallup Organization’s Twelve Elements of Great Managing, praise and recognition are essential building blocks of great workplaces but unfortunately these are the same elements that consistently receive the lowest ratings from employees. Therefore, I guess it is not surprising that Gallup also found only 13% of employees worldwide feel truly engaged at work. Getting the best performance out of your employees means keeping them engaged. The bottom line is that when employees feel truly valued and appreciated, they are more productive, serve your customers better and are more likely to stay with the company. I often work with companies that want to achieve a higher level of employee engagement but think the costs associated with implementing an employee recognition program will be prohibitive. I always tell them the same thing – Employee recognition is not a cost or expense; it is an investment in the growth and development of your business.

The truth is employee recognition comes in many forms. Financial rewards or costly gifts are not the only approach when it comes to recognizing and praising employees. There are simple—and free or low-cost—ways to acknowledge employees that will go a long way to boost engagement and increase performance. Consider these three fun and simple ways to recognize your employees:

  • Emails and phone calls are great but a hand-written thank you note expressing your sincere appreciation will leave a positive and lasting impression.
  • Establish a “Recognition Wall” in the office and invite employees to share kudos for each other.
  • Take time at the start of every team meeting to have an “Employee Minute” to recognize the good work of someone in front of his or her peers.

In addition, don’t underestimate the power of a simple thank you for a job well done. The recognition doesn’t have to come from management, either. In fact, employees appreciate being recognized by their peers even more. Since peers are closer and understand each other’s work on a day-to-day basis, thanking a coworker for their efforts can be very meaningful. According to OfficeVibe peer-to-peer recognition is 35% more likely to have a positive impact on financial results than manager-only recognition.

In this social media age, it’s easy and smart to share recognition. A manager can publicize the kudos in team meetings, internal newsletters, send or post messages leveraging a recognition platform, emails or even with a personal phone call to acknowledge an accolade. Publicly recognizing an employee not only makes that person feel great and instills a sense of accomplishment, but tells a recognition story that promotes behaviors and results tied to the company strategy and can help others strive for the same outcome.

Material awards such as cash incentives, gifts or prizes still play a very important role in employee recognition. While there is a cost involved, a recent SHRM study showed that when companies spend just 1% or more of payroll on recognition, 85% see a positive impact on engagement. Interestingly, there is often significant informal spending occurring in most organizations that is tied to employee appreciation or recognition, but it is not tracked.  Departments or supervisors purchase gifts or gift cards to reward their employees.  Those investment dollars aren’t accounted for centrally. Consequently, there is no way to track return on investment.  For large companies, this kind of spending can be in the millions.  Centralized recognition programs allow employers to gain visibility into spending and tie that spending to outcomes around organizational performance.  It’s an important point because most organizations are already spending a lot of money, but don’t realize it or are they getting the full benefit.

The most successful companies leverage the power of appreciation and rewards. So, whether you are a peer or a manager, the next time you see someone doing a great job remember to recognize and thank them for it. Personal and sincere employee recognition is simply good for business.

Mia Mends is CEO, Sodexo Benefits & Rewards Services, USA.

2 comments on “Boost Employee Recognition without Breaking the Bank

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    Mary Calhoun says:

    Mia, very insighful blog post. I agree wholeheartedly with your take on recognition. Studies upon studies show us that creative recognition is a key driver in engagement. Stats will also prove that engaged enployees have higher levels of enthusiam, increased inspiration, feeling of empowerment and higher confidence. All this is wonderful for the employee and not so bad for Sodexo as a whole. Thanks for calling this important topic out…


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