The current crisis is having an impact on all walks of life, and the world of employee engagement and recognition is no different. In such uncertain times, it’s perfectly natural that staff might be looking for that little bit more reassurance. Whether that comes as part of wider transparency from the leadership team, or as an extra reward for a job well done, employee recognition schemes are vital right now for momentum, motivation and productivity. How can businesses get this right?

We caught up with Jamie Mackenzie, Director of Sodexo Engage for his view.

Going beyond the paycheque

Of course, being paid a good salary is always a winner, but it’s not the only box to tick when it comes to engagement. Employee recognition goes so much further – staff need to know that their employer truly cares about them. This was true before the Covid-19 crisis, and more so now as the line between professional and private life has become increasingly blurred. But unlike years ago, people really invest in their work life beyond the 9-5. The development of technology means we can be online at any time now and there is a much bigger focus on overall employee wellbeing.

People want to feel valued and invested in. Companies are recognising that if they want to both attract and retain staff for the long-term this is really something they should be thinking about. This can only come from employers truly listening to what rewards their workforce wants and trying to implement them. When done well, the investment will really be felt on the bottom line – staff will be happier, more engaged and more productive.

However, companies should be aware that one size certainly doesn’t fit all. Approaching a reward or benefits strategy like that will probably leave a fair few staff without any meaningful benefits to suit them. Everyone is different and has individual needs that can’t be stereotyped. The best schemes are the ones that cater for this, but still bring everyone together.

Relevant and flexible benefits

Keeping the offering varied is vital, but companies can still implement one, customised platform to keep all the benefits and rewards in one place. If it’s this easy, staff will be more likely to interact with the scheme. Features like letting staff thank and reward each other can bring a sense of community and having a wide offering, from retail vouchers to help with finances to cinema and home streaming, will help make sure there’s something for everyone.

Keeping benefits relevant, updated and reflective of the current climate is vital, too. For example, it might be that staff are really prioritising their finances right now. Assessing if there is a way to reflect this in the scheme will go a long way in helping employees. For example, Morrisons is recognising this by offering staff an extra £1,000, as a thank you for working through the pandemic.

We’re all navigating these times together and keeping everyone connected and motivated is a big part of it, especially as many staff have found themselves remote working possibly for the first time. Rewards schemes are so important for this, so it should come as a bit of good news that there is no need for us to put a stop to them!

Technology allows things like reward vouchers to be digitised, and employers can also start implementing other less costly rewards too. Maybe we’ll see an increase in those offering an additional day of holiday, or we’ll see more employers embrace flexible hours to offer a helping hand to working parents as they try and home school their children alongside a full-time job. The best thing a company can do is help staff with the issues they currently face.

The bigger picture

While rewards go some way to keeping staff happy and motivated at this time, transparency and regular communication from management plays a part in this too. We all know this isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially when there might be some tough questions coming your way. However, keeping staff in the loop with any business developments is really important in helping them look beyond their own to-do list and see the bigger picture.

Providing regular, clear and honest updates straight from the top will make it obvious to employees that there’s an open line of communication with their boss, and encourage them to ask questions and share any worries or concerns.

Employers also need to be mindful that social distancing measures may well be having an impact on their mental wellbeing. Feelings of isolation can lead to staff seeing their situation in silo. If they have learnt of an update that will directly affect their daily work, for example, it can be so easy to blow it out of proportion if they have no means of putting it in context of the wider business. Having regular communication with staff, organising virtual team events and encouraging them to keep up with each other, are great ways to maintain their sense of belonging.

From additional benefits like flexible hours to better communication from the top, the way a company chooses to motivate its staff right now will help a business to deal with the issues at hand. Adapting to what staff need will increase their happiness and, in turn, their motivation and productivity at work. Keeping staff happy and engaged, and continuously involved in the wider picture, will have a direct impact now more than ever so getting it right is vital for any business.