How to encourage recognition

By Martin Cooper, Love2reward

Employee retention is a very important issue during this time of economic downturn. Companies simply don’t have the funds to offer significant pay settlements or overly expensive bonus schemes to keep their staff engaged in their work, so other methods of retaining staff are necessary.

Whether employee retention is a fundamental issue, embedded within company culture or not is generally decided by senior management. Some managers believe that the fact that their employees are paid for the job that they do is recognition enough, while others believe that their employees are their best asset, and they should be continually invested in and recognised publicly for every aspect of their working lives. These are perhaps polarised examples and most companies will probably fall somewhere in between these two.

Despite how a manager feels about reward and recognition programs, they are very important to staff. A lack of recognition is often cited as a reason for leaving during exit interviews, as employees feel disillusioned with their work, and as though they are not making much of an impact on their workplace.

Recognition can be free: it can be as simple as a manager saying well done to an employee for their hard work during a team meeting. Often, this means a lot to staff, and can be enough to encourage the employee to continue working hard.

Recognition programs can include a gift or monetary reward of some kind, but this needs to be applied with caution, as these gifts can often backfire. If the gift given as a reward is inadequate, it can act as a de-motivator if the employee feels disappointed with the gift and equates their effort to the perceived value of the awards. Cash rewards also do not work effectively, as it is too easily absorbed into salary and will probably end up being used on paying the gas bill or credit card.

Gift cards and vouchers can work well, as they allow the recipient to choose their own gift, and often they will be spent on a luxury, rather than something mundane. Further, once the recipient has spent their voucher on something lovely, this can act as an incentive to their peers, as they see the reward and often, will also strive to be rewarded. However, it is important to select the right gift card for it to act as an incentive.

When using gift cards or vouchers as rewards, it is important to select one that will appeal to a lot of different kinds of people. This is very difficult to do with a single store voucher, as it would be very difficult to select one shop where a lot of people would want to buy themselves a gift from. Multi-store gift cards or vouchers are the way forward for ventures such as these, as they cover a lot of different interests, and will be seen as an incentive by many different people.

Best practice for a reward scheme is to amalgamate all initiatives into one programme and standardise rewards across departments, i.e. attendance awards, going-the-extra-mile, suggestions, loyal-service awards, etc. This is what East Coast has done with their personalised Love2choose card from Love2reward. This scheme gives each employee an East Coast Shine card (a Love2choose gift card) which is topped up on a monthly basis depending on if the employee is deemed to deserve a reward. For example, if an employee has worked particularly hard on a task, they may get £10 on their card at the end of the month. If an employee passes an important work date, such as 10 years’ service, they will have a sum of money added to the balance of their card.

East Coast says, “We purchase East Coast branded Love2choose cards from Love2reward and we couldn’t be happier. They look great and our employees love how much choice they give.”

The card can be spent in any of the retailers accepting the Love2choose card, or can be swapped online for various store vouchers at the recipient’s discretion.

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