In today’s quest for a talented workforce, various organizations are looking for strategies to retain their top performers while enhancing organizational growth and employee productivity. Right from offering different privileges and incentives to designing flexible places for work, companies are striving hard to build healthy workplaces. However, in this quest for new talent retention approaches one aspect or strategy that is often overlooked: Employee recognition.
Taking out time to recognize even the smallest achievements of your employees will bring in a sea of difference, right from morale- and productivity-boosting to recruitment and retention. A popular survey found that 50% of the employees would stay in their jobs if they were visibly recognized. Yet another study revealed that 40% of the employees who do not feel profoundly recognized would not go beyond their formal work responsibilities to accomplish their job.
However, many times the concept of employee recognition and rewards is taken for granted in employee engagement. There are two primary reasons for this:
- First, employers find it difficult to quantify the level of recognition
- Second, employee recognition is often related to employee rewards
Rewards Vs. Recognition:
Now the question arises: Are employee rewards and recognition the same? Well, rewards are tangible and have cost-conscious or economic values attached to them, whereas recognition is intangible and priceless, and has an emotional value attached to it. However, there is a strong bond between rewards and recognition. Offering your employees the best rewards and implementing the same through a good recognition platform will bring in the best of both the worlds and enable you to create a holistic employee engagement program. 
Still not convinced about the importance of employee recognition and rewards? Well then here are some fantastic statistics to give you the required nudge:
Amazing Statistics on Employee Recognition
- According to positive psychology research carried out by Shawn Anchor, the sole supreme advantage of a modern economy is a happy and truly engaged workforce. Research has shown that employee happiness increases sales by 37%, task accuracy by 19%, and productivity by 31% in addition to a host of other health benefits and better quality of life.
- A study of employee engagement in Canadian workplaces in 2010 showed that 58% of employees felt employee recognition would lead to better employee engagement. 
- Social cast research reports 69% of employees will work really harder if their efforts were appreciated better.
- 50% of the employees believed that a simple thanks from the manager would improve the relationship and build trust with their higher authorities.
Rewards and Recognition: The Key to Working with Millennial Generation Employees
The Millennial generation (those born during the 1980s to mid-1990s) prefers a workspace where they feel comfortable to work from. Millennials like to have a voice in their workplace and also expect some freedom and a positive work environment. So in this age of working with the millennial generation, an employer must ensure good employee engagement. Before your workforce walks out the door due to an uninspiring work environment and lack of recognition, you must invest in proper employee recognition and reward programs to boost their morale and motivation.
Here is a quick guide to the ideal rewards and recognition practices that will boost employee engagement in your workplace.
Recognition and Rewards Ideas
There are many small and simple ways to show your employees that the organisation recognizes and cares for them.
[a] Public Recognition
Celebrate Those Birthdays:
Sending e-wishes will not do the trick. Just go ahead and make your employees feel special on their D-day. The good old Happy Birthday song and cake will make their day. One can also host a lunch for the entire team or give a floating day off to the employee. Also, birthdays are synonymous with gifts. So why not give something that your staff appreciates. Recognition can also be extended to special days like wedding anniversaries, job anniversaries, etc.
Promote healthy peer relationships at work by allowing space for appreciation from peers. Recognition from peers brings in unique value to the employee. In many cases, peers are better aware of the work of their colleagues than their bosses. A sound peer-to-peer recognition program promotes a healthy and lively workplace. This can be done by conducting surveys and appreciating the employee with maximum votes.
Incorporate Success Stories in the Company’s Newsletter:
Make it a practice to feature success stories of employees in your company’s newsletter.
Make a Sudden Congratulatory Announcement:
A sudden congratulatory announcement across the company, praising the employee’s achievements, will bring in an element of awe, surprise, and gratitude to the employee and will definitely make his/ her day.
Organize a Surprise Party for Top Performers:
Arrange for the employee’s favorite snacks, desserts, and confetti, along with their favorite music. You can also take them for outdoor lunches. An outdoor lunch will also pave the way for better communication with other members within the organization.
Create a Wall of Fame:
A wall of fame with photos of achievers may sound a bit passé; however, it will pave the way for others to recognize the employee by name and face. Why not be more innovative by sending out a press release for significant achievements? They can then be framed and gifted to the employee or can be placed on the wall of fame. You can also add compliments from peers and customers to the wall.
Invite the family of the employee to join the company celebrations as a token of appreciation for the achievements.
Unique Dress Code:
Designate a day to the achievers to report to work in casual and decent dress code. How about a casual Hawaiian dress, or wearing an achiever’s hat?
Diplomat / Boss for the Day Assignment:
Invite employees to represent their team or department at a high-level meeting, which they usually would not attend. They can then brief the report back to their team members. Also, making them a boss for a day is another exciting option that would not only enthuse them but also make them get to know the hardships involved in being at the top level and taking charge of things.
Bonus: they get to change their attitude for the better on things they have been unnecessarily complaining about. No more cribbing from employees!
Tête-à-Tête with a VIP:
Introduce the achievers to “VIPs” in the organisation (say the upper board members) or critical customers. This will make an employee feel special and valued when they get to interact directly with the top-brass of your organisation.
Gift of Recognition and Acceptance:
Lesser known and a simple but powerful employee recognition driver is the acceptance gift. Certain simple and easy practices like giving business cards to your employees will go a long way in motivating them. Business cards are typically given to employees who interact with customers and clients, and many of those employees who are not in the front-end would definitely want to have such cards too. Business cards are often recognized as social stature and may be useful when networking. The employees will have a feeling of being incorporated into the big league with this small gift of acceptance.
[b] Private Recognition
A Sticky Note:
Leave a sticky note mentioning “Well Done” or “Thank You” at the employee’s desk. All of us crave recognition and appreciation, whether verbally or nonverbally. A thank you note is a simple way to thank and appreciate your deserving employees, and no matter how small a note, its benefits are unmatched to any other form of reward or recognition.
For Employees with a Sweet Tooth:
Dispatch a big batch of tasty treats like chocolates, assorted sweets, etc. to their home. This will definitely be a sweet surprise for the employee and his family and is also a short and friendly way to say you are needed.
Gift cards are available in a wide array these days, right from traveling and dining to services and shopping. So choose a proper and relevant gift card for your employees. The uniqueness of the gift card is that, as it is not in cash, the employees can spend them on treating themselves without having a guilty feeling of spending money (as in case of rewards) for not buying anything useful for the family. Also, gift cards make a long-lasting and marked impression on the receiver’s minds.
[c] Recognition By Way Of Technology
Technology helps you recognize your employees beyond in-house recognition. Allow your customers and the world to know about your employee achievements by using technology as follows:
Swank your Employee Achievements on Social Media:
Talk about your employee achievements in the company’s blog or social media sites. Take a photo with them and talk about how much you appreciate their efforts and how they earned this recognition. Millennials usually spend more time on social media, and they can share such recognitions with their friends across the globe via such platforms.
Make a Short Film by Featuring your Employees:
Most people love seeing themselves on the screen. The employer can make a small short video, letting the employee talk about his work, achievements, likes, and dislikes. The video can also be in the form of an interview. These practices will make the employee feel more recognized and make them feel as an integral part of the organisation. The video can be shared or played on screens across various departments.
Recognize your Employees on the Company’s Website:
Usually, the website of any company would only have top-level employees’ details. By including the name of the employee in such places, one provides an opportunity for the employee to be recognized not only within the organization but also among customers and global clients.
Rewards, unlike recognition, provide a financial benefit to the employee. Rewards may be monetary in nature or may have a specific cost to the company. When developing a rewards program, the employer must match the rewards to the end goal of the company. For instance, a 100% attendance might merit a different type of reward compared to saving the company huge sums of money by better negotiation of contracts. Also, rewards may differ according to whether they are individual or group based rewards.
Here is a list of rewards program aimed at individual and team performances:
Reward your Employees Based on their Personal Interests:
Many companies use a standard blanket for a reward for individual achievements. While this may suit certain situations, it is best to reward employees by finding out what they really like or what they want the most. For instance, an employee may be interested in photography, so gifting an online photography course would enthuse the employee. Tailor-made customized rewards create a lasting impression on the minds of the receiver. Why not add some personalized touch to the reward to connect better with the employee?
Pay for a Major Expense:
When an employee makes a significant contribution to the company that results in huge savings, the company can offer to pay a substantial amount for that employee as a mark of appreciation. This can be in the form of paying a mortgage payment or offering interest-free loans, making an automobile payment or paying for a primary home appliance. However, make sure that the rewards commensurate with the significant savings/achievement that brought additional revenue to the company.
Opt For Creative Rewards:
Get as creative with the rewards as you can. Interesting plaques with a funny caricature of the employee with his achievement mentioned would definitely be appreciated. After all, who doesn’t like to show off their performance?
Another exciting option is to offer a swanky office seat. How about gifting a plush memory foam office chair?
This works well with the individual as well as group rewards. Sending employees to major conferences, leadership programs, seminars, career development programs, or allowing them to select an online class to benefit their career are good options to show the employees that you are investing in their career.
An Appreciative Getaway:
Why not carve a day out from the calendar to dedicate to staff appreciation. Send the employees to a beautiful winery for a wine tasting or a luxurious spa. You can also take the achievers on a beautiful river cruise or a barbeque lunch on a picturesque picnic or lake spot.
Tickets for Events:
Who doesn’t like a good day out? How about gifting employees with movie tickets for their favorite movie with family or getting them tickets for their favorite sporting events?
How about attractive personalized swags as rewards? In fact, the company can give an achievers hat or badge (with the name of the employee printed). The achievers can proudly wear them one full day at work. Personalized coffee mugs, water bottles, yoga mats with name printed, joggers phone holding case, car mobile holder, sneakers, hoodies, rain gear, winter gear, iPad covers, etc. make cool swag gifts for employees. However, make sure you go in for an outstanding quality item that fits the lifestyle of the employees. Ensure that your gifts are long-lasting.
Spontaneous Time Off:
Giving the employees a surprising paid time off from work impromptu is another creative way of recognising them. Emily Dusablon, PHR, SHRM-CP, Supervisor, HR Center of Excellence, for instance, says that one can send a quick note that says, “It is a beautiful day, go out and have fun.”
Chris Brennan, a Performance Specialist, has a different idea. He says one can give 15 minutes off coupons as spot awards to team members or achievers for their achievements each time. The employees can collect them and add up to an hour gradually every time they achieve something. This can later be used to arrive late or go home early any day.
Some other options include giving the employees a raise, promoting them, giving a bonus for their achievements, etc.
Employee appreciation is not a one-time affair; it should be a part of the overall company culture. Employees are your most valuable assets, and hence the company should let the staff know that they are valuable and appreciated.
Maya Angelou put it aptly, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Whether you choose to follow either one or several of the above ideas to reward and recognize your employees, it really boils down to making them feel prized and appreciated.