Employee Recognition Programs

employee-awards

It takes a special type of personality to work successfully in the hospitality industry. Hospitality is the industry for people who love people, though just being friendly isn't enough. So when you find the kind of individual that adds value to your business you want to hold on to them. To reward them so that it shapes and motivates others to emulate that winning behavior.

One of the proven ways is to show them you appreciate and value them is with an Employee Appreciation program.  An employee recognition program isn't just a nice-to-have benefit for employees. It’s one of the sharpest tools in your organization’s strategic set.  One that can drive behavior, unify teams and cultures, improve engagement and retention, and significantly impact your bottom line.

trophy1If you notice retention is only one part of what a programs purpose should be, a very important one to be sure, particularly in the hospitality industry. A recent study by Bersin & Associates found that 87% of the recognition programs in place today focus on tenure. Yes, that’s right. People get rewarded for just sticking around. But what the study showed was that tenure-based rewards systems have virtually no impact on organizational performance.

It turns out that many of these tenure-based rewards programs are really legacy programs from the turn of the century when labor unions forced management to give employees “service awards” and hourly raises for tenure. Most large companies still have these programs today, yet only 58% of employees even know such programs exist. So for the most part they aren’t creating much value.

On other hand, their research did find that modern, re-engineered recognition programs can have a huge impact on business performance. Companies that scored in the top 20% for building a “recognition-rich culture” actually had 31% lower voluntary turnover rates! This is a huge statistic. Most CEO’s would pay millions of dollars to reduce voluntary turnover (this is when good people leave on their own). It turns out that a well-designed recognition program can achieve this result.

Here is a list of the top 5 best-practices discovered in the study:

1. Recognize people based on specific results and behaviors.

Don’t just give someone a reward for being “employee of the month.” Give them an award for delivering outstanding customer service when a particular problem occurred. This creates a culture of “doing the right thing.”

2. Implement peer to peer recognition – not top down.

Recognition from leaders has less impact than you may think. While HR managers believe this is a key criteria for success, employeessaid that they feel much better when they are recognized by their peers. Why is this? Peers know what you’re doing on a day to day basis, so when they “thank you” for your efforts the impact is much more meaningful. Top-down recognition is often viewed as political and it rarely reaches the “quiet but critical high-performers” in the company.

Modern high-performance recognition programs are “social” – they let anyone in the company recognize anyone else (often using “points” or “dollars.”) The thank you’s are totally public and displayed on a “leader board” so anyone can see them. Hot startups like Achievers and Globoforce are selling cloud-based platforms that make this easy, and traditional rewards companies like OC Tanner are moving in this direction as well.

3. Share recognition stories.

One of the most powerful practices we identified was “story telling.” When someone does something great and is recognized by their peers, tell people about it. Not only should they get an “employee of the month” Award Plaque, but you should mention them in a newsletter or company blog. These stories create employee engagement and learning.

4. Make recognition easy and frequent.

Make it trivially simple for employees to recognize each other. Many of the modern programs studied give all employees a budget for “points” or “dollars” and they can give them to others online in seconds. Using one of these systems in your company can have amazing results. People who do great things should be visible to everyone else!

5. Tie recognition to your own company values or goals.

Companies like Deloitte and Intuit have recognition programs which focus on the company’s mission and goals. So when you give someone a “thank you” award, the award is tied to your own company’s strategy (customer service, innovation, teamwork, or even a revenue or cost-cutting goal).

The Psychology of Recognition

In Maslow’s heirarchy of needs, two of the most valuable psychological needs we have as human beings are the need to be appreciated and the need to “belong.” These needs are met through peer-to-peer thanks and recognition. Look at the hierarchy below: you can see the compensation and benefits support a fundamental need, but recognition and career advancement support our higher-level psychological needs.

maslows

Remember that the purpose of recognition is to drive greater levels of “discretionary effort.” Such discretionary effort comes when we, as people, feel inspired to do more.

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