Excelling at Engagement with Effective Employee Recognition Programs

With the shift to remote work for a large majority of the country altering expectations and experiences amid the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations that do not recognize their employees through an incentive or a reward program should strongly consider developing one—particularly because these programs can help boost employee engagement.recognition

My company, InComm InCentives, recently conducted a study designed to examine attitudes toward recognition programs among employees from across the nation. As it turns out, nearly 60% of those surveyed said either their employer does not have an incentive program or they were not aware whether their employer offered one.

Organizations seeking to boost employee morale and retention through incentive programs should consider these additional takeaways from our study to guide the creation of a meaningful, impactful program.

Employees Want to Choose Their Rewards

Among recognition given at the corporate level, we found that 68% of employees prefer to choose their own reward when their performance is recognized. It would be prudent for any organization to take note here: Each employee will have different preferences, which means what constitutes a meaningful reward is likely to differ from person to person.

This begs the question: What kinds of rewards should organizations offer through their employee recognition programs? When it comes to monetary rewards, gift cards are frequently identified as a top choice among respondents.

However, organizations should also consider expanding their programs to include nonmonetary rewards. In our survey, participants indicated that their most preferred form of nonmonetary appreciation was in-person or e-mail recognition from a coworker.

These preferences show the importance of including both monetary and nonmonetary rewards to ensure employees have a say in how they are recognized. A streamlined way to manage a program with a wide range of reward offerings is through an online platform.

In addition to digitally hosting the program’s full catalog of available rewards—in a format viewable to employees—such a platform can facilitate the digital delivery of rewards to mobile devices. Digital options allow employees to receive and enjoy their well-earned rewards faster and more securely, thus encouraging them to continue producing at a high level.

Recognition Should Come from Leadership and Teammates

These findings also indicated that the most impactful recognition happens at both departmental and peer-to-peer levels. A total of 68% of participants said they would be more likely to recognize the work of their teammates if they could do so through a specific platform. The ability to easily share words of praise and congratulate coworkers, with the option to add a small token of appreciation such as a gift card, can go a long way toward helping team members develop stronger camaraderie and routinely recognize individual and team contributions.

At the departmental level, incentive programs can also help improve employee retention. When asked about their experience after receiving recognition from their departmental leadership, one in five employees reported feeling a greater likelihood that they would stay with their employer and/or a feeling of increased job security.

In addition to retention, recognition programs can be a valuable tool for organizations looking to stand out from the competition in recruiting efforts. Recognition programs were reported among notable considerations for jobseekers, demonstrating their value to candidates who might be weighing similar offers.

This last point is particularly important in conjunction with one of the findings we previously highlighted: More than half of the employees surveyed either did not have an incentive program or were not sure whether their organization offered one.

This signals an opportunity for an organization with a well-thought-out incentive program to gain a competitive edge in both recruitment and retention by highlighting a culture of community and respect for employees.

The organizations most likely to succeed in launching their program will ensure that the rewards they offer cater to employee preferences and enable coworkers to recognize one another, in addition to receiving accolades from department leadership. Any organization that applies these takeaways to their program will be on the right path toward systematically rewarding good performance in an impactful, effective way.

Dave EtlingDave Etling serves as Senior Vice President and General Manager of InComm InCentives.

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