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25 Ways To Recognize Valued Employees

January 26, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments


According to a Maritz Research study, employees who participate in creative recognition programs at work are five times more likely to feel valued, 11 times more likely to feel committed and seven times more likely to stay in their jobs.

Still not convinced a recognition program is worth the investment? “On average, it costs a year’s salary to replace an employee,” says Ken Lloyd, organizational behavior consultant and author of 151 Quick Ideas To Recognize And Reward Employees.

Here are 25 creative ways to recognize employees today – and ensure that they don’t jump ship.

1. Erect a wall of fame for top performers. Choose a highly visible wall in a public area of the office and post the photos, names and accomplishments of employees who exceed goals or reach key milestones. Give a gift card or another small reward to whoever makes the wall.

2. Don’t wait five years to celebrate an anniversary. “At most companies, the highest employee turnover occurs between day one and year three,” says Charles Elton, co-author of The Carrot Principle. Pepsi makes newer employees feel valued by giving them logoed bottle-cap keyrings on their first day, engraved pens on their second anniversaries and a crystal Pepsi bottle on their third. All gifts are accompanied by cards and messages from the CEO.

3. Use the power of the press. “Company newsletters provide excellent opportunities for recognition,” Lloyd says. “Employees enjoy reading words of praise and they appreciate the efforts managers take to write personalized articles.”

4. Recognize employees’ family members. Have a stellar sales rep that’s constantly traveling? Elton recommends sending a food basket or logoed gift directly to spouses or partners with a note from the CEO that says, “Thanks for taking care of all of the big things at home so [fill in name here] can be on the road.”

5. Give superstars access to the top brass. Ask outstanding subordinates to take your place at an executive meeting when you’re not available – or invite them to dinners or special events where they can rub elbows with the company CEO.

6. Send high performers back to school. Recognize key players by offering them in-house training, off-site seminars and college courses, advanced degree programs, certification courses, peer counseling sessions and advanced management training.

7. Award lapel pins to top achievers. “The Hard Rock Café gives out so many milestone and recognition pins that it takes waitstaff up to an hour to put them on, and they come to work looking like Russian Generals,” Elton says. “But they’re willing to do it because they’re proud to wear them.”

8. Give winners a choice. Hold a sales or customer service contest and let winners choose from a selection of prizes to make sure they get what they really want. Include trendy items that winners might not already have, like solar-powered charging stations, customized iPod skins and watches loaded with features, like mini flashlights.

9. Don’t leave out the little guys. Suture maker Hephicon celebrated 50 years in business with a huge outdoor picnic where the company awarded logoed anniversary watches to every employee, from top executives down to the maintenance man. “Everybody felt like an important part of the company that day,” Elton says.

10.  Whip up excitement for incentive travel. Get salespeople excited about an upcoming incentive trip by putting together travel kits that include flip-flops, cameras, robes, beach towels, sunglasses, water bottles, spa items, duffels and luggage tags. Hand out the kits at a pre-trip party so that the winners get the star treatment in front of their peers.

11. Use the power of technology. Tout employee achievements Web chats, Internet message boards and any other company communications. As an example, Home Depot broadcasts via satellite episodes of “Breakfast with Bernie and Arthur,” (a meeting with the company’s chairman and CEO which celebrates employee achievements, among other things) to employees at all store outlets.

12. Reward brilliant ideas. Periodically ask for suggestions to improve a process or save money. Reward the best ideas with logoed merchandise or gift certificates.

13. Fete hard-working teams with food. Got a team that’s burning the midnight oil? Instead of pizza and soda, treat teams to a gourmet dinner brought in from a local restaurant – and have the CEO serve it.

14. Do something unexpected. On the Friday of a productive week, stop everything and hold a bowling contest in the company warehouse, complete with prizes for the best bowler.

15. Give promotions the fanfare they deserve. Part of the fun of getting a new title is the congratulations that come from peers. Take care to make a big deal of promotions. As an example, American Express stages celebrations where executives hand out new business cards and leather portfolios to the person being promoted.

16. Create your own recognition awards. Choose from custom plaques, acrylics, desktop items, crystal creations and inspirational trophies. Even better, have an award (like a custom bobblehead!) created exclusively for the employee you want to fete.

17. Don’t be afraid to get a little goofy. The most popular performance award at Synovus Financial Corporation – a $30 billion firm – is a tacky pink flamingo with a bow tie that employees proudly display in their cubicles. The flamingo award comes with a luncheon, $100 cash and a paid vacation day, but employees say the bird is the real prize.

18. Use scrapbooks to make a retirement memorable. Everyone can get in on the fun of gathering photos and memories, including customers. Put it all in a big book and give it to the retiree at a celebratory event as a special memento.

19. Mix up reward choices. Don’t give the same rewards time after time. International Paper once gave a sales star helicopter service for a day for doubling his quota. His trek from his home to the office and back was videotaped and shown to his peers for extra trophy value.

20. Let employees nominate their peers. Don’t let managers choose who should receive all the awards. Empower employees to catch their coworkers doing something good – and hand out rewards to the peers they nominate.

21. Have seasonal kickoff parties. Is summer your busy season? Kick it off with an indoor “pool party.” Spread sand around, play Caribbean music, spread out beach chairs and give employees logoed beach towels and sun visors.

22. Solicit clients’ help. Bring in your sales reps’ favorite clients for awards ceremonies and recognition events. Let clients present an award and say why their rep deserves it.

23. Leverage your PR efforts. Get employees’ achievements even more exposure by sending press releases to the local media, touting staffers’ good work.

24. Put managers to work. Have executives put some sweat equity into recognition efforts. Great Western bank holds employee-appreciation banquets where employees are given play money to bid on services to be performed by managers, including washing cars, babysitting, cooking a meal and doing an employee’s job for six hours.

25. Give gifts on unique holidays. Forgo the annual end-of-year gifts and reward employees at offbeat times of the year, like on March 9 – “I Want You to Be Happy Day.” via ASI Central

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  3. Rachel
    August 18, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Do you know of any companies that have implemented #1 (Erect a wall of fame for top performers)? I’m interested in getting a FB application created for this but would like to see a few examples. Thank you.

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