Happy employees are hardworking employees. While there are many facets that go into determining whether an employee is happy, one thing you can do to potentially influence employee happiness is establish a recognition program. Through the regular distribution of sound pats-on-the-back, you will help your workers keep up their morale through the ups and downs of their jobs. To ensure that your employee recognition program is as effective as you hope it will be, keep your employees' interests in the forefront of your mind when you're developing it.
Establish a new committee. Yes, you are already committeed to death, but building a committee for employee recognition is actually an important step in the process. Sans committee, it may seem like the boss is just sitting around in her office thinking up awards to bestow based on her personal observations. By establishing a committee that consists of a mixture of management, middle- and lower-level employees, you can improve your chances of consistently rewarding worthy employees and make it clear to your workers that choosing who receives a reward is a task to which much effort is dedicated.
Set clear criteria for awards. Often employees are bestowed awards for innocuous things like “hard work.” When this happens, other employees who feel that they have worked just as hard as the rewarded employee can take offense. This makes the award as demotivating for the rest of the staff as it is motivating for the recipient. Instead of allowing this to happen, set clear yet lofty guidelines and give an award to any worker who attains these hard-to-reach benchmarks. For example, if sales is part of your business, set a specific, hard-to-attain dollar amount as a sales target and hand out a "super seller" award to anyone who closes enough sales in a quarter to reach or surpass this benchmark. Similarly, if accuracy is of paramount importance in your business, establish an award for anyone who achieves 100 percent accuracy on her audit results for a month, quarter or year.
Randomize your rewards. It’s good to reward workers regularly, but if you distribute your praise on too consistent a schedule, you run the risk of making it seem insincere. It is reasonable to have quarterly awards that you distribute at the end of each chunk of the year, but these shouldn’t be the only awards you present. Pepper in some surprise awards to make it clear to all employees that you are always watching and that their behavior can and will be recognized regularly.
Give your employees what they want. Another company-logoed coffee mug? Gee, thanks. I’ll put it over here with the other eight I already have. Sound familiar? Don’t hand out the same old trinkets your employees won’t really appreciate. If you do, they won’t work hard to receive the award because the prize isn't worth the effort. Survey your employees to determine what they would like to receive and use this feedback to select meaningful and desirable items to give to the lucky winners.
Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.