Starting an employee recognition program can be a bit of a tricky business. In the best cases, a recognition program can help significantly boost morale and engagement in your office. With a minimal upfront cost, you can actually boost your bottom line while fostering a happier, more productive, and emotionally healthier work environment.
In the worst cases, a recognition program can feel like a burden to employees who don’t get any value from the proceedings or who feel pitted against their co-workers.
With that in mind, here are a few principles to consider when designing a program for employee appreciation:
1. Consider what exactly it is that you want to celebrate.
If your program gives a bonus to the top salesperson every month, that isn’t employee appreciation – that’s simply an incentive program. Ideally, your employee appreciation program should encourage the values that your company espouses in its mission statement. For example, you might want to recognize excellent customer service, creative problem solving, or efforts to make the company more sustainable.
And there’s no rule that your program can’t have more than one focus. Maybe part of your program could include giving special gifts to employees on their work anniversaries while another part focus on celebrating an employee of the week.
2. Ask your employees how they’d like to be recognized.
Anonymous surveys, questionnaires, or multiple-choice polls can all be handy for getting employees to tell you exactly what they’d like to be recognized for. You might be surprised to hear that some employees wish someone noticed how they never come in late, for example. Or maybe employees would rather be recognized for kindnesses around the office than job-specific accomplishments. Whatever the case may be, listen!
3. Set rules for who can be recognized and how often.
Can the same employee be the recipient of your award – whatever that may be – two months in a row? Can temps or interns receive awards? Who exactly decides who to recognize, and on what basis? Often recognition programs work best when employees nominate each other and hold a vote rather than having the boss pick a “favorite.” A more democratic approach helps a wider variety of people get recognized for a wider variety of contributions.
4. It isn’t really about the reward.
Of course, different offices have different cultures, but often a reward is less about the prize itself and more about the recognition. Sometimes a cheesy trophy has more significance than a gift certificate to a nice restaurant. Patches that can be proudly displayed on the backs of chairs likewise may feel kitschy to some folks, but to others, they will be badges of honor. It’s all about what works for your office.