The Importance Of Employee Recognition


How does your company recognize employees who meet or exceed performance standards?

How effective is it?

There are a number of ways to recognize employees who meet or exceed performance standards; Bonuses, Chairman’s Clubs, Employee Of The Month Programs, Peer to Peer Recognition Programs, or Incentivized Award Programs.  Each of these programs are designed to recognize and reward different types of behaviors and performance standards.

But how effective are they really?

Well, it depends on what behaviors you want to recognize and reward.  But my experience as a manager overseeing these programs and as an employee who was eligible for recognition under them has led me to believe that they don’t necessarily encourage behavior and performance changes. In fact, they can shift an employee’s focus towards meeting a specific target to the detriment of their overall job performance.  This is not to say that these programs do not have merit, only that it is essential to understand what positive and negative behaviors the program is likely encourage and take care to choose a program and structure that will work best to encourage overall positive behavior and performance changes.

I had a conversation with a small business owner last Monday who was trying to figure out how to encourage his employees to take greater ownership of the work they perform.  We discussed what behaviors he was observing and which ones he wanted to encourage. Being a small business with few employees and a need to encourage specific positive changes in behavior and performance, many of the Employee Recognition Programs listed above would be ineffective or too costly.

While an Employee Of The Month program is a basic and occasionally effective strategy, having so few employees it would have been a poor fit. Based on the size of his company I recommended a Monthly Achievement Award rather than an Employee Of The Month program.  In essence, they are very similar, but a Monthly Achievement Award will allow him to identify and reward very specific behaviors and actions.  In publicly recognizing these specific behaviors, he is informing his employees of the importance he places on them. As his employees see which achievements are being rewarded, they will be encouraged to change their behavior and performance to include them in the hope that they will soon be recognized.  

I encouraged this owner to post the Monthly Achievement Award in a customer forward space so that their customers will see how great of a job his employees were doing for them. This has two benefits.

One, his employees will now know that the customers are aware how good of a job they are doing. Because the work they are doing is no longer being done behind the scenes, they will be further incentivized to continue performing well and striving to do better.

Two, it becomes a way of promoting the business and the high level of work being performed.  This will encourage new and repeat business which will help improve overall revenue.

Beyond the public recognition, it may be beneficial to monetarily incentivize a program such as this.  A small gift card at the time of award, a quarterly bonus for the employee with the most recognized achievements, and/or an annual bonus may all be put in place to further encourage positive behavior and performance.  The key is, as I said earlier, is to understand what positive and negative behaviors the program is likely encourage.

Please contact FIC Human Resource Partners to discuss how your company might better utilize employee recognition to achieve specific behavior and performance goals.

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