5 Unique Ways to Pump Up Employee Recognition

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Mar 8, 2017
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

When you think of NBCUniversal employees, who do you think of?

Most people tend to think of the people in front of the camera. But Jayzen Patria, executive director of talent development for NBCUniversal, sought to change that image with the creation of the Talent Lab, a program that recognizes all employees and seeks to bring them together to learn and grow as a team.

Unfortunately, this kind of innovation is absent from traditional employee recognition programs. And as a result, only one in three workers in the U.S. strongly agreed they had received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days, according to a 2016 Gallup survey. Another Gallup survey tells us that only half of all employees are satisfied with the recognition they receive at work,

Here are five innovative ways HR professionals can better manage an employee recognition program.

1. Write it down

Bobby Augst, co-founder of Cloud 9 Living, keeps a written record of employee accomplishments, big and small. Dubbed their ‘G’ Book, or book of ‘Good Stuff,’ employees are encouraged to write down their team member’s accomplishments throughout the week. During weekly company-wide meetings, those entries are shared aloud.

Employee recognition should come from all directions, from co-workers to management. The more people involved in the process, the less likely individual accomplishments will get overlooked.

Here at LifeWorks, we encourage our entire team to openly share the achievements of their peers. As a result, 3.2% of our employees receive a uniquely written online recognition everyday, and over a month’s time, 98.2% were recognized at least once.

One way to get the entire organization involved in the recognition process is to have employees nominate one stand-out employee each month. The person with the most peer nominations can be recognized during the next morning meeting, awarded with a day off or monetary bonus — the options are endless. The true prize is having your colleagues recognize and nominate you for your hard work.

2. Spark passions

Los Angeles-based creative company Omelet recognizes employees by acknowledging their passions. The company rewards top performers with time off to pursue a project they’re passionate about, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be related to their day-to-day job.

Called their 60/60 program, Omelet employees are granted two hours per week to work on a side project, hobby, or other interest. And big-name companies like Google are doing the same (the tech giant calls it ‘20% time’).

While allowing employees to spend 20% of their time at work on side projects may not work for every company, adopting a policy similar to Omelet’s is a great way to reward employees. To make it more reasonable, start by reserving one day every month for employee side projects, hobbies, or other non-work related interests.

3. Revamp performance discussions

Wunderman offers what’s called YOU Time — their unique take on performance reviews — to allow employees to engage in career development conversations outside of the office.

These reviews are focused primarily on employee success, from employees’ career and life goals to their individual accomplishments. Best of all, these discussions take place outside of stuffy meeting rooms and in fun, one-on-one environments.

Instead of mixing praise with constructive advice, consider discussions that focus solely on what an employee does exceptionally well. Better yet, take it outside of the office so it feels less like a performance review and more like a reward.

4. Put people front and center

Denver-based Groundfloor Media publicly recognizes its employees by sharing employee success stories on their website. Shining the spotlight on top performers in this way not only motivates team members, but also shows potential customers just what your team is capable of.

Another great way to put your people front and center is to highlight employee achievements on your company blog and social media profiles. An entire blog post dedicated to one employee’s accomplishments is a great way to publicly say “thank you.”

5. Offer the right rewards

Employees at New Belgium Brewing are awarded with a paid trip to Belgium after reaching five years with the company. This was inspired by founder Jeff Lebesch’s bike ride through Belgium, which later led to the creation of New Belgium Brewing.

That’s an example of how to personalize incentives based on your team and company culture. To make employee recognition truly meaningful, try creating incentives that align with your company’s story, mission, and values. For example, if your company values social responsibility, reward top-performing employees with a day spent volunteering for a cause of their choice.

Whatever the case, tying rewards back to your company’s overall goals and values is a great way to recognize employees while also supporting your company.

In the end, employee recognition needs to be meaningful to be truly effective in inspiring and motivating employees. Whether that meaning is tied to your company story or employees’ interests is up to you.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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