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Oct 31, 2012

The air is getting cooler and storefronts are beginning to display Thanksgiving and Christmas decor … which means another year is almost over. The time has come to reflect on what worked for your company in 2012, and more importantly, what did not.

By now, organizations are scouring their sales figures and analyzing their low revenue streams while pushing for those last-minute deals to go through. It’s no surprise that in the midst of all this, most companies don’t take the time to look at how their sales incentives or employee recognition programs may have impacted company morale or their bottom line.

Why is this important? Ultimately, it’s your human resources that make your company operate. So if your recognition program (or lack of one) is negatively affecting your workforce’s outlook on the company, productivity levels are guaranteed to drop, thus impacting your bottom line.

Is your recognition program still working?

Moreover, if your turnover rate is high, it’s costing your organization a lot of money and time to replace the people you lost – money and time that could be better spent investing in resources such as technology or business development.

If your recognition program is working, congratulations on motivating your workforce! It’s still important not to rest on your laurels and assume that it’s perfect.

Often, clients tell me that they’ve been doing the same program for years and everyone loves it. Truth be told, employees will rarely tell you that they don’t like a recognition program unless it impacts their livelihood. If your program resembles a “thank you, here’s a little something” approach, they’ve likely written it off and a small token of appreciation but not necessarily something that’s making them work harder for you.

My point: there are always ways to improve or refresh your rewards program without necessarily costing you more. A new approach to the way you communicate it or a more flexible variety of reward options can be all you need to give your initiative a face-lift and renew their commitment to the organization.

Remembering the “silent stars” in your organization

A recognition program can have negative results if it’s executed wrong or unfairly, so don’t assume everyone feels appreciated just because you have a program. It’s possible that you’ve got a pool of talent that has gone unnoticed because they don’t make a fuss over their accomplishments.

Be sure to remember your “silent stars” who work hard but don’t seek fame or glory. That said, be careful about how you reward those silent stars because if they don’t normally seek recognition on their own, they may have negative feelings towards recognition in general and feel uncomfortable with public displays of praise. In this case, a low-key or private reward may be your better avenue.

If you notice a slight increase in productivity only during the incentives program, and then a drop off once the program ends, there could be other underlying issues such as lack of communication or an issue with engagement. If your employees don’t seem to care at all about the program, it could be that your program is not a good match to your corporate culture.

Knowing your corporate culture will help you motivate your workforce, whether it’s comprised of Baby Boomers who still prefer more traditional methods or tech-savvy Millennials, or a combination of both. If you haven’t taken the pulse of your corporate culture in a while, you might need to take another look.

While your Baby Boomers may be looking for that end-of-year bonus with a personalized note to cover a year’s worth of performance, your Millennials are likely expecting to see instant recognition on a social media-based site each time they outperform as well as a variety of redemption options that don’t necessarily include cash.

Good morale takes year-round work

If you have a mixture of demographics, it doesn’t mean you have to develop more than one incentives and rewards program. That would get very tedious and confusing for most companies! It’s more likely you’ll operate one program that’s very flexible and manage it accordingly to your demographics. Combining a mix of electronic and physical communication methods and a variety of reward options are two of your main objectives.

Most importantly, it’s critical to keep morale high throughout the year, rather than trying to play catch up at the holidays when everyone is already busy trying to juggle work and family commitments.

New Year’s is a time when most people begin to reflect on their life in general, so employees who are already looking to move on may not be swayed by last-minute attempts at motivation or rewards. This is especially true if your office is staffed with Millennials. They are more likely to change jobs frequently if they feel they are not getting recognized for what they contribute.

In order to keep the best employees working for you, make sure that your incentives and recognition programs are tailored and managed properly. Do they fit in with your corporate culture and are you prepared to make changes if that culture has changed? You need to be flexible and in all aspects of your business, including your incentives and rewards program, to be truly competitive.

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