The Most Cost-Effective Way to Get Your Employees to Work Harder

Gallup’s 2016 State of the Workforce Report can be a scary thing to read, especially if you’re an employer or work in HR. According to the 2016 poll, only 34% of your employees are engaged in their job–and that drops to 29% if you employee millennials. The same study found that half of your workforce is actively looking to leave. But you can fix that all, if you just do one small thing.

And that small thing doesn’t even have to cost you very much. In fact, when you look at the return for doing it, it’s incredibly inexpensive.

That small thing? Recognition.

But I recognize my employees, you might be saying. Well, maybe you do, but the data suggests you don’t do correctly, and not nearly enough.

In a study by York College, researchers found that millennial employees–the members of the “Job-Hopping Generation”–need to be recognized immediately for a job well done, or that recognition doesn’t sink in. A company that can only reward achievement yearly, or even quarterly, won’t improve engagement or job satisfaction among employees. Older employees need recognition too; Globoforce found that more than 90% of employees said they were motivated more by recognition than by any other metrics–including increased salary!

So, what do you recognize employees for? And how do you show that recognition.

The short answer to the first question is: nearly everything positive. Not every good turn requires a physical or financial reward; a simple “thanks” or “good job” works wonders. Globoforce found that simple verbal recognition can increase engagement by more than 20%, and Cicero Group further found that those simple verbal “thanks” even increased employee’s trust in the company and its management. Most organizations, unfortunately, don’t reward or recognize the right things; Deloitte’s research arm found that 87% of recognition programs at company’s focused solely on tenure, which is the type of recognition least likely to resonate with employees. Tenure recognition takes too long to provide feedback to employees and doesn’t reward employees nearly enough.

Quick–guess what reward employees want most! If you assumed it was bonuses and salaries increases, you’re not alone. According to  a study conducted by Westminster College, that’s what 65% of employers and managers assumed was the primary driver of employee motivation. You’re also wrong though; employees overwhelmingly prefer smaller tokens of recognition and even non-financial rewards over raises, bonuses or even stock options.

The best organizations make it easy for managers and employers to quickly and frequently reward employees, which increases engagement, tenure and performance. When Crittenton Hospital in Detroit instituted a program like that, staff turnover decreased by half! But only 14% of employers are set up to do that.

So how do you become one of the employers that can use recognition to improve and retain your workforce?

  1. Pick an easy and useful reward to give out. Gift Cards–especially non-store specific ones like Visa Gift Cards–work incredibly well. 87% of recipients reported being pleased with their cards, and found them easy to use, and studies find that employees use those cards to buy things they were holding off on, instead of applying them to regular purchases, as they often do with cash.
  2. Personalize the gift. Employees want a gift aimed at them–not just a generic gift, or one that reminds them solely of their employer, like a branded coffee cup or t-shirt. To make an employee feel appreciated, customize your gift with an employee’s name, the company name and what the employee is being recognized for. That’s easy to do with an online gift card retailer like Awards2Go; for a physical gift, include a certificate or plaque explaining those details.
  3. Establish clear criteria for rewards and recognition, and provide both frequently and quickly. When clear guidelines exist to what is considered a good job, employees report higher satisfaction with their jobs. And remember that the younger the employee, the shorter the feedback loop needs to be. Don’t rest on yearly or quarterly bonuses; reward good work frequently with gift cards, verbal recognition or awards.
  4. Give verbal recognition frequently. Give thanks easily for a job well done. Don’t forget how well non-financial compensation works, and how frequently and immediately it needs to be given. Employees don’t leave companies they don’t like; they leave managers and bosses they don’t like.

Empower yourself and your managers to recognize and reward your employees, and watch your business flourish.