Easy Steps for Building an Employee Recognition Plan

Programs to thank employees pay back in happier teams and greater company success.

Award certificates, recognition certificates

On-the-job recognition can be in short supply for busy office workers. But there’s a strong business case for taking the time to recognize employees’ efforts. Research has revealed that recognition for hard work does more to increase employee productivity than a 5 percent bonus. Additionally, according to an Aon study, rewards and recognition are the leading drivers of employee engagement globally.

Building an employee recognition program — or even just improving an existing one — gives office administrators a chance to make a big impact in the office. You’re in a prime position to help your coworkers feel more energized in their jobs, and you might improve retention at your company, too.

Put your creativity to the test by using these steps to develop a successful and budget-friendly employee recognition program.

Start With Employees

Whether you’re starting fresh or making changes to an existing program, asking your coworkers about their preferences will help you avoid missteps. Depending on the size of your office, gather input in a meeting or via email.

Another option is to create and send out a short survey. This is an especially good idea if you want people to share ideas freely and anonymously. Online tools like SurveyMonkey let you create surveys for free.

Ask employees:

• What kind of rewards would you most like to receive? Find out your team’s level of interest in award certificates, recognition certificates and gift cards, as well as time off and other rewards.

• What means of communication do you prefer for promoting awards? Offer a list of choices such as meetings, email, social media, company newsletter and other options that fit with your business.

Asking questions will also engage employees in your program and encourage them to participate in earning the rewards being offered.

Let Team Members Know What to Work Toward

What behavior is going to be considered reward-worthy? Meet with higher-ups to establish the goals and benchmarks that result in employee recognition. It could be encouraging great customer service, hitting quarterly sales goals or being with the company for a certain number of years.

For example, if improving customer retention is a company goal, you might want to spotlight someone who found a way to speed up shipping or improve customer service response times.

A program can have a much more general focus, too, such as “Going Above and Beyond” or “Problem-Solving” or “Being a Good Team Player.” Regardless of the metrics, let employees know the guidelines so the awards don’t feel arbitrary.

Choose Your Rewards

Traditional recognition tools such as award certificates, recognition certificates and plaques are popular because people can keep them in their office as a reminder and show others they’ve been honored for their work. You can easily customize these types of awards with specific accomplishments or highlights.

Other ideas include gift cards, contributions to a charity of the employee’s choice, gift baskets or additional paid time off. When you make this decision, keep the responses from your employee survey in mind so you can make rewards as personalized as possible. You can also give recipients an opportunity to choose their own gift through websites like Snappy, which specialize in employee recognition gift giving.

No matter which option you choose, include a personal note from the person’s manager as a standard accompaniment to any gift. Take time to acknowledge the employee’s specific contributions and your appreciation of their efforts.

Be Sure It Has Companywide Appeal

Make sure your program rewards an effort, trait or contribution someone can make regardless of their role. Periodically poll employees to see how they feel about the program, and make changes if employees don’t feel like the program is fair or valuable.

Once an award is given out, think about how you’ll spread the word to the rest of the company. A mass email might be most effective for some companies, or an announcement at the next big meeting can draw more attention to the employee.

If feasible, hold a celebration, take photos and post them in the office or company newsletter. You can also share the team member’s contribution in your storefront or social media profiles. Respect your employees’ wishes: While most appreciate public praise, do something low-key for people who prefer privacy.