Don’t Waste Your Time or Money on Unwanted Employee Rewards

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know how important I believe frequent, timely and appropriate recognition of employee efforts is to increasing employee engagement, morale and productivity. However, these two examples I recently came across strike me as demotivators, time wasters and a complete drain on productivity.

First, a writer into the Ask Christi column in Incentive Magazine, authored by Christi Gibson of Recognition Professionals International, asked Christi’s opinion of the CEO’s idea of the “ultimate recognition” – the opportunity to present an efficiency improvement idea to the Board of Directors. Apparently, every employee must do this at least once year – a tremendous cause for anxiety among most employees.

While I certainly agree with Christi that this is no way to recognize employees, let’s look a little deeper. The letter writer comments the employee next on the dock “frets for days” about the meeting. Think what that must do to the productivity of that employee as they worry about what to present, how it will be perceived, even what to wear. Carry that a step further to that employee’s teammates and friends in the office. Surely this person is worrying aloud with these people, expanding the web of lost productivity even wider. And every employee is subjected to this every year?

Let’s step outside this particular example for a minute and consider a common form of recognition in many offices – the public presentation or acknowledgment of effort in a team meeting or similar. While many may relish this public recognition, I know many who do not like to be “put in the spotlight.” Many a well-meaning manager has actually damaged their relationship with an employee, and even hurt that employee’s desire to perform well enough to end up with a public recognition moment again – a clearly negative impact on productivity.

Strategic recognition requires those giving recognition to understand intimately what employees want for recognition, how they want to be acknowledged and then honor those wishes. Globoforce’s consultative approach walks our clients through consideration of these important issues to determine and implement multiple ways to acknowledge deserving employees in ways that caters to all personality types.

This second example left me dumbfounded. There is now a company whose idea of recognition is to let employees play games online during work. Apparently, employees earn playing time on random “point-yielding” games and then those points are redeemable on a debit card.

I’m simply floored by this. If the idea is to reward desired behavior, why would you want to do that with an activity that, by definition, reduces employee productivity, and then give them a “reward” that can be easily spent on necessities such as gas or groceries? As I’ve repeatedly blogged before, such cash-based rewards have no lasting or memorable psychic income value to recipients.

A far better solution is to immediately reward desired behaviors through a strategic program that tells employees precisely why that behavior or action was demonstrative of a company value or goal achieved and then to let the employee pick from millions of rewards of choice that will serve as a lasting reminder of the company’s appreciation for and investment in the employee.

Now is not the time or the economy to be playing games. Employee recognition can deliver significant bottom-line returns, but only if deployed strategically.

What are some of the worst recognition ideas you’ve heard or experienced? Share your stories in comments or, better yet, visit our new Facebook fan page and tell us your worst recognition stories in the discussion boards.

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