When employees feel like their hard work is noticed and their contributions are valued, they’re more likely to keep working hard and to remain loyal to the company.
But it’s one thing for a big company with lots of resources (read: money) to implement a comprehensive employee recognition program.
When you’re a small business, starting a recognition program can have its pitfalls.
You risk spending too much money or undermining morale. Here’s what you should – and shouldn’t – do.
1. Don’t Get Hung Up on Money
Money stops many small business owners from implementing an employee recognition program, no matter how valuable the research says such a program can be.
But thinking that employee recognition has to involve giving out money in the form of bonuses is your first mistake.
Bonuses aren’t the only form of recognition employees want; it’s not even in the top spot.
Now, no one’s saying people don’t like money, because they definitely do.
But Gallup’s data shows that the most meaningful and memorable recognition an employee can receive comes in the form of an employee recognition award or other public praise.
Other forms of recognition can also be more meaningful than money.
Some non-monetary ways to show appreciation include giving extra time off, taking employees to lunch, investing in some professional development, or giving a small, thoughtful gift.
2. Do Get to Know Your Employees as People
Personal gifts can be one of the most meaningful means of employee recognition at your disposal, but in order to make them count, you need to know what your employees value, and that means getting to know who they are as people, outside of work.
Take your employees to lunch once in a while and spend the time talking with them about their lives. Use downtime to chat about your employees’ hobbies, interests, and family life.
A sincere and thoughtful gift can be small but should reflect a genuine knowledge of your employee’s likes and dislikes.
Think of a gift card to a store or restaurant they really like, tickets to see a favorite performer or a souvenir item from their alma mater.
3. Don’t Single Out Team Leaders
If you’re thinking of rewarding someone for good performance, make absolutely sure that a person achieved those results on his or her own.
If it was a team effort, recognize the whole team. Nothing will undermine morale and sow discord faster than recognizing only a team leader for efforts made by an entire team.
4. Do Reward All Kinds of Contributions
People contribute in different ways; not all outputs can be measured numerically.
Not everyone is going to be a top performer, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t feel valued and appreciated for what they can contribute.
Don’t forget to recognize those employees who are great at diffusing conflict, those who change plans last-minute to stay late and help when it’s really needed, and those whose helpfulness, cheerfulness, and kindness help to boost everyone’s morale.
5. Don’t Go Overboard
Not only can trying to recognize too many milestones get expensive quickly, it can also defeat the purpose of even having an employee recognition program.
The more often you make a big deal out of recognizing an employee, the less meaningful it will be.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t use verbal praise and thanks on a daily basis, but maybe take it easy on celebrating everyone’s birthday and work anniversaries.
Choose what types of contributions you’ll recognize carefully.
6. Do Make Recognition Public
Public employee awards are one of the most valued forms of recognition for most employees, and a yearly awards ceremony presents a chance to publicly recognize the most valuable contributions made by employees that year.
Public praise at staff meetings is also a good idea.
Both give other employees a chance to share their congratulations and praise with their colleagues.
Whenever possible, be specific in your reasons for calling out good behavior in public, so that the employee being praised and his or her colleagues know what your expectations for good performance are.
7. Don’t Set the Bar Too High
Don’t set the bar too low either; you don’t want employees to slack off. But try to find a middle ground where recognition isn’t too easy to get, but not too hard to get either.
You want to give your employees something to strive for, while at the same time not making them feel like they’ll never get what they’re working towards.
8. Do Have a Written Policy in Place
A written employee recognition policy sets out clear criteria for recognition so that everyone knows what performance is expected and everyone is held to the same standards.
This way, no one gets the idea that anyone else is unfairly favored, and you’ll avoid jealousy and problems with morale.
Just because you’re a small business doesn’t mean that you can’t implement a successful employee recognition program.
A recognition program can be an affordable, effective way to boost productivity and foster the kind of loyalty that keeps employees working for your company for years.