The question I am asked most frequently is “how do I find new employees and how do I keep the employees that I have?” One of the key strategies is to appreciate your current employees, who will then share with others how great it is to work for your company.  The best ways to show employees how much you appreciate them is to pay fair wages, provide generous benefits, and recognize employees for excellent work, accomplishing goals, and years of service.

Recognizing employees has several benefits. Most importantly, it celebrates deserving people.  In addition, it can be inspirational and motivating to other employees. And it can be part of what causes a person to choose to work at your company rather than the multitude of other companies that are also hiring. Be creative in what type of recognition is given. Make it public so that the employees will be congratulated and rewarded exponentially from that recognition. Put it on a banner, the website, and in a community newsletter.

A successful employee recognition program should have two key components. First, make the recognition meaningful. Sure, a certificate is nice, but don’t make that the only reward.  Instead, create a reward so desirable that it incentivizes people to work toward achieving a goal.

Second, set achievable recognition goals.  This may mean recognizing goals in smaller increments that build to a “stretch” goal. The belief that a goal is achievable is an important part of motivating employees to strive for it.  What was achievable before the pandemic might not be achievable now. And goals that are affected by the supply chain should be reconsidered. Celebrating employee efforts more frequently builds morale and demonstrates that management is paying attention and cares about workers.

A typical employee recognition event is length of service. If your company is experiencing a lot of turnover, consider recognizing service for shorter time periods than were traditionally recognized. Start by recognizing 3, 5, and 7 years of work rather than waiting for the 10-, 20-, or 30-year marks. The awards should be smaller for shorter time periods and build to really significant awards and celebrations of longer milestones.

Similarly, if production could use a boost, create incremental attainable production goals and recognize the entire team when they are achieved. If an especially difficult goal is required, make that recognition more significant.

Offering a cafeteria plan for recognition is one way to make rewards meaningful. Create reward levels for smaller achievements, mid-level achievements, and significant achievements, using increasingly valuable rewards for more significant achievements.  Allow employees to choose a reward within the particular category that they are being recognized and within each level, offer a choice from several reward options.

Smaller goal recognition rewards might include:

  • Restaurant gift cards
  • Theater or entertainment gift cards – these could be for movies, live theater, or entertainment venues like Dave & Busters.
  • Visa gift cards
  • Spa / Massage gift certificates
  • Fitbit / Garmin / Oura / Whoop
  • Personalized coaching sessions – these could be professional coaching, fitness coaching, financial coaching, and similar services.
  • Classes – such as cooking classes, art classes, classes at a local college or community center, and similar offerings.
  • Tickets to a sporting event

Mid-level employee recognition rewards might include some of the following:

  • Gift box subscriptions
  • Health club membership
  • Meal delivery gift cards
  • Pet care / Pet insurance
  • Apple watch
  • Drivable weekend getaway
  • Photoshoot
  • Exercise Equipment / Bicycles / etc.

Larger employee recognition rewards might include the following:

  • Sabbaticals
  • Student Loan Forgiveness
  • Money
  • Long Weekend Getaway
  • Luxury Box rental for a sporting event.
  • Gift certificate for purchases for home goods – these might be at Home Depot, Ace Hardware, or Lowes, or home goods stores such as Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn or others.

Effective employee recognition sends a meaningful message to current employees that they are seen, valued, and appreciated for their work. This will boost morale, assist with retention, and create engagement. A secondary benefit of an effective employee recognition program is that it also sends a message to potential employees that your company is a great place to work and may give you a boost in recruitment.