Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Employee recognition ideas on the cheap, it’s easier than you think

Actually, the best employee recognition ideas don’t have to cost anything at all. Forget about big bonuses and expensive gifts, all you have to do is say “thank you” ... and say it often.

According to Bob Nelson, the “guru of thank you” and author of the bestselling 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, organizations must do more to thank employees and show their appreciation often.

“The number one reason people leave their jobs today is that they don’t feel recognized for the job they’re doing,” Bob said in an interview about a year ago with The Power of Goodwill.

Bob, who has worked with such companies as FedEx, Time Warner and IBM, believes that paychecks alone don’t make people happy.

“Peter Drucker, who’s the father of modern management, once said that money is always used initially to reward performance, but in no time at all it becomes an expectation and eventually it becomes an entitlement. People expect to get a raise just for sticking around another year. And in the typical organization, only three per cent of the base pay separates average from outstanding performers; there’s no alignment of compensation around performance. But not everyone gets recognition, and that’s partly why it means so much.”

“You get what you reward,” says Janet Smith from The Power of Goodwill. She expands on the basic management principal, explaining that if you want more outstanding work from an employee “say thank you the very next time that employee performs an iota of outstanding work.”

Do whatever feels right the next time you want to recognize employees and demonstrate appreciation, Janet said. It can be as simple as writing the employee a note, taking them to lunch or acknowledging their work in a staff meeting.

Even when times are tough, employee recognition does not have to suffer along with your budget. According to Bob, it’s usually the times when we need to recognize employees the most is when we tend to do it the least.

With a few modifications, employees will still appreciate signs of recognition, no matter how small the package. There are special considerations to delivering recognition when budgets are strapped and economic situations are tough, Bob said in an article from Harvard Management Update. He offered this example:

“Say you give a team award that used to come with $250 but because you can't afford the $250, you stop giving the team award anymore. I say still give the team award. Say something like, "We've had to drop the financial aspect to hunker down, but it doesn't diminish the value of the job that this team did, especially at this time." When we are up against it, just a word of support, a team lunch, a "hang in there," can go a very long way.”

There are countless ways to show employees you appreciate and value their work. If you need more ideas take a look at an older post on the topic, or check out Bob’s 1001 Ways to Reward Employees.

However you choose to do it, remember to thank your employees and thank them often.

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