Business is constantly evolving. Sometimes that evolution is gradual and at other times it is faster than we can wrap our heads around. The pandemic catapulted many businesses into a new era; it created new challenges and new opportunities. Some companies took the opportunity to reduce rent overhead and embrace a new hybrid or even fully remote workforce.
This “relocation” of people meant we lost the face-to-face, water cooler connection with both peers and leaders. As a result, we desperately needed to rethink how to recognize and reward employees. The last thing you want are shrugs and eye rolls when you hand over (or ship) that crystal paperweight.
Having to master the art of employee recognition, motivation, engagement, and ultimately retention is nothing new. We know that relating to your employees goes a long way in maintaining harmony and increasing productivity. Once you understand people, you can more successfully motivate them and improve the overall climate of their work environment, even at home. Being able to tap into the intrinsic motivators of your staff can be your greatest secret weapon as a manager.
In order to hire and keep the best, organizations offer different things to entice and continually engage their people. Benefits are often government-mandated; they are considered non-wage compensation, like health insurance and PTO. Incentives are used to entice action and results out of employees, like bonuses and sales contests. Rewards are used to show appreciation to an employee for doing great work, accomplishing a major goal or going out of their way to benefit the organization. In this blog, we’re talking about incentives and rewards.
Not too long ago, awards were standardized versus personal. An employee might get a coffee mug with the company’s logo from the swag closet whether or not they even drink coffee. Or, the dreaded paperweight… because papers blowing away in the wind is a big problem? We all want to be treated as individuals and to feel some form of personalization especially when we do something extraordinary. That’s not to say employees don’t like company swag, just that the key is to keep recognition strategies fresh and varied. Keep it surprising.
Let’s talk about some more contemporary ways to show appreciation to those who go above and beyond. First, think about the person and their role. For example, your support staff and customer service reps are naturally helpful and team-oriented. They can be outgoing or reserved, but their one commonality is likely their strong desire to be seen by upper management as effective, efficient contributors to their company's goals. Your sales staff are naturally assertive and focused on individual achievement. They can also be outgoing or reserved, but they all want to set themselves apart and work towards a win.
Of course, there are some motivators that appeal to everyone. Who doesn't want extra paid time off? You might consider offering a long weekend or an abbreviated workday to a top performer. However, an incentive like this might soon be seen as an entitlement. A half day off on Friday when they are going above and beyond could change to something that employees come to expect. Look for other ways to motivate that are more individualized and still much appreciated.
Consider motivators from any or all of these sources:
Rewards. Different people respond to different rewards. Most often, a person's dominant traits steer them toward one incentive or another. For example, independently-minded workers like leeway to make their own decisions or come and go as they please. They see freedom as a desirable reward for a stellar performance.
Risk takers may like the opportunity to earn commissions or bonuses tied to beating out others; they're competitive, assertive, and win-driven. They're often your future leaders. They might seem aggressive to less assertive peers, but they have a sense of determination, drive, and purpose that is impossible to ignore.
Conversely, your passive personalities may find performance-based pay more intimidating than motivating.
Gamify. If your staff is composed mainly of extroverted, bubbly individuals, they'll probably respond well to team games and fun social activities. These people want to enjoy their work! Gamify your service activities; team members can earn badges for achieving various service levels. Along with bragging rights, they can earn both individual and team awards for achieving new badges. Such as:
Organized games or events backed by the company can appeal to gregarious individuals. They enjoy working in exciting, upbeat environments and will appreciate a manager who finds ways to instill a sense of team in a social, light-hearted way. If your team is fully remote, consider Zoom happy hours or an afternoon “coffee break” where the team is encouraged to talk about anything except work.
Acknowledgment and appreciation. Everyone wants to be acknowledged and appreciated for their achievements, but only those who like being the center of attention will have any desire to be recognized in a public forum. Introverted employees might feel uncomfortable in large group settings, especially if they are—or might possibly be—the focus of attention. You'll notice these people sitting quietly at meetings, trying to avoid making eye contact with anyone who might call them out. Because they shun the limelight, these individuals need more subdued forms of acknowledgment to stay motivated.
Challenge. Some individuals are self-motivated and simply like to challenge themselves. These are people who enjoy learning new skills, looking for new opportunities, and climbing the next mountain. They are goal-oriented, like to stretch their limits, and explore previously untapped potential. It can be more difficult to motivate them, but here are a couple of suggestions:
When trying to determine the best ways to recognize your employees, it helps to know their personalities, interests and current life events so you can use that information to personalize recognition rewards.
Here are 8 modern ways to say thank you for a job well done while factoring in the individual:
There's more to it, of course. One of your goals as a manager is assembling a team that scores wins and brings about the desired results. Remember, though, that while there are distinct ways to increase a person's motivation, someone who is totally wrong for a job or totally wrong for an environment may never be happy enough to produce at the level you want. The desire to perform well starts from within.
It’s the year of the “greats” … the great resignation, the great reset, the great reshuffle, the great reprioritization, the great share, the great mental breakdown. I may have made that last one up. Change is constant, and sometimes it happens faster than we anticipate. Now more than ever, it feels hard to keep up.
The good news: we have so much information readily available to stay up to date with the latest data, trends, and advice. The bad news: we have so much information available. Does anyone else experience content overload? Between Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Hulu, Sling, and countless others, it’s impossible to watch everything that might catch our fancy. I can’t read everything I want, or I’d never get anything else done. And then there’s the Internet. It’s great to quickly watch a video showing me how to properly clean my coffee maker rather than frantically searching the house for the user’s manual that I surely threw away almost immediately.
Plus, there is so much expert advice at our fingertips, literally, though it’s frustrating when one expert says one thing while another says the opposite. Content overload.
There’s so much to process, especially at the workplace. Our workplaces have been shifting for years in a myriad of ways. For example, offices have been shifting from traditional cubical office environments to open concept environments, coworking spaces, and remote or even remote hybrid setups. It might have seemed gradual to some offices, especially if your office had already embraced remote work. But Covid accelerated everything. A 2022 survey by Statista showed that 7% of workers were remote for over 10 years, 14% were remote for under 10 years, 21% under 5 years, and a big leap to 56% under one year.
Overnight, offices that weren’t even considering remote work became remote. In the blink of an eye, businesses had to pivot. And those workplaces were unprepared for the change. The rapid workplace shift meant an immediate focus needed to be on the operational and technological logistics of moving to remote. But we also needed to shift the way we motivate, engage, and retain people. And it likely didn’t get much attention, at least not at first. Now that workplaces are settling into their new remote or hybrid environments, they are realizing they might not be doing the right things anymore. But what are the right things?
When I think of the great reset and reprioritization, I think about what we need to do today to effectively engage and motivate employees across a variety of virtual and in-office workplaces. And the best place to start is determining what matters to employees in 2022, along with what old-school thinking is keeping us from meeting those needs.
Before listing out what the experts are saying based on their surveys, I suggest conducting your own employee survey. Since every office is a little different, with different industries, and a different mix of generations, schedules, and work environments, it’s a good idea to make sure you know what is resonating with your team so you can come up with ways to meet those needs. That said, data does show the following as meaningful to today’s workforce.
Covid taught us a lot of things and one of them was to embrace life because a lot can go sideways in an instant. Employees want flexibility so they can more easily balance their home and work lives. Flexibility can mean different things based on your organization’s industry, structures, and work processes, so get creative. And don’t forget to ask what flexibility means to your team so you can start thinking of ways to achieve it without negatively impacting business. This can be one or two questions on your own survey.
We all want to feel valued for what we contribute. Recognition is one of the best ways to let people know that you see who they are and what they do for the team and for the company. No matter the environment, people want to hear from their direct supervisors and from their teammates.
Depending on your office structure, you might consider an employee recognition platform. We use our Microsoft Teams app with a program that we call Cheer from Peers. We have a Cheers from Peers team where people can send “ribbons” to teammates with a note on what earned the ribbon. Everyone sees the ribbon and note and can comment or send congratulations. We also count the number of Cheers from Peers and give a quarterly prize to the employee who gets the most which we announce at our virtual quarterly meeting. We also try to have one in-person meeting a year, something that blends business with fun.
Make sure they have what they need at the beginning and throughout their tenure. There’s nothing worse than not having the equipment, applications, and resources you need to do your job. Have a checklist of equipment and access to learning resources to be sure you aren’t forgetting anything. You can use this for new and tenured employees. Check-in during performance reviews to see if they have what they need.
I struggled with some of my new hire training activities after we went remote. I used to do all the training face-to-face, and it involved quite a bit of drawing on a whiteboard. During covid, all training was virtual, so I tried using whiteboard applications, but since I didn’t have a touch screen computer, it was a mess trying to use the mouse. Everything looked like it was being drawn by a three-year-old. I didn’t know, until talking to IT, that there are inexpensive drawing tablets that I could easily connect to my laptop. For like $40, my life got way easier and less embarrassing.
It’s certainly important to make sure we tick off the checklist of logistical requirements like HR forms and technology needs (equipment, passwords, etc.), but onboarding is your chance to build rapport, start building trust, introduce the organization’s core values and really demonstrate your culture (which they should have gotten a glimpse of throughout the hiring process). Onsite, this is a bit easier, but virtual requires more planning and effort because there isn’t anything to see, like walking down the halls and meeting up with coworkers in the kitchen or stopping at someone’s door for a chat. Assigning a mentor or even an informal culture buddy is a great way to establish connections.
Communication is a must. Poor communication and lack of communication tend to be the source of most major problems (personally and professionally). Don’t let online platforms take over for basic conversation. Build a process that effectively uses technology without completely removing personal connections. “Camera on” should be required in some meetings and encourage a little social time at the beginning of meetings to sustain rapport. If something is going to require back and forth emails or pinging, then encourage people to call one another. We use Teams for calling, both with and without the camera depending on the situation and person.
Understanding personality type can help build an effective roadmap for all of the tips above. For example, I have a few highly social teammates (tall column 3 on the Omnia Assessment). I know they like to call for even little things, camera engaged, as it helps feed their need for personal connection. Some other coworkers, the analytics (tall column 4s), prefer to ping or send an email with camera-off calls only when necessary. As a leader, when you know what motivates someone intrinsically, you can provide it without thinking.
Here are some bonus tips on personalities in your office.
Column 1 (assertive) – Like to take command and compete.
Column 2 (supportive) – Like to help and avoid conflict.
Column 3 (social) – Need personal connections.
Column 4 (analytical) – Need straightforward, specific communication.
Column 5 (fast-paced) – Motivated by variety and a sense of rapid progress.
Column 6 (methodical) - Motivated by predictability, prefer to finish one thing at a time.
Column 7 (independent) – Want to be involved in decisions and self-manage, don’t want to get bogged down by details.
Column 8 (structured) – Want clear guidelines or procedures, want to know the details.
Next, let’s make it the year of the great leader!
This month we've focused strategically on employee recognition and appreciation. We've explored why personal insights and personalization is important in:
Now it's time to examine the "how." How do you show employee appreciation in the most beneficial ways? Is it difficult? Is it worth the effort?
Before we dive into the “how” let's acknowledge the “why”.
A recent survey discovered that 55% of respondents said they were planning to switch jobs. Why? Their number 1 reason was lack of recognition. Another survey, this one by Recognition Source, shows 69% of employees reporting they would work harder if they were better recognized.
People want to be treated like they matter. We can see employee recognition is strongly linked to job performance, retention rates, and turnover. With the excessive costs associated with replacing a seasoned, trained employee, a little recognition and engagement can go a long way.
So, let’s break down how to do this. First, it helps to know your team. Our behavioral assessment is an ideal way to uncover personality traits, strengths, and challenge areas that could take years to identify. With a variety of reports to fit any need, including building an employee recognition strategy, you’ll be ahead of the curve in no time.
Now you know why employee appreciation is important for retention and productivity and how it affects your company culture and bottom line. Adding personalization through behavioral assessments, team surveys, or even town halls, you can make sure your team is engaged, valued, and recognized for the work they do.
Remember, everyone appreciates praise, but not everyone appreciates it in the same ways. Understanding and implementing recognition in personalized ways will have positive effects.
Imagine. It’s Valentine’s Day. Cooking isn’t necessarily your strong suit. But, in the interest of romance, you decide to cook your significant other a beautiful gourmet dinner. You do your research, pull recipes from various sources, and nearly lose your nerve more than once given the amount of steps, potential for error, and mountain of dishes this endeavor will require. You hate dishes, ‘cause who doesn’t? Still, you just know your valentine will be blown away by your effort alone, and if it turns out wonderfully, that’s icing on the cake. You even bake the cake. This is a Valentine’s Day gift that will go down in history; you’ll be lauded at parties (when we get to go to parties again) and praised for weeks, maybe months, to come, which is just how you like it.
The day arrives. You made a giant mess, felt extremely frustrated more than once, burned at least one thing that you may need to throw away, and couldn’t figure out what “fold in the cheese” means. Still, the dinner turns out better than you ever could have imagined. Everything is mostly delicious. Your valentine looked impressed upon sitting at your impeccably set table, gave a few “yums” throughout the meal, and said, rather blandly in your now gourmet opinion, “That was great.”
No exclamation of “WOW, you did this all for me? I know cooking isn’t your thing, I’m so incredibly impressed, I can’t wait to tell everyone how thoughtful this was!” No thank you, no giant hug, no exclamations of pure delight with every new bite. Sure, you know your valentine is great and tends to be a bit reserved with praise. But still, it stings. Not only did you work hard, you worked hard outside of your comfort zone. And frankly, you love exuberant praise, preferably in front of other people. You know, so they can praise you too!
The fact is, people need recognition, personally and professionally. We need it to feel energized and engaged at work. An engaged, energized workforce means higher productivity, better employee and customer satisfaction and ultimately higher profits. It’s a win-win. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, think about showing the love to your employees, if you don’t already.
Why? Gallup’s State of the American Workforce report says that 51% of employees are not engaged and that one of the best ways to engage employees is to recognize them for their work. The report also states that only 3 in 10 workers “strongly agree that in the last seven days they have received recognition or praise for doing good work.” Ouch.
The data shows that people who feel recognized are more energized. It’s counterproductive to think that employee recognition is unnecessary. We could ask ourselves, “What happened to doing a good job because you are getting paid?” or we could ask ourselves how to get an even better job from everyone by understanding the nuances of individual needs. It’s why managers who understand how each person on their team ticks get better results, more loyalty and less turnover. For example, when you know one person loves verbal recognition, while another prefers a private pat on the back, you can manage and motivate to those preferences. Each employee values you as a leader because you worked with their preferences rather than leading one way.
Effective managers know that they can’t lead in a “one size fits all”, “my way or the highway” way. That’s a lot of ways to get nowhere. Instead, use the Omnia Assessment to navigate the personal preferences and nuances of your team. When your strongly social salesperson tops the leaderboard for sales, you know a public celebration is just the ticket, preferably with the chance for her to give a speech. On the other hand, your reserved bookkeeper might cringe at the thought of giving a speech but does want the team to know how his accomplishments moved the team forward. Think about a shout-out in the company newsletter, along with a personal, private word of thanks from you.
Personalization is key. Not only in how you provide the recognition based on personality type but also in the messaging. Competitive people like knowing how they rank, analytical people want the facts, big-picture types prefer broad strokes, while meticulous planners want to hear all the details.
Recognition should be meaningful to the individual. You could even recognize people for achieving personal goals, like finishing a marathon or learning a new language. Encourage peer-to-peer recognition as well to create a culture of appreciation.
Of course, it’s easy to forget in the hustle and bustle of work and home life to look for opportunities to recognize individual achievement. As managers, we get preoccupied like anyone else. The best thing you can do is make it a job task and a regular habit, just like completing a required monthly report or turning in your expenses. Set reminders, put it on your calendar, or use whatever works best for you to develop that habit. Remember, when you go the extra mile for employees, they will go the extra mile for you.
Also, if your valentine makes you a gourmet dinner, recognize the effort… gush, rave, give a toast.