5 methods for amping up employee recognition

Tailoring rewards and accolades to individual personalities and to your overall culture creates a lasting bond between your staff and your organization. Try these approaches.

When you think of NBCUniversal employees, what comes to mind?

Most people tend to think of the people in front of the camera.

Jayzen Patria, executive director of talent development for NBCUniversal, sought to change that image with the creation of the Talent Lab, a program that recognizes all employees and seeks to bring them together to learn and grow as a team.

Unfortunately, this kind of innovation is absent from traditional employee recognition programs. As a result, only one in three workers in the U.S. strongly agreed they had received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days, according to a 2016 Gallup survey. Another Gallup survey tells us that only half of all employees are satisfied with the recognition they receive at work.

Here are five innovative ways that communicators and HR professionals can better manage and promote an employee recognition program:

1. Write it down.

Bobby Augst, co-founder of Cloud 9 Living, keeps a written record of employee accomplishments, big and small. Dubbed the “G Book,” or book of “Good Stuff,” employees are encouraged to write down their team members’ accomplishments throughout the week. During weekly companywide meetings, those entries are shared aloud.

Employee recognition should come from all directions, ranging from co-workers to top managers. The more people involved in the process, the less likely it is that individual accomplishments will be overlooked.

We encourage our entire team to openly share the achievements of their peers. As a result, 3.2 percent of our employees receive a uniquely written online recognition every day, and over a month’s time, 98.2 percent were recognized at least once.

One way to get the entire organization involved in the recognition process is to have employees nominate one stand-out employee each month. The person with the most peer nominations can be recognized during the next monthly meeting, awarded with a day off or a monetary bonus-the options are endless. The true prize is having your colleagues applaud and nominate you for your hard work.

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2. Spark passions.

Los Angeles-based creative company Omelet recognizes employees by acknowledging their passions. The company rewards top performers with time off to pursue a project they’re passionate about, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be related to their day-to-day job.

Under what it calls the 60/60 program, Omelet employees are granted two hours per week to work on a side project, hobby or other interest. Big-name companies such as Google are doing the same; the tech giant calls it “20 percent time.”

Although allowing employees to spend 20 percent of their time at work on side projects might not work for every organization, adopting a policy similar to Omelet’s is a great way to reward staffers. To make it more reasonable, start by reserving one day a month for employee side projects, hobbies or other non-work-related interests.

3. Revamp performance discussions.

Wunderman offers what’s called “You Time”-its take on performance reviews-to help employees engage in career development conversations outside the office.

These reviews focus on employee success, from career and life goals to individual accomplishments. Best of all, these discussions take place outside of stuffy meeting rooms and in fun, one-on-one environments.

Instead of mixing praise with constructive advice, consider discussions that concern solely what an employee does exceptionally well. Better yet, take it outside the office so it feels less like a performance review and more like a reward.

4. Put people front and center.

Denver-based Groundfloor Media publicly recognizes its employees by sharing employee success stories on its website. Shining the spotlight on top performers in this way not only motivates team members, but also shows potential customers just what your team can do.

Another great way to put your people front and center is to highlight employee achievements on your company blog and social media profiles. An entire blog post dedicated to one employee’s accomplishments is a great way to publicly say “thank you.”

5. Offer the right rewards.

Employees at New Belgium Brewing are awarded with a paid trip to Belgium after reaching five years with the company. This was inspired by founder Jeff Lebesch’s bike ride through Belgium, which led to the creation of New Belgium Brewing.

That’s an example of how to tailor incentives to your team and culture. To make employee recognition meaningful, try creating incentives that align with your organization’s story, mission and values. For example, if your organization values social responsibility, reward top performers with a day spent volunteering for a cause of their choice.

Whatever the case, tying rewards to your company’s overall goals and values is a great way to recognize employees while supporting your company.

In the end, employee recognition must be meaningful to inspire motivate employees. Whether that meaning is tied to your company story or your employees’ interests is up to you.

Jon Harris is the president of LifeWorks. Connect with him and the LifeWorks team on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. A version of this article originally appeared on TLNT.

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