Recognition: The Holiday Gift Your Employees Will Love

Anna Straus, CEO at Sparck December 16, 2020

What's the gift your employees will love this holiday season? You might be surprised!

Employees want the gift of your genuine interest and care for them, especially during these turbulent times. They want to be heard and be seen. This is a gift that will not only elevate the employee experience but build strong, effective teams in this new remote landscape. There's not a single reward that you can buy that will have the same impact. 

Last month we touched on the first part of this gift - giving employees a voice. We shared a roadmap to help you uncover what’s most important to them by asking for their thoughts and feedback using a confidential engagement survey.  Employees know that they have been heard when you share the results and take action with the engagement survey data. Action is key.

So now that they feel heard, how will they feel seen? The best way to do that is through personalized recognition.  This bundled gift will create a ripple effect of growth and innovation within your workplace.

The Gift of Being Seen

Employees need to be noticed for their unique contributions to feel appreciated in the workplace.  Generic recognition doesn't work.

This is important because one of the top reasons employees leave or become disengaged is because they don’t feel appreciated. In fact, Forbes showed that a whopping 79% of employees that quit cite lack of appreciation.  This is a problem that definitely needs to be addressed. 

Personalized recognition and rewards are powerful drivers of employee engagement and retention. This personal touch boosts employee commitment and performance when it's done right.  

We’re wrapping up the year by sharing two strategies to help you with your holiday "shopping." You can give your organization a gift that keeps on giving! We are going to show you how to create powerful recognition and reward experiences that will leave your employees feeling seen and valued while reaching your business goals. 


Build the Right Recognition Events 

Companies invest large amounts of money into their recognition programs. U.S. employers spend $46B a year on rewards and perks to show their employees they are appreciated, but the stats show they still feel under-appreciated. It's a huge investment with diminishing returns.

To save money and get results, it’s important that recognition initiatives are personalized and align with organizational goals. A well-designed program will help allocate recognition dollars to the right areas to inspire employee behaviors that are needed to hit key metrics and stay competitive during these economic times.  

COVID-19 has forced businesses to make changes quickly. Your recognition program can help with this shift to reengage your employees and accomplish your company goals. In this section, we are only going to focus on the recognition events within your program. Let's get started.

The first step is to identify your top organizational objectives and the employee behaviors you need to accomplish them. For instance, many companies have taken a financial loss since the pandemic hit. Their traditional revenue channels no longer work in this new market. A top priority for these executives is to identify new streams of revenue.  They can build these priorities into their recognition program by motivating their employees to identify lucrative ideas that meet the needs of the current economy. This will not only help the company be more successful, but it will reinvigorate what is likely a tired and frustrated workforce.

Once these areas are identified, use our 6-step process to build it into your program. This will look different for every company. Personalize the recognition event based on your timeline, goals and budget. Using the revenue example above, we'll create a mock recognition event: 

1. Objective: Identify innovative revenue ideas to pivot in the new market.
2. Desired Behavior: Gain fresh ideas for new channels, services, and clients.
3. Recognition: Top ideas are recognized per department based on a company vote.
4. Reward (if applicable):  $100 budget per department.
5. Length of Time: September 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020.
6. Company Metric or Key Performance Indicator (KPI): Company Revenue

This is a great conversation to have with the executive team or department leaders as you identify the key focus areas going into the new year. Once you finalize the 6-step process for each of your recognition events it's time to engage and equip your managers. Your gift has been purchased, now it's time to put a bow on it! 


Equip and Engage Your Managers

Management plays a critical role in the success of your recognition program and how appreciated and seen your employees feel. Did you know nearly half of employees have quit because of a bad manager? As the saying goes, “employees don’t quit their job, they quit their boss.” Managers have the most influence over their teams' performance and commitment to the organization, so when managers are engaged and aligned with your recognition program, their teams will quickly follow suit. 

Once managers understand the objectives of each recognition event, they need to be trained on how to recognize (or "see") their employees. There’s an art to recognition that most have never been taught. Though many know it should be frequent and meaningful, every employee feels appreciated differently. Personalized recognition is a must.  A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work in the modern workplace. 

The Art of Recognition

Personalized recognition includes three specific components. It needs to happen at the Right Time, in the Right Way, with the Right Reward. Every employee feels seen differently, so it's important to uncover what that means for each person. Here's a closer look at each piece of the recognition framework: 

  • The Right Time:  Timing is critical. It needs to happen as close to the event or accomplishment you are recognizing as possible.
  • The Right Way:  The experience is just as important as the reward. Know who and how the recognition should be given for each person. Some may find it meaningful to hear from their manager with a personal note, while someone else may be motivated by public recognition during a staff meeting. The possibilities are endless and will change for each person depending on what they are being recognized for. Find out what makes them tick.
  • The Right Reward:  This should be personalized based on their hobbies, interest and goals. It might be tickets to a game or a company perk like attending a virtual conference to learn new skills. Find out who they are, personally and professionally.  

These three areas are critical. When one of these areas is missed, it can unfortunately backfire despite the monetary value of the reward or a company's best intentions.

Recognition Gone Wrong

Let me share a real-life example. I was talking with the VP of Sales at a Fortune 100 company who was flabbergasted after an experience they had with their top salesperson.

Their top salesperson received a $200K bonus but was forgotten by the CEO during the year-end presentation highlighting all their top achievers around the world. 

  • The Wrong Time:  This person was overlooked during the company-wide meeting.
  • The Wrong Way: They were on the regional leader-board in the office, but what they wanted was to be acknowledged by the CEO in front of all their peers.
  • The Wrong Reward:  The $200K bonus was great but was expected based on performance. The true reward was in the acknowledgement and seeing their name in the slideshow. 

How do you think this employee felt after this experience? Not great.

The bonus was a big expense for the company, yet it was a reward that left the employee feeling invisible. They ended up giving their notice and left for a competitor.

Here's the thing. Recognition goes beyond the perks. It's about uncovering how each person feels seen and appreciated. Top performers will normally be compensated well. That's why this salesperson is one of the 79% of employees that cite lack of appreciation as their reason for leaving. 

Let's spruce up traditional recognition practices, strategically align them with organizational goals, and personalize each experience to bridge this expensive gap.

Personalized Recognition

A recognition framework that combines science and psychology is transformative. The team at Sparck is passionate about sharing it with employers, and we practice it internally. I'm going to pull back the curtain and share a recent experience of bringing personalized recognition to life at Sparck. 

One of our managers, Abigail, worked the entire weekend to reach a critical milestone for us and we knew we needed to "Sparck" her. (We've coined this term as a verb for the recognition framework!

  • The Right Time: We celebrated her on Monday in our Slack channel after coming off of a long weekend to show how much we appreciated her time and dedication in making this project a success.  Tuesday would have been too late.
  • The Right Way: As the CEO, I knew it would be meaningful to reach out. I texted Abigail on Wednesday knowing the kids were away and she had time alone with her partner who was missing her after all those long hours. I showered her with appreciation and told her there was a surprise on her doorstep for the two of them to enjoy.
  • The Right Reward: We had DoorDash deliver treats from their favorite wine bar and gifted some PTO for an early happy hour to celebrate her achievements and spend some well-deserved quality time together. 

Do you think Abigail felt appreciated? She definitely did.

Genuine personalized recognition shows employees they are seen for who they are and their unique contributions. Remember everyone is managing a different version of this “new normal."  What may mean a lot to one person could mean nothing to another. Ask questions, listen, and bring these personalized recognition moments to life in your workplace. This is a gift the entire organization will enjoy.


Do you know what your employees really want? We do!

Find out today with our FREE statistically valid #BeHeard Engagement Survey. Click below to see how engaged and equipped your employees are today.

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