Rewards and recognitions: Key to employee retention
Tucked away in old files in my garage are a dozen or so handwritten notes from one of my first bosses. They are nearly 30 years old, but I still have them. Why?
The late Jack Paxton, my editor at The Paducah Sun in those days, knew how to motivate. If he liked the way you put together a story or knew how hard you worked on it, he simply scribbled five to 10 words in “atta boy” fashion on a note card and left it on your desk.
What a prized possession!
No doubt, at the time I would have loved a bonus instead; but I wouldn’t still have it. I do still have the notes, however, because they represent a caring boss who paid attention to his employees and the quality of their work.
From gold stars on our earliest school papers to corporate bonuses and plaques, we thrive on recognition.
Some of us prefer verbal or written commendation. Others just want cash.
Find best way to motivate
Either way, in today’s economy of scarce raises and bonuses, companies are looking for ways to retain their best employees, especially young Gen-Y’ers or Millennials who grew up accustomed to heaps of parental praise and now expect frequent affirmation.
In addition to retention, the proper rewards can lead to improved performance and productivity.
The problem is figuring out exactly what an employee rewards and recognition program should accomplish and how to apply it to different employees with different wants.
Maritz Motivation released results in Workforce Management (September 2008), showing six different employee types, preferring six different kinds of recognition:
22 percent Award Seekers like rewards with monetary and trophy value.
20 percent Nesters don’t want to be away from home, so they prefer days off or flexible scheduling.
19 percent Bottom Liners prefer cash or points that accumulate for rewards.
17 percent Freedom Yearners want flexibility in their schedule and in choosing their reward.
16 percent Praise Cravers value praise and acknowledgement, formal and informal.
8 percent Upward Movers are less interested in rewards and more interested in moving up in the company.
Some companies sponsor an annual employee appreciation event, like a picnic or holiday party. That’s a nice gesture that treats everyone the same and fosters camaraderie.
However, to motivate individuals, a more personalized approach – like the handwritten note or taking them to lunch – is effective, especially when you find ways to show them that you value them throughout the year and not just on a “special’ occasion.
Tie recognition to company goals
To achieve the desired results, rewards should be aligned with your company’s organizational strategies. For example, if you are trying to cut costs, recognize employees who come up with the best ideas to save money.
Stacey Young, customer service director at Baptist Health Paducah, recently proposed new recognition for hospital staff – awards in four categories important to the hospital: service quality, safety, stewardship and community service.
“We believe that these four areas are key to our continued success,” Young said. “By highlighting an exceptional employee in each area, we set a very high standard and look to other employees to step up.”
Winners are nominated by their peers and recognized with The President’s Award of Excellence from CEO Larry Barton at the annual employee banquet.
“In high-performing organizations, you will always find a few individuals who really knock it out of the park,” Young said. “The President’s Award of Excellence establishes a mechanism to recognize those truly incredible employees and simply say, ‘Wow, you are awesome, thank you.’ ”
Valued employees make great companies
What separates great companies from good companies is the value placed on people. Great companies develop avenues for recognition, she said.
“Our President’s Award for Excellence comes from the bottom up,” Young said. “Co-workers have such rich, institutional knowledge and stories that are just waiting to be shared. Because this award is based on peer nominations, the hospital has a way to capture the greatness of its people and honor the best of the best.”
People naturally want to feel valued and respected.
“At Baptist Health Paducah, we believe that it doesn’t cost much to recognize and thank great performers,” she said, “but the benefits for the hospital, our physicians and our patients are priceless.”
It’s important also to remember that your best employees – the very ones you want to retain – may be just as interested in opportunity as rewards. If you choose them to serve on a special committee, receive additional training or represent your company at a civic event, they may feel that is the best recognition.
When you put your confidence in them and single them out for their talent, there is no better reward. And they just may remember it 30 years later.
Dona Rains is marketing director at Baptist Health Paducah. She previously served as the public relations coordinator at Paducah Public Schools and a writer and editor at The Paducah Sun.