A Reward and Recognition program sounds like a simple concept: engaged employees perform more brilliantly and produce greater results than not engaged employees. Take the logic one step further, and you could say that the result of having engaged employees is a greater business success.

If you understand this, you need to answer a bigger question: 'Is your rewards and recognition program old school or new school?'. Here are some rewards and recognition best practices that one must follow for a start.

In this article, we take a deeper look at some rewards and recognition programs' best practices that one must follow, how to implement an employee recognition program, types of employee recognition, and some employee reward ideas that make a difference to the organization.

9 Rewards and recognition programs best practices you must implement

In the past, companies rewarded the use of their employees' hands. Employers also need to win their employees' heads and hearts in today's knowledge-based economy.

Precisely, modern recognition strategies are more result-oriented. Based on industry best practices for rewards and recognition that include radical new ways to appreciate the greatness of employees, we've created nine ways to breathe life into any R&R program.

Dive in and learn how to reimagine rewards and recognition programs to assist continuous performance management.

1. "In the moment" recognition

As we discussed in our previous blog, one of the most common mistakes that leaders have been making is waiting for an annual review to reward their employees. As opposed to waiting for a yearly review, new R&R technology allows you to recognize and reward behaviors as they happen, which is more effective in positively impacting employees.

The immediacy of recognition reinforces the connection between praise and the positive behaviors and activities you want to see repeated at your workplace.

2. Integration with performance management

If you are one of those companies which have tailored its R&R programs to recognize years of service or special achievements, then probably it's time you need to restructure it. Today, recognition strategies are also used to increase the effectiveness of performance conversations and feed into a continuous performance management process.

3. Choice of rewards

Will employees be able to choose their rewards? It is a better experience if they can. The more choice, the better. Although the old style of recognition awards may be a relic, there are some ways you can modernize your employee recognition program and make it more effective and personalized.

If you want to follow rewards and recognition program best practices, then make sure your Rewards and recognition vendor offers a variety of options when it comes to rewarding choices, so employees can choose rewards that are individualized to them.

3. Not just for large companies

Whether your company has 50 employees or 5,000, people are always an organization's most important asset. Implementing the centralized R&R program as a key component of the total compensation and rewards package has become necessary. Employee recognition has proven to contribute to a positive workplace and organizational success.

4. Reinforcing a culture

Often employees and teams are distributed across different locations. Suppose you want your program to have longevity. In that case, your centralized, values-based R&R program must be built into your corporate culture rhythm, where everyone is working towards a shared goal while keeping up with the industry best practices for rewards and recognition.

5. Make recognition public and social

One-to-one recognition is robust on its own, but it is even more effective when it can be seen by others or shared via employees' networks. Public recognition reinforces teamwork and encourages the positive behaviors you are trying to drive organization-wide.

Encourage recognition sharing, both electronically and at company meetings, to build a culture of recognition. Younger employees are taking over the workforce, and social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are how this new generation of workers communicates.

By allowing employees to share recognition with their networks, you will not only make recognition more meaningful to them, but you will also be able to leverage their social networks to promote your employer brand online or support recruitment efforts.

6. Measure, review, and improve

Since we already know that modernized R&R strategies are result-oriented, ensure that whatever your programs look like, you can easily record the activities to make decisions on how to improve the program using data, not desire. Define the metrics you want to change based on your corporate goals - and monitor them. Also, ensure managers have access to reporting to see an employee recognized for overtime.

7. Peer recognition rules

One of the rewards and recognition programs' best practices is a peer component that allows employees to recognize one another. Peer to Peer Recognition breaks down the notion of top-down recognition from managers and fosters a sense of camaraderie, teamwork, and working together toward common goals.

8. Keep your program alive

Launching a program with a big bang is great as it gets people excited about the program. However, keeping the program going and sustaining momentum takes care and ongoing effort.

Choose a unique look, feel, and name for your reward and recognition program that reflects your corporate brand and culture. Build rhythm around communicating the top employees recognized and those who recognize others most often. Don't let it die! For more information about rewards and recognition, schedule a free demo of Empuls now!

Types of employee recognition

While there are many factors to the success of your business, your employees are certainly among the main ones. When your employees are fully engaged in the workplace and are satisfied, they bring positive vibes to the workplace and ultimately improve the company's bottom line.

When your employees couldn't care less about the company, not only will they be of no benefit to the company, but they might be a hindrance. They bring negative energy to the workplace and drain the other employees' positive energy. So, how do you get your employees to be more engaged in the workplace and more satisfied with what they are doing?

A great solution to this is employee recognition. When employees get their work noticed or feel appreciated for their contribution to the company, they are more likely to put in more effort. They are also more likely to be both engaged and satisfied.

Employee recognition, however, cannot be narrowed down to one activity. There are many ways that recognition could be done for your employees. This article will explore 7 of the most potent and effective employee recognition methods.

1. Collective recognition – Rewarding high-achieving departments

The first step is to recognize the best-performing teams in the office. There will always be some form of teamwork in the office on some tasks. With such studies, it is much better to recognize the whole team than to recognize a single employee since everyone will want to receive recognition for the work they have done to contribute to the team's success.

You can reward the best performing team by giving them goodies, such as free movie tickets, shopping vouchers, or taking them out to lunch with upper management or something of the sort. The idea is to give them some collective reward that makes them feel good and ensures they continue to bond with each other outside of work. It will encourage them to work together more in the future.

2. Democratic recognition – Asking employees to vote for the employee of the month

While employees generally want some recognition for their work, that recognition will have a special meaning when it comes to their colleagues.

Instead of simply choosing an employee of the month, which can easily be misconstrued for favoritism, ask the employees and management themselves to pick the month's employee and give their reasons for picking the employee.

According to Betterworks, almost two-thirds of managers wish they had a better way to collect feedback from their team and peers. On the one hand, the employee will feel good that their peers recognize their efforts and think they deserve to be an employee of the month.

On the other hand, when voters give their reasons for picking a particular employee for the award, other employees can take it as a learning opportunity to find out what it takes to be a high-achieving employee.

Your employees will likely be doing a lot more with their lives than just work. They may have bought a new house, got their first child, made a blood donation, completed a marathon, and so on.

When you recognize them for these achievements outside of the workplace, it means a lot to your employees. Sometimes, all it takes is a "congratulations" from upper management. The mere acknowledgment of their superiors for their efforts in their personal lives will make them feel appreciated as more than a mere employee at the office.

4. Structured recognition – Employee appreciation programs

You can take employee recognition seriously by starting a structured employee appreciation program. It can be points-based, for example, and focus on the positive qualities that employees bring to the workplace.

These can include punctuality, finishing work ahead of schedule, exceeding targets, and so on. It could be a little competition among the employees to try and rack up as many points as possible. These points can then be aggregated at the end of a collection period, such as a month, and be redeemed by employees for various benefits.

They might include leaving a little earlier than usual, gift vouchers, an extra day of leave, and so on. When such long-term employee programs exist, they help keep employees constantly motivated as there are incentives for them to do so.

5. Celebratory recognition – Have a celebration calendar for employees

Employees will have major milestones, such as anniversaries and birthdays. It would mean a lot to them if management celebrated their milestones along with them. You can organize surprise parties or a simple birthday cake for the office to enjoy, a gift voucher, and so on. You can even get a birthday card and get every one of the employee's colleagues to write a little note on it.

7. Milestone recognition - Recognise professional development milestones of the employee

Your employees will have some ambitions and set goals for their professional development, and it would mean a lot to them if their organization showed interest in that. There are different ways this could be done.

The first way is to reimburse a portion or the total cost of their professional development courses. Even if you don't have the budget for reimbursement, a structured mechanism of providing a knowledge base of development opportunities could be beneficial for them.

This could include sending periodic career development newsletters or simply forwarding useful emails, and links on courses that might interest them and that might help to fast-track their development.

This kind of interest shows that the management wants to genuinely help employees make it further along their professional development path, and they will appreciate it. You can even offer them short courses and internal training sessions to kickstart their interest in development.

Yet another way that you can show interest in employees' professional development is to start recruiting in-house. If there is a new position that requires specific skills, begin by advertising it to your employees. If any of them have the required skills, they can apply for the job and get a promotion. This will encourage employees to upgrade their skills for a chance at promotion constantly.

8. Personal recognition - Thank your employees personally

Employees tend to assume the worst when summoned to the management's office. However, you can turn those assumptions on their heads by calling an exceptional employee now and then to tell them how great they've been doing and that your company is grateful for having them around.

Such chats will leave them feeling appreciated and motivate them to work even harder in the future. There are many ways to show recognition to your employees without necessarily spending a lot of money as management.

A simple "Thank you" now and then can go a long way in giving your employees the motivation they need to do their best for the company constantly.

Benefits of employee rewards and recognition

Before we get into how you can improve your employee reward systems, it's worth noting why adding such a system can be beneficial.

Employees whose work is rewarded on a productivity basis will likely perform much better both individually and in a group environment going forward. With that said, an employee reward system's benefits include but are not limited to:

1. Higher employee retention

‍Employee retention is a significant issue in today's modern, high-speed society. Employees often change companies based on their residence, family status, professional development, and other factors.

Adequate employee rewards that cover those needs will allow you to retain high-quality talent in your company for extended periods, thus improving your employee retention rates across the board.

2. Improved internal culture

‍Employee relations play a big part in a company's overall development and growth. Reward systems that objectively praise productive and successful employees without selection or discrimination can genuinely transform your office space.

Satisfied employees will spread positive word of mouth about your management standards and attract more stakeholders to your door through sheer positivity and satisfaction with their employment.

3. Leadership nurturing

‍Lastly, every company should look for opportunities to groom employees for leadership roles in management and specialize in certain roles and departments.

Employee reward systems can introduce a spirit of growth and competition among your staff members, ensuring that they become more goal-oriented and develop professionally.

This will create a leadership pool for your HR department to choose from regarding promotions and cross-department transfers depending on individual employees' wishes and competencies.

Making a difference with employee rewards and recognition program

No matter the scale, the size, or the niche your business operates in, chances are that your employees are a big part of why it is as successful as it is. This is why employees should always be rewarded for their efforts and commitment in one way or another.

According to studies, 65% of employees prefer non-cash reward incentives, with 47% expressing that they want to be rewarded spontaneously and with little to no fanfare. However, only 14% of organizations provide their upper management with reward systems and tracking tools, with only 37% admitting that they consider all employees in terms of rewardability.

The matter is that it is not always about the yearly income or bonuses – rewards can take many shapes and sizes. With that in mind, let's take a look at several great ideas for employee rewards that can make a big difference for your internal culture and overall productivity.

1. Weekly employee highlights

One of the easiest ways to introduce employee rewards to your office space is implementing employee highlights. These can be done on a weekly, biweekly, monthly, or quarterly basis, depending on the scale of your business and the number of employees on the roster. Make sure to highlight more than one employee in each reward cycle, emphasizing different product categories.

For example, Mark can get a "Best Overall Performance" reward while Karen can also get the "Best Customer Support Agent" reward at the same time. The clothing retailer Zappos is an excellent example of how you can introduce monthly employee reward cycles to your office space.

Create a list of 3 to 5 reward titles unique to your business and let your managers track the employees' progress throughout the cycle. Pool your results and post employee rewards for the entire company to see on your website, entrance hall, or other predominant spaces.

2. Unexpected leave of absence

Everyone likes days off and leaves of absence, especially if no catches are involved. This can be used as an excellent baseline for your employee reward system in terms of high RoI on what you spend on it.

For example, Ultimate Software is a company that treats its employees to vacation time and full-fledged travel every two or so years, depending on their performance. This is done unexpectedly, without announcing anything weeks in advance for employees to chew on.

Instead, these rewards can come suddenly every time an employee shows commitment, productivity, and loyalty to the company. Again, managers should be made aware that they should track employee performance and report on their findings for the reward system to take place.

3. Employee anniversaries

The longer an employee is under your employment, the more chances your managerial staff will get to know them. Important dates such as birthdays, employment anniversaries, and others can be celebrated with small, internal gifts, and treats.

You don't need to spend large amounts of resources to cater to each employee's specific preferences. However, small things such as a pineapple-flavored cake for Michael, who is a fan of pineapples, work wonders for morale.

This type of reward will positively affect everyone in the department or the company (depending on its scale), so make sure to explore the possibility in greater detail.

4. Company-wide achievement board

Individuals' permanent achievements within a company should always be highlighted and rewarded accordingly. This practice is an excellent example of Robert W. Baird & Co., which offers exemplary employees permanent stock and company investment.

An achievement board can be used to highlight employees who have shown exemplary success in their job positions, changed important company production pipelines, and affected others around them.

These achievements are unique in nature and should only be recognized by managers and the company's upper echelon as transformative for the business.

As such, they deserve the highest praise and a permanent exhibit on a company-wide achievement board for employees and visitors to see. Employees whose names, titles, and faces are displayed on the achievement board will know that their place in the company is important and worth fighting for even more than previously, solidifying your employee reward system as an effective productivity tool.

5. R&R break room development

Employee rewards don't have to be individualized and centered on specific staff members. Instead, you can emphasize teamwork and solidarity by introducing team-based reward systems for your employees.

A great example of this could be the ongoing development of a common break room for everyone to use freely. Make your workforce earn their keep by offering nifty breakroom upgrades in the name of performance. Items such as an espresso machine, a plasma TV, or lazy bags can be literally "earned" through a series of performance-based activities.

Suppose all employees work for the benefit of their company and focus on singular objectives that lead to the betterment of their business. In that case, the break room will receive further updates and additions. This is a great way to boost teamwork and morale across the board without placing any one employee on the proverbial pedestal.

6. Management 'thank you' notes

You might think that small thank-you notes don't do justice to your employees' commitment but you would be wrong to think so. Employees, especially those on the junior level, always look for some form of recognition by the company's upper echelon.

Simple appreciation notes based on their productivity, commitment, years of employment, and other variables can go a long way in ensuring their ongoing employment. The company Net App utilizes a similar thank-you system in which board members and CEO often thank employees in person for their time with their company.

This type of camaraderie is often lost in the corporate sector and it can have hugely positive effects on your employees without requiring any additional costs or resources for it to work.

7. Choices of seminars

Professional development opportunities play a big role in whether or not employees will retain their positions or look for a new career opportunity. In that regard, you should make it possible for employees to choose among a plethora of development seminars, events, conferences, training, and other opportunities.

These can come as rewards for productivity and commitment or simply for certain periods of time under your employment. You should always make it possible for individual staff members to pick which events to attend among two or more choices, however.

Don't push single choices into their hands as rewards since their professional development will also serve your company just as much as them. Create a choice-based development system based on productivity and it will undoubtedly be seen as an adequate reward system.

8. VIP tickets & events

On a more casual note, employees have private lives, hobbies, and lifestyles. You can play the "friendly employer" card just as easily by introducing a reward system based on popular events, concerts, festivals, and other happenings.

Like professional development, you should make several choices available to your employees at any given moment to create a sense of freedom and choice.

You can also introduce VIP seats to sports games, family tickets to sports camps, and other rewards, leading to a greater sense of belonging and acceptance for employees.

9. Company-wide team building

Employees often think of themselves as below the upper management, despite being the same rights and background. However, an excellent way to level the playfield every once is to introduce company-wide team-building activities to the office.

His space can be used as an employee reward system to illustrate that every employee is the same in terms of importance to the company. Such problems are often present in large companies where employees often don't see CEOs or board members for weeks, further distancing them from any form of meaning and importance.

Team-building activities can be anything from cooking and having lunch together, doing physical exercises, or competing in video games with the entire company staff present.

10. Ask them directly

Lastly, you can ask your employees directly about the types of rewards, incentives, and employment benefits they would like to see. Prepare to hear different and unexpected responses, however, since not every employee will have a realistic image of what is possible or not.

Realistic suggestions will always find their way to your HR department and allow them to come up with a mutually-beneficial solution. That way, employees will feel a greater sense of importance since their suggestions have been taken into serious consideration and found their implementation in the employee reward system.

Communicate with your staff members and find out what they like and dislike – it's one of the best ways to craft a reward system that will bring concrete results and change to your company.

Empuls, An employee recognition company like no other

The difference within your employee structure will only come if you take the time to assess the current situation and identify critical bottlenecks. Don't blame your employees for lack of productivity or morale in terms of 9-to-5 work hours with little to look forward to in terms of benefits or development. Add a human element to their employment activities, and your internal culture will bloom as a result.

An employee recognition company like Empuls can be your faithful partner in transforming how rewards and recognition are carried out in your organization. You can also automate rewards and incentives delivery by connecting your applications with Plum RaaS APIs. Get in touch with us today to know more.

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Disha Goel

Disha Goel

Disha Goel is a Data analytics and Business Intelligence professional from the Greater Seattle Area currently working at the intersection of financial services products and business.