When Susan was a manager for the big tech company in town she had a great team. Everyone was motivated and seemed excited to be at work. They were always learning, working on new projects and excelling. There were always celebrations after a job well done and plenty of encouragement.
But since starting her own business five years ago, she’s struggled to create the same atmosphere. A lot of Susan’s employees are quitting, her sales are down this quarter and some people seem to actually hate being in the office.
Susan wishes she could raise salaries, chat with her staff more and offer some fancy perks like at her old job, but as an entrepreneur with a family, the learning curve is steep. She just can’t find the time or money to give her team the recognition they deserve and need.
Having a strong recognition and reward program can be a challenge for small organizations. They may not have the money or find it practical to offer financial bonuses, job perks or expensive training. It may even be against the rules to do so for organizations that are financed through public funds or grants.
Although Susan isn’t real; her situation is...
According to The Globe & Mail, 89% of Canadian employees are prepared to leave their current job for the right offer—and the reasons go beyond just financial compensation. Recognition and reward contribute to ensuring business productivity and employee motivation and retention. In fact, they are defined in The National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace as factors shown to impact the mental health of individuals in the workplace.
Guarding Minds at Work defines Recognition & Reward as “present in a work environment where there is appropriate acknowledgement and appreciation of employees’ efforts in a fair and timely manner. “
So, what’s the solution?
How can business owners and managers with limited resources create a stronger recognition and reward program to better acknowledge and appreciate their people?
5 easy and thrifty ways to recognize and reward your staff
#1 - Create a plan
Start by creating a plan to regularly and formally recognize and reward your employees’ work. At least once a year sit down with each person to provide feedback and map out a growth and development plan. It doesn’t have to be complex. Acknowledge areas of strength, support and encourage them in areas that need development, figure out what they may need and want to learn, let them know about potential development opportunities, and brainstorm ways to make them happen within the confines of available resources.
A simple plan and regular chats will go a long way in making staff feel supported, valued, and hopeful.
#2 - Recognize good work
Say thanks and acknowledge a job well done in a timely manner. Recognize and give credit for extra effort, good ideas, innovation, professional and project milestones, and strong outcomes. This recognition can be given privately through casual words or a thank you note or acknowledged in a staff meeting or via a company-wide email or newsletter.
A few kind and encouraging words or a small token of appreciation will help people feel valued and encourage them to keep the momentum going.
#3 - Recognize and reward professional development initiatives and soft-skills
Your organization can still support growth and professional development even if it doesn’t have the funds to pay for extra training or conferences. Support that recognizes employees that take control of their learning includes flexible work hours, a quiet space to study in during off-duty hours or permitting staff to shift or trade work schedules to better accommodate continued education. Support that rewards their efforts includes acknowledgement and formal inclusion of achievements in their personnel file, or simple incentives such as a gift card for coffee or study supplies.
Keep an eye open for employees who try to learn new skills beyond job-related ones—things like learning a new technology, another language, developing interpersonal skills, and so on. Recognize their effort by acknowledging it and reward it by looking for opportunities to incorporate new skills in the workplace. For example, an employee who completes an online course in conflict resolution will be able to help solve staff problems. An employee who learns how to use graphics software could help to produce a job-aid.
The bottom line is that any skill that helps your staff better communicate and care for themselves and each is a positive thing and helps build an organizational culture that values learning and self-improvement. If your people are confident that you support their career as much as possible, they’ll be more committed to the organization and more likely to seek out and share opportunities for improvement.
#4 - Recognize and reward passions and skill sets
It is helpful for small organizations to create what’s known as a Skills Matrix. A Skills Matrix is a list of employees and their special skills and interests so that everyone is aware of who can and likes to do what. It’s a way to recognize that each employee is unique and brings more to the company than just their job-related skills. The Skills Matrix is helpful in allocating work according to their passions and strengths. For example, you may discover that someone has a passion for photography. How is that rewarded? They would likely jump at the opportunity to spend a few work hours taking photographs at work to help update the company website.
Allowing people to share their special interests and talents at work is a moral booster and a point of pride. It fosters an organizational culture that embraces openness, sharing, growth, and a respect for a diversity of interests. In 2015, Forbes business magazine observed that un-tapped abilities from employees emerge to become assets to corporate missions.
#5 - Recognize and reward each other
Encourage staff to recognize each other for good work. Ask them to give props to one another in meetings or to tell you privately so that you can ensure everyone receives the recognition they deserve. Also make time for team celebrations and fun activities after challenging projects and to mark important milestones.
Susan still has a chance to turn things around. She can take these step to build and nurture a culture of recognition across the organization to foster better teamwork, motivation, and to reduce conflict.
For more ideas about how to create a better reward and recognition program in your organization, check out the resources at Guarding Minds at Work.
And, get on the "early adopters" list to be among the first to get access to the IncludeMe app — our free, fast, simple and innovative way for managers to learn about the importance of a mentally healthy workplace including actions you can take to positively impact your employees’ mental health. Just sign up below!
Blog post produced by Canadian mental health charity Iris the Dragon. Iris the Dragon is a solutions-oriented, social enterprise, employing proven and effective approaches and delivery formats to address the challenge of social inclusion of those with a mental illness in our society.