One of the most productive leadership strategies to motivate, engage, and empower employees is that of employee recognition. Yet even given this realization, a poll conducted by Gallup has found that just one in three workers in the United States says that they have received recognition for good performance in the previous seven days. With evidence suggesting that employees who feel undervalued are twice as likely to consider changing jobs within the next year, this lack of recognition is not only a missed motivational opportunity, but also a damaging leadership oversight.

The big mistake of using a paycheck to motivate

Have you (or a manager you know) ever wondered why a highly paid employee has left for pastures new despite a large paycheck, recent pay rise, and sizeable bonus? The answer is that you’ve overlooked the power of recognition, falsely believing that money says it all. It doesn’t, and the fact of the matter is that the employee hasn’t left their job, they’ve left you or the offending manager that the employee perceives doesn’t value the contribution made.

With this in mind, the inspirational and respected leader will employ a range of creative employee recognition ideas, especially in organizations that are flatter in their hierarchical structure and in which career progression does not necessarily follow traditional routes.

How to formulate creative employee recognition ideas

Given that money and financial benefits, though welcome, fall short of providing the motivational message they are mistakenly perceived to provide, it falls on the manager to seek creative employee recognition ideas. To do so, the manager should consider what it is that motivates the team or individual being recognized. For example, while for some the presentation of a bottle of champagne as a reward for being ‘Employee of the Week’ will be well received; however, if the recipient abstains from drinking, at best, the recognition will be seen as an error of judgment, and, at worst, as a sign that the manager neither knows nor cares about his or her employees.

To formulate creative employee recognition ideas:

  • Understand what motivates your team and its individuals
  • Know your employees personally
  • Align recognition with values and beliefs

For example, how about recognizing exceptional performance by offering a half-day off work to be taken when it suits the employee – particularly rewarding for a parent who might otherwise miss a school performance, perhaps?

5 low-cost employee recognition strategies

There are plenty of creative employee recognition ideas, and many of these motivate by offering opportunities or alignment with personal goals or values. For example:

1.     Challenging work

Delegate higher-level work to employees who are excelling. This may even be some of your duties, which could be stimulating for the employee and help them to develop skills.

2.     Involvement in decision-making

Reward an excelling employee by seconding onto a special project committee, showing them that you respect their input. This also brings skills to the table that the decision-making process might otherwise be lacking – often the people closest to the shop floor have special insight to give. This type of engagement increases commitment, and you might also find your change agent of the future.

3.     Work from Home days

In today’s connected world, it is becoming increasingly possible for employees to conduct at least part of their duties in the home environment. Allowing a day every week for some flexibility to work at home shows that you trust the employee, and gives them the autonomy to shape their own time and increase their life/work balance. If this is not a viable option, then allowing your people to organize their own work routine is another way to show trust and refer responsibility.

4.     Provide regular feedback

Employees want to know how they are doing: make sure you tell them. Do it over lunch, or a morning coffee out of the office. Thank them for their efforts, and ask for their feedback, too. Regular feedback also affords you the opportunity to stay in touch with the factors that matter in an employee’s life.

5.     Discuss business with your employees

Your employs will respond well to being in the ‘inner circle’ of strategic thinking. Share goals, plans and strategies, empowering them to make more informed decisions in their particular sphere of responsibility.

Returning to the Gallup poll I opened with, when asked who gave them their most meaningful and memorable recognition, the employee’s manager came out on top – but almost the same number said from the CEO or high-level leader. The inference is clear: when a high-level leader takes just a few seconds to personally recognize an employee’s contribution, the positive effects of the acknowledgement can be immensely motivational.

Contact Primeast today and discover how a Change Agent Bootcamp and coaching in Consulting and Facilitating will help your organization take advantage of the modern, geographically challenged, collaborative workplace.

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