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Ratch/Shutterstock.comAn employee rewards and recognition program in your workplace has a positive impact on your bottom line

By Barbara Bowes, Legacy Bowes Group

For several years, baby boomer retirement issues were identified as the top priority in many human resource surveys. Today, the issue of employee engagement is taking over the primary lead. In fact, one survey reports that 94 per cent of participants identified employee engagement as their most important workforce challenge. 

Yet, what is employee engagement and why should Piling Canada readers be concerned? Employee engagement refers to whether or not employees have a positive or negative approach to their work and whether or not employees are willing and/or not willing to perform at their best in ways that further benefit their employer. The reason for concern is that employee engagement has a direct impact on business success and profitability.

Studies also show that employee engagement is enhanced when managers are effective in developing their employees, providing feedback and recognizing and rewarding their employees. This also suggests that leadership styles are finally transitioning from an autocratic authoritarian style to one of collaboration, coaching and mentoring of employees. As well, and more importantly, it is evident that employee reward and recognition programs are no longer simply that annual warm and fuzzy “must-have” event, but instead, programs are emphasizing continuous feedback, recognition and reward.

It is noted from a review of websites that many Piling Canada readers recognize the value of their team members and market this philosophy as their competitive advantage. However, how successful are you in integrating reward and recognition into your everyday informal management style? How successful are you in the strategic implementation of a formal reward and recognition program?

The following set of guiding principles will ensure all forms of your rewards and recognition program are in alignment with your business strategy and will lead to an engaged workforce and increased profitability and success.

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Secure leadership commitment
A reward and recognition program must be supported not only by a CEO or president, but also by all the executives and managers in a company. Appoint a program champion to oversee the design, development and implementation of both your formal and informal initiatives.

Link rewards to business strategy
Your program must be connected to both the needs and expectations of your workforce as well as to the organizational goals and objectives. Incorporate your company core values and goals into the program so that your messages are consistent and employees understand what behaviours are important, whether they are working at head office and/or out in the field. In addition to the traditional but much appreciated “thank-you,” give consideration to rewards such as safety leadership, teamwork, community contribution, service quality, high performance, professional growth, customer service, newest idea and/or a rising star.

Make the program fair and inclusive
A reward and recognition program must be able to impact and motivate all of your employees, not just a set of top performers. This now includes consideration for the interests and needs of the various generations of workers in your organization. Establish your selection criteria so that “justice for all” is perceived by your employees, which in turn will help to develop trust in your program.

Design for meaning
Consider conducting an employee survey to identify personal interests and suggestions for what would be appreciated in a reward or recognition program. Employees value meaningful rewards that they can get excited about and that motivate them to excel. Work with your employees to help create a personal mission that links with the corporate mission. Form an employee committee to assist management in designing the program. Value all suggestions.

Design for choice
With so many different interests and needs in today’s workforce, the best strategy is to allow for choice in the selection of a reward gift. Rewards typically range from an item with the company logo to making a charitable donation in the name of your employees. This will enable you to meet the needs of an intergenerational workforce and one with significant cultural diversity.

Simplify the nomination process
Ensure the nomination process is not too complicated or time intensive so that people will be encouraged rather than discouraged from participating. Keep your forms simple, and be sure to be consistent and make the overall selection process transparent. Involve employee volunteers in the selection process.

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Link reward with action
It’s well known that when recognition quickly follows action, you’ll get a lot more “bang for the buck” in terms of employee motivation. Timeliness helps the employee to know why he/she is being acknowledged and why their contribution or behaviour was valuable. As well, your timely recognition will be better remembered and the employee behaviour reinforced.

Train your managers
Managers are typically the people handling the reward and recognition program as well as leading employees toward greater engagement. Train your managers to understand the goals and objectives of your program as well as how to effectively implement the program on an ongoing basis.

Promote your program
Help employees understand the “what, where, why and how” of your rewards and recognition program. Use multiple communication strategies and media. Be sure that employees understand the “what’s in it for me.” Plan to promote employee success and recognition through your company newsletter or email/Twitter messages. Make them a star.

Make it a celebration
In addition to making daily acknowledgements, annual performance reviews or sporadic special events, celebrate employee achievements by holding an annual event. Incorporate all kinds of rewards and recognition ranging from retirement to special achievements. Celebrate their success.

Measure your results
Measuring success through tracking employee satisfaction and employee engagement against your program objectives will give you indication of success. When management is aware of this annual measurement, you’ll see an increase in accountability and leadership behaviours as well as increase in the application of other human resource functions.

Meaningful employee reward and recognition programs are a powerful tool for engaging your employees and increasing retention. However, a program must be well thought out, fair, transparent and based on corporate goals and objectives that are linked to the recognition and rewards that an employee values.

Barbara J. Bowes is president of Legacy Bowes Group and president of Career Partners International, Manitoba. She is also a professional speaker, radio host, newspaper columnist and human resource specialist. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Piling Canada is the premier national voice for the Canadian deep foundation construction industry. Each issue is dedicated to providing readers with current and informative editorial, including project updates, company profiles, technological advancements, safety news, environmental information, HR advice, pertinent legal issues and more.