Recognize me, motivate me, retain me

A little thanks goes a long way to retaining employees
By Jeremy Faria
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 04/03/2008

Highly motivated employees enjoy their jobs and demonstrate high levels of productivity. But what is it that motivates employees, especially those requiring a little push? What is it that encourages employees to remain loyal to their job? Two words: Employee recognition.

A survey by Watson Wyatt Worldwide of more than 3,000 employees in 2006 found the leading engagement drivers are:

• management’s ability to demonstrate leadership and strategic direction that builds confidence in the prospects for long-term corporate success;

• effective reward programs; and

• frequent, clear, two-way employee communication.

WorkCanada 2006/2007

also found companies with high employee engagement levels demonstrate better annual total returns for shareholders, higher market premiums and higher productivity levels (revenue per employee) than those with low engagement.

It’s not surprising money and benefits didn’t make the top three. After all, people want to feel appreciated and rewarded for their good efforts.

So what type of recognition will motivate employees to reach their full potential? To really increase the bounce in someone’s step, tell her she has performed her task well. Let her know, in front of her co-workers, you are happy with her work. Nothing motivates a staff member better, while also encouraging the rest of the workforce to strive for excellence, than public recognition — along with a gift rewarding her efforts.

Evolution of recognition

Employee recognition is evolving. Decades ago, employees started working for a company directly out of school and remained until retirement. Now, remaining at a company for more than five years is considered a long employment term. Factoring in the costs of recruiting and training new hires creates a strong argument for employee retention.

In the past, a long-time employee was rewarded with the proverbial gold watch. But as more employers see the “employee retention” value that recognition provides, rewards are occurring on a more regular basis, geared towards the needs of the company.

Attendance, loyalty, sales, safety and peer-nomination programs encourage work over and above. Personal items, traditional items, art, electronics and lifestyle gifts have expanded reward offerings.

4 components of an effective program

Effective award programs have four major components:

• a wide selection of awards to meet today’s diverse population;

• gifts that display the corporate symbol to ensure the employer’s message is long lasting;

• administrative burden taken care of by the provider; and

• online programs for both the recipient to select and HR to track.

Gift certificates aren’t as effective. They may be spent on personal items and soon forgotten. They are also treated as cash by Canada Revenue Agency and are taxable, unlike corporate-identified gifts, which have tax-free limits.

The employer’s goal is to strengthen the bond with employees at a reasonable cost. So early recognition and long-lasting recognition are important.

Starting at year-one with the company’s corporate logo as a pin is a strong message to show employees they are valued. A three-year award, followed by a five-year and each five-year interval thereafter is a recipe for a successful service award program.

Corporate logo still important

One important aspect of employee recognition that stands the test of time is the corporate symbol on a recognition award. Yes, the gifts may change along with technology and personal styles. But the company’s logo or emblem serves as a permanent symbol of the positive feelings expressed at the time of recognition. Each time the employee glances at the gift, be it a watch, clock, art, camping gear or flat-screen television, he thinks: “My company gave me this gift for my loyal service.”

Jeremy Faria is president of Rembrandt Awards, a Toronto-based recognition firm. He can be reached at (905) 886-5022, For more information visit

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