Employee Engagement: Best Practices for Employee Reward Programs
Employee engagement research and case studies have shown us that employee reward programs can be instrumental in fostering a culture where employees produce stronger results in relation to the corporate objectives. We know that when employees understand their role and are recognized for direct contributions, they are more likely to embrace an organization’s mission, vision and values, and work above their standards towards a common goal.
Before you establish a formal employee reward program, it is important to understand the best practices that will ensure the program is meaningful to employees, successful for the organization and easy to implement for communications and HR professionals. Here are the necessary elements:
- Develop a framework that links the winning criteria with your business strategy and performance outcomes. The company must ensure that truly deserving people win. In other words, you must demonstrate that winners stand out among the crowd and have a real impact on the organization. Meanwhile employees must feel that the measures are achievable and realistic. For example, if a business goal is to reduce costs then the winning criteria should include identifying an operation and making the necessary changes that reduced expenses.
- Brand the program to embody the spirit of the organization. Understanding that emotion does play a role in employees performance, the award itself should capture what is truly means to be an extraordinary employee within the organization. The best way to ensure alignment with the business is to use similar themes and language found in your mission, vision and values.
- Offer different levels of awards with one top significant award. While you ultimately want all employees to strive for the top award, smaller awards allow you to comprehensively reward employees against a variety business outcomes and goals. You can also offer division or department-specific rewards that are unique to that group to ensure that it’s applicable to everyone.
- Focus on winning teams rather than individuals. The benefit of group awards is that organizations can foster an environment where everyone works towards the same goal. Employees have the opportunity to collectively solve a business issue, win together and celebrate together.
- Front line managers and directors are critical to the program’s success—get their buy-in early and often. The launch must first engage manager-level employees and demonstrate that it’s an important tool to help them reach goals. Next, managers need assistance to regularly remind employees about the program. Bottom line: communications from managers to their direct reports should be encouraging and ongoing.
- Be transparent about how and when you select the winners. Rewards programs fail when employees don’t believe in them—or believe that they have a winning chance. The solution is full transparency. A selection team or panel should include managers from all areas of the company and represent the interests of all employee groups. The members of the panel should be shared with the organization. Additionally, a timeline should be established that informs employees of deadlines and milestones for making decisions.
- Announce the winners in a significant way. Announcements should be seen as a time to celebrate and evoke a sense of pride within the recipients and their peers. Impactful announcements could take place at your annual meeting or quarterly leadership meetings. Additional announcements could be made in your company intranet, newsletter, videos or posters. Other ideas include creating an internal video or a holding a check/gift ceremony with a photo opportunity. However you decide to share the winning news, make sure that all employees see and hear announcement.
Finally, the benefits of employee rewards programs go far beyond engagement. There’s a halo effect that includes:
- Generating buy-in of new initiatives or objectives
- Encouraging innovation and efficiencies—and even significant change
- Attracting and retaining high performing employees
Elizabeth C. Castro is a senior vice president and corporate practice lead at O’Malley Hansen Communications (www.omalleyhansen.com) in Chicago. You can follow her on Twitter at @eliz_castro and @thecommsblog.