Rewarding your employees in lean times

RO Communications

Yvonne Grinam-Nicholson, ABC

Wednesday, September 19, 2012    

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THE end of the year is fast approaching and employers (those who sincerely care and can afford it) are beginning to plan how they will reward their employees who have stuck with them. There is a problem, however, as times are lean and there is not much by way of funds to divvy up among the company faithful come year-end. How do we reward and recognise those who have helped to boost the company’s bottom line in these difficult times?

According to Maslow’s heirarchy of needs, two of the most valuable psychological needs we have as human beings are to be appreciated to “belong”. These needs are met through peer-to-peer thanks and recognition. There are many ways that companies can reward their employees but some companies have found that the easiest and least controversial to do so is through adding a sum to our salary at the end of the year. There was a time long, long ago when it was the norm to expect this bonus. We would look forward gleefully to this addition to our ‘little much’ come December and any reduction in its girth would elicit negative feedback. Many employees wrongly assume that the bonus is a given and become mistakenly contentious.

Last June, Bersin & Associates, a United States membership-based company, released new research that shows companies with recognition programs are highly effective at improving employee engagement and have 31 per cent lower voluntary turnover than their peers with ineffective recognition programs. The new recognition research is based on the results of two online surveys of 834 organizations conducted between January and May 2012. It also includes more than 30 research interviews with HR and talent management professionals. “The findings, which appear in a new research report The State of Employee Recognition in 2012, indicate that recognition plays a much more measureable role in business performance than previously believed.”

The research shows that for employees, the most important elements of a recognition programme are the ability to receive specific feedback and give recognition easily. This finding is underscored by the fact that the top reason employees do not recognise each other is because there is no established way to provide recognition. The research also found that tenure-based rewards systems have virtually no impact on organisational performance.

According to Josh Bersin: “It turns out that many of these tenure-based rewards programmes are really legacy programmes from the turn of the century when labour unions forced management to give employees “service awards” and hourly raises for tenure. Most large companies still have these programmes today, yet only 58 per cent of employees even know such programmes exist. So for the most part they aren’t creating much value.”

Now that the squeeze is on, companies will have to move away from financial reward as a form of recognition and find other innovative yet fulfilling ways of ensuring that their employees who perform are duly rewarded. Employees too will have to realise that times have changed. Gone are the days when it rained bonuses and large and elaborate yearend parties. Cheap reality has begun to set in and expectations should be lowered. However, it is indeed true that when companies reward and recognise the performance of their employees they do get increasingly better performance out of them. Consider your own personal experience, how you felt when you were rewarded by your employer for you contribution to the company’s growth.

None of these suggestions are original but they are recommendations as to the new directions in which companies can begin to look to recognise their employees. Companies can perhaps think about giving employees days off to reward them. In the hectic hustle and bustle of life there are times when employees’ personal chores are overlooked, routine medical appointments are missed and other activities get swept under the carpet because of work. There are some of us who would appreciate this time off so that they can pursue their personal activities without impinging on company time.

How about electing your most effective employees to a wallof fame? Several experts have suggested setting aside a public space inside your company and placing photos of employees who’ve accomplished something truly special, along with the details of what they did to earn their place on the wall. People love to see themselves in pictures and having their accomplishments highlighted by their employers would be a great bonus for them.

There are many other simple acts of kindness that companies can bestow upon their employees, all it takes is a little time, thought and willingness to execute.

Yvonne Grinam-Nicholson, (MBA, ABC) is a Business Communications Consultant with RO Communications Jamaica, specialising in business

communications and financial publications. She can be contacted at: Visit her website at and post your comments.





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