Workplace Recognition and Incentive Programs

Recognition: The People Factor

Did you Hire them Dead or Kill them After you got them?

Virtually all employees come aboard engaged, enthusiastic and wanting to do an outstanding job. But something happens along the way. They begin to believe no one really cares about them or understands their needs. Motivation and performance suffers as a result and so, too, company profitability.

If you wish to increase employee morale, productivity and the company bottom line, you should take advantage of all opportunities to reward an employee or team for a job well done.  But, it is also important to use discretion to maintain the integrity of the program.  Recognition is no longer for longevity only, but there is drive to include performance as a large part of why people are recognized.

Do you really know what your employees want – or do you just think you do?  The answers may surprise you:

Take a look at what managers THINK employees want; starting with what they think is most important:

1. Good wages
2. Job security
3. Promotion/growth opportunities
4. Good working conditions
5. Interesting work
6. Personal loyalty to workers
7. Tactful discipline
8. Full appreciation for work done
9. Sympathetic help with personal problems
10. Feeling “in” on things

Now, take a look at what employees say they want, starting with what’s most important to them:

1. Full appreciation for work done
2. Feeling “in” on things
3. Sympathetic help on personal problems
4. Job security
5. Good wages
6. Interesting work
7. Promotion/growth opportunities
8. Personal loyalty to workers
9. Good working conditions
10. Tactful discipline

Everything changes constantly and rapidly except one thing – what people want. This survey came out in 1946 in Foreman Facts, from the Labor Relations Institute of NY and was produced again by Lawrence Lindahl in Personnel magazine, in 1949. These studies have been replicated with similar results by Ken Kovach (1980); Valerie Wilson, Achievers International (1988); Bob Nelson, Blanchard Training & Development (1991); Sheryl & Don Grimme, GHR Training Solutions (1997-2001).

Conclusion: employees value the emotional aspects of their workplaces as much as their financial compensation. Note: the top 3 things employees want have nothing to do with compensation.

So, as a manager, how can you use these results to structure employee benefits and retain top workers? Consider making staff recognition a priority. Recognition should be unique to the people involved.  It is to everyone’s advantage to recognize exemplary performance, not only as a way of achieving our vision, but also as a respectful way to acknowledge the value of the people that make your company successful!


Recognition is a powerful management tool for motivating employees and changing behavior.  Recognition serves two separate but related purposes:

  1. To provide a sense of belonging to a caring organization.
  2. To enable management to reinforce values of importance, not only to the recipients but also to the whole organization.

The true value of recognition is that by acknowledging employees in small ways every day, you reinforce expected behavior and performance.  The first-line supervisor is often the most essential element in the effectiveness of the program as he is in a position to do most of this.

Recognition should be unique to the people involved.  Programs offer management many ways to reward employees and can be done at several levels for various achievements.  Examples include tickets to after-work sporting or cultural events, or gifts such as a briefcase, watch, clock or anything that distinguishes the owner as someone who excels.

Timing is crucial.  Give recognition as close as possible to the achievement.  Time delays weaken the impact of most recognition.

There should be clear connections between employees’ accomplishments and the awards or recognition they receive.  People should understand why they receive recognition.

We motivate employees through recognition and they appreciate it when it is genuine.  Proper recognition has no strings attached when delivered in a personal and honest manner.  Its purpose is to recognize accomplishments that are in the best interest of the company and to reinforce the shared values.

For more information or help, contact us.