Creating a positive work environment can be tricky, and some managers fear singling out individuals for their great work. However, the benefits of recognising staff outweigh the difficulties, and a great design for your incentives will go a long way to creating an atmosphere of hard work and collaboration in your organisation.

Importance of Appreciation

Even in a small team, recognising effort and results has an incredibly strong effect. When employees don’t feel seen and known, they tend to work less effectively, believing that hard work isn’t any better than just getting by. When an appreciation programme is in place, even the employees who are not being recognised often step up their performance, knowing that the potential for bonuses, extra vacation time, or just being praised in meetings could be in their futures.

Choosing a Level of Recognition

There are many levels of recognition that can be helpful to showing your staff how much you care. There are levels that require almost no budget, including creating certificates or making a regular practise of discussing great work at staff meetings. Recognition is often most useful if it’s public, since the award can then motivate the whole team rather than simply the person rewarded.

As you choose larger incentives, such as bonuses for the best quarterly performance for example, the winner selection must be correspondingly more rigorous. While selecting “employee of the week” can be done quite casually, any substantial additional compensation should be allocated in a way that is truly fair to the metrics you use. Also think about whether you prefer to reward long hours in the office, commitment to frustrating clients, or producing the most deliverables and revenue, even if they aren’t the hardest workers. Your recognition shows your employees what you value.

Benefits: Productivity and Cooperative Atmosphere

The reason that these programmes are worth thinking through carefully and spending time on is they impact the way small and medium sized companies function. An office that is extremely casual and not results-driven may yield lower productivity.

A great employee recognition programme shows employees that their individual contributions matter, but in a way that doesn’t undercut the cooperative nature of the company. Noting when two employees had a great collaboration and rewarding that with a free lunch with the manager can be a great example of this kind of recognition.

Your programme should ultimately support the values of your brand. Sometimes, though, what employees really want is not just another certificate, accolade, or even a bump in pay (though those rarely get complaints). They may want you to recognise other aspects of them as employees.

Case Studies in Unique Staff Recognition

Recognition doesn’t have to be in the form of incentives and rewards: it can be intangible as well. While they are a large company, Google is known for formally recognising that employees spend time working on projects outside their job description. This freedom is a way to say that their innovation is valuable and that they are trusted, according to Managers. Even small teams benefit from this kind of freedom; most small businesses require everyone to wear multiple hats, but recognising an employee has some creative problem-solving skills for example is a great way to acknowledge their unique strengths. You can reward it with work time to pursue their interests, or just a chance to go home a little early!

Other companies, like Screwfix described in Entrepreneur, create recognition by offering to listen to honest feedback frequently. By asking employees to give critical commentary on how the manager and the company is doing, they are recognised in a new way: as valuable, knowledgeable members of the team. Small teams often have mechanisms for communication with the boss, but dedicated, frequent opportunities that are focused on feedback can be an excellent way to ensure members of a small team feel free to speak up.

No matter how recognition works, appreciating your employees is a good way to make clear to them how valuable they are. The lack of employee turnover, increase in loyalty, and increase in team cohesion is usually worth far more than the cost of such programmes.

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