Why values-based employee recognition is essential

Employee recognition has been a dominant topic in this year’s HR conversations and debates, and with good reason. While this is a key aspect of motivating and engaging employees, it still poses a lot of problems when it comes to defining and implementing it.

While some companies focus their recognition strategies on financial incentives and perks, others choose to go a bit deeper into what constitutes a real exercise in appreciating someone’s efforts and how they should be rewarded.

One piece of advice: don’t try to mimic those supposedly successful recognition programs that simply look good in a photo or an article. Better yet, take the example of those companies who have actually succeeded in retaining and engaging employees through values-based employee recognition programs, because that’s where the real magic happens.

Companies like Zappos, Buffer and The Motley Fool are taking their values literally and applying them to every aspect of the workplace, encouraging employees to merge these values with their everyday behaviors. It’s those behaviors that get recognized, encouraging further dedication and involvement from employees, which in turn leads to better retention and higher employee engagement.

The team at Motley Fool, for example, believes in making long-term investments in their employees and company culture. By valuing their employees and encouraging them to feel passionate about their work, the company fosters higher performance and productivity, therefore achieving better business results. Among the behaviors that they encourage and reward are working for a purpose, being eager to surpass yourself, communicating everything all the time, leading with trust and practicing recognition and gratitude.

This is the type of employee recognition that delivers actual results. According to the 2015 SHRM and Globoforce Employee Recognition Survey, HR leaders and practitioners agree that values-based recognition is driving key metrics. Respondents to the study cited positive impact of their recognition programs on engagement, retention, safety, wellness, employer brand and even cost control goals.

The study also shows that  companies with recognition programs that are not tied to values are underperforming expectations, while more companies with values-based recognition rated their programs as excellent or good. Take a look at some detailed findings from the study:

  • 90% of the companies surveyed say it positively impacted engagement, vs. 67% without a values-based recognition program;
  • 86% say it increased employee happiness, vs. 70% without a values-based recognition program
  • 84% say it improved employee relationships, vs. 66% without a values-based recognition program;
  • 68% say it positively impacted retention, vs. 41% without a values-based recognition program;
  • 37% say it positively impacted safety, vs. 23% without a values-based recognition program;
  • 36% say it positively impacted sustainability or cost control goals, vs. 14% without a values-based recognition program;
  • 29% say it positively impacted health and wellness goals, vs. 13% without a values-based recognition program;
  • 66% say it helped build a stronger employment brand, vs. 28% without a values-based recognition program.

In this competitive race of attracting, engaging and retaining talented employees, having a values-driven recognition program can help you stand out and connect better with your prospects.

Without labeling them in anyway, the fact remains that Millennials put great emphasis on company values and seeing them applied on a day-to-day basis, not just mentioned on a website. The problem with just having a set of values is that you never get to use them. It could be that employees don’t understand how these values translate or that they haven’t participated in establishing them, therefor they have no attachment to what they stand for.

Start by defining your company values, together with your employees, and translate them into a sentence you can use to describe something you’re doing. If your value is “Respect”, define it as “I respect my colleagues, our workplace and the work I do.”

Stick to a few essential values that you can translate into daily behaviors and define how you (as a team) want to reward these behaviors. Create a recognition program that encompassess everything your company stands for and that encourages employees to display values-based behaviors.

Image by kris krüg under C.C. 2.0