Why giving thanks for great employees is the gift that keeps on giving

Though recent, tragic events in Paris and around the world might make it appear there’s little to be grateful for, today is Thanksgiving Day and with the world in turmoil, we should be counting our blessings more than normal this year.

Celebrated annually over here in North America, this is a time of year when saying “thank you” should be forefront in our minds but how much real thought are we giving to showing our employees a little appreciation?

Showing gratitude to employees is one of the key factors in providing a great workforce experience, and reward schemes can be a particularly important tool when it comes to motivating staff and improving productivity. Yet a recent survey showed that only 11% of employers actually asked what was on their workforce’s wish list, with 51% leaving decisions about rewards until the very last minute.

Failure to enter into the festive spirit aside, neglecting employee reward and recognition can also have a serious impact on overall business performance. According to the SHRM Employee Recognition Survey, organisations that spend less on reward schemes experience lower employee retention, engagement and financial results than those that prioritise appraisal, evaluation and recognition.

Clearly, then, creating an enjoyable workforce experience for employees is more important than many managers take into account. With the season upon us, it’s worth taking a closer look at exactly how best to encourage and compensate workforces, especially as offering the wrong kind of rewards can actually end up doing more harm than good (the £120million lost by British companies on unused gift cards is a case in point).

Fundamentally, reward and recognition in the modern workforce needs to be immediate and personalised. Much has been said lately about the death of the annual performance review, and here at Sage People we couldn’t agree more. Waiting to recognise outstanding performance months after the fact is quickly becoming a thing of the past; instead, achievement should be acknowledged immediately, and shouldn’t just come from the line manager, but colleagues, peers and the wider company community too.

It’s not just the way in which rewards are delivered however, but what exactly those rewards are that needs to be reconsidered. As workforce demographics become increasingly diverse, more customised and original incentives should be offered in order to really engage and motivate employees. Though Christmas parties and cash bonuses remain firm favourites, more left field ideas such as kayaking trips, trapeze lessons, aerobatic flights in a Red Bull Air Races plane and couples spa days are increasingly coming to the fore. Whether it’s a wild weekend or simply the option to work from home, organisations need to listen to the needs of their workforce and deliver rewards accordingly to improve the employee experience before engagement becomes an issue.

The biggest shift, though, needs to be moving from considering reward programs as merely an added bonus, to recognising the critical business function they actually perform. Showing your employees appreciation is essential not only to improving their experience, engagement and productivity, but reducing attrition and boosting your bottom line.

So don’t be a turkey this Thanksgiving – say thank you to your employees in a way they’ll really appreciate. You’ll find the benefits really are something to celebrate.

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