Top Performers Look for a Little Love Outside of Pay

Rewarding employees goes beyond pay and benefits, especially in a tight economy where pay raises are still averaging 3 percent. ‘Rewarder’ companies, which are repairing cultures and striving to enhance cooperation at all levels, are outpacing their competition when it comes to engaging the workforce.


So-called ‘A’ players like a little praise with their paychecks.


That’s the message of Mike Ryan, senior vice president of marketing and client strategy at Madison Performance Group in New York. Ryan says employers often believe that higher pay is reward enough for their top performers, but kudos can play a key role in motivating those key workers and everyone else in an organization. Ryan believes that one of best ways to recognize employee achievement – “A” player or not – is the simple act of telling their story on the company intranet and through recognition portals.


“Smart companies realize that, in this economy, there’s a lot of worker anxiety,” says Ryan, whose firm helps clients develop employee engagement and incentive marketing programs. “Telling stories about success calms nerves and has the added benefit of allowing co-workers to learn best practices.”


Ryan says smart organizations are repairing cultures and striving to enhance cooperation at all levels. These “rewarder” companies, as he calls them, are outpacing their competition when it comes to engaging its workforce. “What’s important about this rewarder approach is that employees can express themselves and share ideas without fear of being ridiculed,” Ryan says. “These organizations can tap into the best frontline practices employees are using to work more efficiently, while at the same time recognizing and possibly rewarding those innovators.”


In a 2009 study about job satisfaction and retention by, 20 percent of employees said that being adequately recognized and appreciated was one of the reasons they stayed on the job. And BlessingWhite Inc.’s Employee Engagement Report 2011 notes that employees worldwide view opportunities to apply their talents, career development and training as the top drivers of job satisfaction.


“Our reward and recognition program recognizes the value employees bring to the table, and therefore, it would be the last thing cut from the budget,” says Shannon Murray, compensation specialist at Jacksonville, Florida-based CSX Corp. The railroad company, which has 30,000 employees in 23 states, first started its recognition program in 2007 as a result of employee feedback.


“Employees told us they were working hard and their paycheck wasn’t enough. We first launched a product-based program, but it wasn’t widely used,” she says. CSX then partnered with Minneapolis-based Hallmark Business Connections, a fully owned subsidiary of Kansas City, Missouri-based Hallmark greeting cards, which helps businesses engage and connect with employees and customers. CSX wanted to offer a program that allows employees to recognize and reward their peers through a computer-based system.


“Our employees in the field have tough jobs, and they need to know they are valued—by their supervisors and peers,” Murray says. “This program is aligned with our core mission and values, and the results have been terrific. … People are asking that these recognitions be included in our newsletters. They want to see how other employees are impacting the company.”


Peer recognition is more important than ever, says Heather Teskey, vice president of strategy and marketing at Hallmark.


“We’re talking about the ability to have social connectivity in the workplace and beyond, and recognizing people immediately with cards, e-greetings, public recognition or monetary awards,” she says.


Teskey says recognition and rewards programs that allow managers and peers to recognize employees and programs that may even reward the family of a top performer are more effective than the “pick a gift from the catalogue” strategy.


“Eighty percent of people leave their jobs because 80 percent have issues with their manager, so it becomes very personal,” she says.


Teskey notes that online recognition portals can be designed to reinforce behaviors important to the organization, such as customer satisfaction, quality or cost savings.


“Our clients are seeing the value of these kinds of programs in retention and presenteeism, however, it is hard to measure,” she says. “This is more broad-reaching as opposed to ‘carrot and stick, but if you see the energy around these programs, you really believe this impacts the bottom line.”


Siemens USA has seen rapid results among its 60,000-plus workforce with its You Answered initiative launched in early 2010. Working with Madison Performance Group, New York-based Siemens sought to link recognition to its brand promise by lauding employees who are “the answer.”


Susan Brown, director of compensation, says the intent of You Answered is to motivate, unite and engage a diverse workforce, bring consistency to the units’ disparate approaches to recognition, give HR better insight into and oversight of the reward process, and finally to track rewards as part of the total compensation equation.


“We made a decision to invest in a rewards program to motivate our workforce during very challenging economic times,” she says. “Our employees like to be ‘the answer,’ and our recognition program is an extension of our culture, strengthening the connection they feel toward the business.”


Madison Performance Group’s Ryan believes that, like Siemens USA, organizations can strengthen their recognition and rewards programs by working with the marketing department.


“Marketing directors are becoming aware of how employee engagement affects the brand promise, and progressive HR managers can elevate their recognition and rewards programs by working with them on programs that align with the strategic direction of the organization,” Ryan says.


[Source: Workforce Management Online,May 2011]