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Rick Blabolil
August 26, 2013

5 Ways to Personalize Employee Awards and Connect With Your Workforce

Too often in our rewards and recognition programs we confuse personalized employee awards with personalization. But there is a vast difference between the two and the way we handle that difference has a big impact on employee engagement.

A personalized award may take the form of the employee’s name on a plaque. Or on a piece of crystal. Or maybe on an item that is customized for your company alone and carries your company’s name or brand as well as the employee’s. These gestures are nice, but in today’s world nice is no longer enough.

We are dealing with a diverse workforce and, increasingly, a workforce where individuals—especially Millennials–demand to be known. To be known is to be valued, and to be valued is to be engaged. When we personalize our employee awards, we show that we know and value that employee, who in response will be more engaged. In short, we form an emotional connection between the organization and the employee, a critical factor in an economy where 52 percent of workers are not engaged and 18 percent are actively disengaged—“emotionally disconnected” from their companies according to Gallup (How to Tackle U.S. Employees’ Stagnating Engagement).

Here are some ideas for personalizing awards:

  1. Who. Personalizing awards takes time and energy. It’s up to managers to make the effort every day to develop and nurture the human connection with their team—to show them that they are known, understood and valued as individuals. When it comes time to recognize and reward, that human connection makes personalizing an award easy.
  2. What. Give employees a choice of awards. This recognizes at a very basic level that everyone is different and highlights that individuality.
  3. When. On-the-spot recognition embodies personalization.  If your company has a social media platform, this a great place for spontaneously recognizing achievement. For the less outgoing employee, a simple “thank you” over a cup of coffee with their manager may be a highly valued award.
  4. Where. Recognize employees in a setting that is most comfortable for them. Some love being publicly acknowledged in front of others. But some would rather receive their award in a more private setting. It’s worthwhile to take the time to find out.
  5. How. Today’s workplace is collaborative and teamwork is the norm. But you can still personalize awards. One approach is to recognize the team’s achievement with an award co-branded with the team name and the company. Follow up with smaller awards that speak to the individuality of each team member.

What have you found that awards employees in a way that is meaningful to them as individuals? What have you found that doesn’t work, and why? Send us your comments in the box below:

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