Making it Personal

For effective recognition, there's no substitute for a personalized experience.
Molly Blabolil-Erfort
VP of Marketing @ Marketing Innovators, Intl.
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Empower your team, customers, or channel partners with the freedom to choose their own reward. No more pressure to select the perfect gift, recipients get to choose for themselves.

As an HR professional and as a consumer, I keep my eyes on trends. Trend-watching keeps me ahead of the change curve when it comes to HR. As a consumer, trend-watching makes me a more informed shopper. What I’m seeing now is a blended trend, that is, organizations treating employees as consumers. With employee engagement and retention being top concerns these days, treating employees as though they are our best customers is a smart move. Here’s why:

Think about your recent trip to a mall or to a local store in your city. If you’ve noticed that your experience there was less transactional and more “experiential,” you’re right. As they seek to attract new customers and build loyalty among existing ones, retailers are putting big money into making shopping a pleasant experience and not just a transaction. Think about malls that now include dining and entertainment, and stores that deliver personalized customer service.

Businesses are taking a page from the retailer’s book and finding ways to make the time employees spend on the job a positive experience, not just an exchange of labor and talent for a paycheck. The better the employee experience, the deeper their engagement with their organization and their loyalty to it. This ties to what we talked about here recently, employees as brand ambassadors. If employees don’t have positive experiences with their employers, it’s pretty unlikely they will be brand ambassadors for the organization.

Smart businesses are extending that positive experience to job candidates as well, and for good reason.

A 2016 study conducted by Future Workplace with CareerArc surveyed 1200 job candidates and employers and found that nearly two-thirds of the candidates had a poor experience with the application and interview process. And worse, 72 percent “…shared that experience online on an employer review.”

Forbes has identified “improving their (the company’s) candidates and employee experiences” as a top 10 trend for 2017. As you think about ways to further enhance your employees’ workplace experiences, I’ll share with you some ideas we’ve implemented here and that we’ve seen work successfully in other organizations.

Understand what motivates each employee and “sculpt” the job to fit. This idea comes from a Deloitte University Press article (“Employees as Customers, Reimagining the Employee Experience in Government,” May 31, 2016) that suggests employees sharing the same job category may not be driven by the same motivations. Managers need to dig a little, informally and during reviews, to discover what individual employees feel passionate about and then create opportunities that make it possible in the workplace. For example, if an employee has a passion for learning, supporting that with workshops or in-house tutorials delivers a positive workplace experience.

Make it easier for employees to perform their work. What’s getting in the way of employees getting their work done? Lack of resources? Not enough time to complete tasks? Distractions that pull their attention away from their work? Example: being pulled into unnecessary, drawn-out meetings.

Cut back on “administrivia.” A common complaint among employees is the amount of time spent entering data—into reporting documents or workflow management tools, for example—and not enough time spent on the critical thinking required to do their jobs well. Think about it: do you want your employees to be data drones or do you want them to use the skills and knowledge you hired them for?

Be flexible as to where work can be performed. Telecommuting is increasingly an option in most organizations. But what about other options right in your own office? It can be as simple as offering quiet spaces within the office setting where employees can go to “think through” a problem or work concentrate on a task.

Give employees freedom to determine how to perform their jobs. Who is better at figuring out the best way to perform a task or execute a plan than the persons actually doing it? Does your organization encourage employees to share their ideas on how to do jobs better? Does it reward those suggestions that are actually implemented?

In 2015, GALLUP reported that 32% of Americans were considered engaged in their jobs, 50% were unengaged, while 17% were “actively disengaged.”  These numbers aren’t much of an improvement from the GALLUP results cited in 2005. Over 10 years ago, employees were 29% engaged, 54% unengaged, and 17% actively disengaged. Hopefully, you look at these reports and see opportunity, because there are many ways to actively engage people, which in turn increases revenue, productivity, and overall attitude of your company. Employers are also finally realizing the importance and benefit of engaging their employees. So, how do we reach those who are “unengaged” and motivate them to join those who are passionate about what they do, feel a connection to the company and their managers, and assisting in moving the company forward? The first place to start is connecting with them.

People need to feel valued. Ivey Business Journal quotes, “Employee engagement is a direct reflection of how employees feel about their relationship with their boss.” It is essential to genuinely invest in those relationships. Authentically praising and congratulating someone for a job well-done, can go a long way. In a work environment where people believe their boss or manager cares enough to recognize their performance, the tone is set for peer-to-peer recognition to occur, which also positively contributes to the work environment and overall attitude. Once the relationship is established, it can be fostered with employee-focused initiatives and incentive programs.

Immediate reward and recognition
Once those incentive programs are initiated, they need to be properly executed in order to be effective. Positively reinforcing people for achieving a desired outcome (both with verbal praise or tangent reward) is not a new concept, and in fact, is practiced with even the youngest of learners. Effectively engaging your employees is no different. Clearly outlining the expectation of how to earn the reward, and delivering it as quickly as possibly upon completion is key. Immediate reward and recognition will encourage the employees to associate the desired performance with the reward and motivate for future outcomes.

Looking back at the statistics, it’s clear that there's ample room for growth. Connecting, socializing, and building meaningful relationships within the office can ultimately better you and your business.