How can retailers make employee recognition resonate?

Jun 23, 2017
Bryan Pearson

Through a special arrangement, what follows is a summary of an article from COLLOQUY, provider of loyalty marketing publishing, education and research since 1990.

Pre-formatted emails and letters that recognize employee anniversaries or performance milestones can ring hollow, and that hollowness can stick with your employees well beyond their day of celebration.

By transforming employee milestones into opportunities to applaud their achievements before peers, organizations could elevate such moments from hollow to powerful — both psychologically and behaviorally.

Here are three layers of employee appreciation:

Layer 1: Make gratitude a key ingredient. This basic layer of recognition applies to all employees and all events, from initial training to unexpected good deeds. Use these public moments as opportunities for the team to share, with examples, how the associate elevated himself and the company. LoyaltyOne’s Achievers Employee Success Platform, for instance, provides workers a way to call out team and individual contributions from across departments. The result: a six percent increase in employee engagement scores, and evidence that shows workers who know why their peers appreciate them will be motivated to build on those contributions in the long term.

Layer 2: Mix in complementary sweeteners. This layer of recognition applies to anniversaries and more advanced performance achievements. In addition to acknowledging an employee’s specific contributions, team leaders should correlate those contributions to the organization’s success and reward the employees accordingly. LoyaltyOne’s President’s Circle Award, for example, celebrates employees who make exceptional contributions to the business and community in ways that specifically align with our values. In past years, we honored associates with weekend getaways and recognition dinners in Manhattan and Quebec City.

Layer 3: Slather on the company culture. Finally, major milestone anniversaries and rare accomplishments are opportunities to inspire all associates. The goal is to make the recipient a company hero, so these gatherings require more fanfare. A 20-year anniversary, for example, could be celebrated by bringing the entire company together and giving the employee one gift that exemplifies each year of his or her service. The key is sharing firsthand how the associate expresses the company’s values, emphasizing that the organization really is the product of its people.

  • Cakes Are Tasty, But Here’s How To Put The Icing On Employee Recognition – COLLOQUY

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: In what ways do retailers often come up short when recognizing employees? How should retailers handle smaller milestones or accomplishments versus larger ones?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"None of this works if the company cannot demonstrate that it authentically cares about its employees. "
"Frequent and creative compensatory packages are key to an outstanding employee experience."
"The highest reward possible is truly knowing that you are doing what you are meant to do with your life."

Join the Discussion!

11 Comments on "How can retailers make employee recognition resonate?"

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Frank Riso

Retailers come up short when they institute an Employee of the Month program. They seem to think that every month they must reward someone and that leads to someone who is not very good getting the reward. Some months can be skipped. I think smaller milestones should be rewarded similarly to larger ones in order to motivate associates to work toward the larger milestones.

Art Suriano

This is an excellent topic for discussion. There is nothing more important for any employee than appreciation and recognition. Statistically more employees leave jobs for lack of acknowledgments than because of pay. Too many retailers just do not understand that, and they lose good people and fail to motivate others. It doesn’t have to be an expensive gift given to an employee celebrating a work anniversary or acknowledgment for a job well done. I have seen some of the simplest and inexpensive kind gestures like a store manager bringing in some pizzas and everyone signing a card. What did that cost? But the smile on the face of the person their peers are recognizing goes a very long way. Employee recognition and appreciation helps build the right culture, helps boost morale and creates a better work environment. Most importantly, happy employees produce more, sell more and enjoy their jobs more!

Brandon Rael

In the age of the customer, one of the key competitive differentiators for brick-and-mortar retailers is incentivized, motivated and comprehensively-trained front-line employees. The old Employee of the Month recognition and other outdated incentives simply do not resonate well with this current generation.

Frequent and creative compensatory packages are key to an outstanding employee experience. In the spirit of innovation an employee points system could be implemented based on hitting sales, revenue and inventory targets. Especially since the workforce is as digital-native focused as the customers, and loyalty-incentivized points would help retain the best employees and keep them satisfied.

Ian Percy
Maybe it’s time for re-thinking this recognition thing. First, let’s look at the very word; it means “to acknowledge, know again; examine.” But “know” and “examine” what again? Most corporate recognition efforts attempt to reward a person for fulfilling someone else’s goals and objectives. Usually that “someone else” is a boss or a corporate entity. So, in a sense, the corporation says to the employee, “Here’s a reward for helping us reach our goals and be more profitable.” But do they have ANY idea what that employee’s OWN goals are? Gallup says that the employee engagement level is a measly 32 percent. In other words there is a huge gap between what a person is doing for a paycheck and the purpose and meaning of their own life. The highest reward possible is truly knowing that you are doing what you are meant to do with your life; to be dramatic — you are fulfilling your destiny. That is the ultimate challenge any of us will ever face. Sadly the educational, corporate, religious and even… Read more »
Nikki Baird
Nikki Baird
VP of Retail Innovation, Aptos
3 years 20 days ago
None of this works if the company cannot demonstrate that it authentically cares about its employees. If employees are bitter or feel used or abused by everyday policies and interactions with management, no amount of gratitude for a milestone – even if the person driving the program themselves genuinely cares for the employee – will ever come across as genuine. So in this list, I would order company culture #1. If you have a company culture that doesn’t revere company heroes, or whose idea of recognizing a company hero is a lousy gift card that, by the way, has exclusions on how it can be used (I’ve been the recipient of an employee recognition gift certificate that could not be used on electronics or appliances. How awesome is that!), then calling someone out as a company hero is just a slap in the face. What’s most dangerous about such programs (and I’m not advocating against them so much as advocating to be genuine and meaningful about them) is how easy it is for corporate headquarters… Read more »
Stuart Silverman

I agree that store associates are the most unrecognized and underappreciated assets that brick and mortar retailers have in the struggle for relevance and competitive edge in today’s multichannel retail environment.

I am all for recognizing associates for a job well done. But, as the other writers have noted, the typical rewards are often impersonal and ring hollow to the associates who receive them.

I think we need to rethink what performance we are recognizing — to think about how to realign associate behaviors with business goals.

I believe that we should recognize associates for the service that they provide to their customers. And that the best way to understand how our customers feel about the service is to ask them, which lets associates and their managers see how they really measure up to customer expectations. Those would be metrics worth recognizing and rewarding.

Given today’s tools, that’s easier said than done.

Craig Sundstrom

No offense to Bryan — I hope — but it seems odd to claim “pre-formatted emails … ring hollow” and then lay out a pre-formatted program … with phrases like “slather on company culture,” no less.

But back on topic: the biggest shortcoming, sadly, is not providing “recognition” on a daily basis. No amount of anniversary congrats or birthdays cakes — even chocolate! — are going to make up for low pay, inconsistent/absent evaluations, and lack of opportunities.

As for receiving (only) token recognition for milestones, I think people are fine with that, at least insofar as they come from some central office: no one is going to expect the CEO of a 50,000 employee company to drop by for a 5 year mark … smaller firms and immediate managers, of course, should be expected to be more personal.

Ralph Jacobson

Make it genuine. Make it consistent. Solicit input from all staff on whom to recognize. The quiet people need this, too. Make the recognition valuable, not necessarily monetary. Lead by example. That’s easy to say, but no so commonplace in practice.

Ricardo Belmar

Every employee wants feedback. That’s the first key to any recognition “program.” Often times the issue with recognition is that it’s treated like a “program” — employee of the month is the most common example. Often times, boxing in recognition with a fixed program designed to turn reward and recognition into a machine has the opposite effect with employees and just makes them feel more like a number than a person contributing to the company’s bottom line.

It really is a corporate culture issue more than anything else — without the right culture built around recognizing great achievements, no “program” will be able to express enough authenticity to make a difference with employees.

Bill Fotsch
3 years 19 days ago

Each of the suggestions in the article are fine. But I have seen a more holistic approach work much better at driving results and engagement. Empowering employees to think and act like owners, driving and participating in the profitable growth of the company, is a proven way to drive results and engagement. Industry leaders like Southwest Airlines, Capital One and BHP Billiton, (clients of mine), and hundreds of private companies treat their employees like trusted business partners, enabling them to make more money for their company and themselves. They consistently see both profits and engagement soar. This is particularly true in retail, where employees have to make customer facing decisions all the time. This Forbes article provides more background.

Christopher P. Ramey

Employees are a cost. But the bigger cost is mid and upper level managers who see those they supervise as tools for their own personal objectives. Meanwhile, HR departments exist to protect the company rather than growing those they hire. All manifesting more employee loyalty programs executed to mask management’s weaknesses and increasingly cynical employees.

No easy cure when employee experience is as important as customer experience. One thing is sure; most things rote are wrong.

"None of this works if the company cannot demonstrate that it authentically cares about its employees. "
"Frequent and creative compensatory packages are key to an outstanding employee experience."
"The highest reward possible is truly knowing that you are doing what you are meant to do with your life."

Take Our Instant Poll

What grade would you give retailers in general for the way they recognize employee milestones or accomplishments?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...