“Recognition must be authentic for it to work,” stresses Joe Apfelbaum, CEO and co-founder of Ajax Union. “You need to be thoughtful and specific.”
In a recent Forbes article
, Apfelbaum offered his expert advice to HR professionals who want to shake things up when it comes to rewarding employees for their work.
Recognition is routine
“Make it a routine to thank your employees each month on a one on one basis,” advises Apfelbaum.
“Use their first name and thank them for working in the company, for engaging in it and let them know that you know they have options and you are grateful they are with you on this journey,” he suggests. “Do this for your direct reports and have them do it to theirs.”
“Writing a handwritten thank you note is a nice gesture, few people actually do it,” says Apfelbaum, suggesting employers mind find it easier if they create a folder for every employee and start a note for each one.
“Don’t write what you are thanking them for yet but the note was started and it’s much easier to just finish the note at a later day,” he explains. “Do this 12 times for each employee and you will find ways to finish the hand written letter.”
That’s the ticket
“Buy lotto tickets for your employees and give them out when they do something you appreciate,” advises Apfelbaum, who reveals he likes to buy scratch off tickets and give them out whenever he sees someone do something nice, like take out the trash, close a deal or say something that was impressive.
“When handing them the ticket make sure to make eye contact and thank them for what they did,” he advises.
Time for treats
“Have a list of your employees favourite treats,” he suggests. “Go to the grocery and buy them each what they love.”
Employers should then keep these treats close by and hand them out randomly.
“They will see how much you care about them and will remember that forever,” he insists.
It’s the thought that counts
“Find out what your employee loves and give them a gift that is aligned with their interest,” says Apfelbau, suggesting a ticket to an event they might be interested in.
“Remember, they don’t need to go but the gesture shows that you really care about them and took the time to think about what they care about.”
Hey birthday boy – or girl
While giving birthday cakes to every employee is a nice idea, it quickly becomes impractical and expensive in large organizations.
“Make sure that you have all your employee birthdays in your calendar and give them a call or walk over and wish them a happy birthday,” suggests Apfelbaum. “Even if you do not throw a party, it will mean the world to them.”
Lunch and learn
Apfelbaum also recommends employers occasionally take workers out to lunch and get to know them.
“It doesn’t have to be more than half an hour once a year,” he says. “Just asking them about their life, what they are up to and what they care about can make a person’s world come alive. Make sure to write down what you learned so you can review it in the future and mention it to them.”
“Buy your employee a plaque with their name engraved when they work for you for one year,” advises Apfelbaum. “Celebrate the milestone and they will feel amazing for it. Most companies do not have rituals like this. This might be the only plaque the person will ever get and they will cherish this forever.”
Studies increasingly show that employees are most drawn to companies that will help them develop professionally.
“People want to know that they are learning and growing constantly,” agrees Apfelbaum. “Find out what your employee wants to learn about and buy them a course or class.”
Today’s your day
Finally, Apfelbaum suggests creating a special day for each person in the organization.
“That is they day that everyone goes out of their way to do something nice for that person,” he explains. “If you have a small company you can do that a few times a year. People love to do nice things for other people and when you make it a company policy to do that for everyone, suddenly people are naturally more engaged.”
For employees to stay motivated and engaged, they need to be recognized for their work – but a pat on the back and “job well done” won’t always cut it, warns one prominent business leader.