There are many factors prospective new hires think about when considering an offer: opportunities to drive meaningful progress in the world, colleagues they’ll connect with, or the chance to do the things they’re most passionate about. In many cases, job seekers’ criteria are unique to their specific skill set or personal goals. However, one criterion that transcends personal preference is the quality of a company’s employee experience — and companies with the best corporate employee recognition programs have discovered that these programs are an effective way to cultivate it.
The employee experience encompasses everything from the physical workspace to leadership style. Its value is big, and the quality of a company’s employee experience can often exercise a major impact in a job seekers’ final decision. From rigorous management training to team building exercises, companies adopt all kinds of strategies to support a competitive employee experience. One of the most common is a company-wide employee recognition program. When done well, such a program can be truly transformative to the employee experience.
How Employee Recognition Supports the Entire Employee Experience
Employee recognition is just one part of a truly well-rounded employee experience, but its impact is more far-reaching than many corporate leaders realize. For one thing, when team members recognize each other for positive contributions at work, their bonds strengthen. Having meaningful peer-to-peer relationships is key to a truly exceptional employee experience, and it can sometimes be one of the most difficult pieces to cultivate — but not with employee recognition. Additionally, when employees feel their hard work is genuinely appreciated, morale stays high and employees remain inspired to do more hard work in the future. This promotes a strong work ethic and pervasive can-do attitude throughout your entire company.
Little by little, the impact of repeated recognition will quietly revolutionize your entire cultural climate, contributing to an elevated employee experience that stands out from the rest. A thoughtfully designed employee recognition program is one of the most singularly effective steps a company can take to create a truly incredible employee experience.
Lessons from the Best Corporate Employee Recognition Programs
Not all employee recognition programs were created equal, and there’s a few key recommendations you should know. Below are three important lessons from some of the best corporate employee recognition programs that you should keep in mind to make your own effective.
1. Make Recognition Multi-Directional, Like Zappos
Zappos seems to land on every list of the best corporate employee recognition programs, and for good reason. The company is famous for their rewards program, which runs on a currency aptly named Zappos Dollars.
At Zappos, recognition is not confined by traditional organizational hierarchies. Managers award peers with Zappos Dollars for a variety of praise-worthy occasions, but peers also reward managers as well as fellow peers. Through this multi-directional model of recognition, Zappos has made their program truly revolutionary.
Along with multi-directional recognition, Zappos recognition program includes custom rewards, periodic awards ceremonies, and even branded vending machines where Zappos Dollars can be redeemed. They’ve put a lot of thought, effort, and resources into their program, and it’s why they have one of the best corporate employee recognition programs around.
2. Use Recognition to Build Visibility, Like Communication Service for the Deaf
Like many enterprises, Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD) once struggled to make their employees feel seen and engaged. The problem stemmed from the fact that much of their employees work virtually and therefore lack visibility into one another’s smaller day-to-day wins. To solve the problem, CSD implemented a company-wide employee recognition program. Team members send recognition to each other on a public social feed where others can read, like, and chime in about all the things their colleagues near and far are doing well. Not only is CSD’s recognition program inclusive to the whole workforce, it includes custom rewards and exclusive corporate discounts. The impact of such a thoughtfully designed program shows.
After the launch of their new program, feelings of recognition among CSD employees jumped from 30% to over 70%, and they’ve continued to keep recognition top-of-mind. You can hear about CSD’s recognition journey in their own words here, but the major lesson is clear: be sure your recognition program is accessible to all members of your workforce. If it is, it can become an incredibly effective tool for promoting feelings of unity at your company and help you craft one of the best corporate employee recognition programs, too.
3. Incorporate the Element of Surprise, Like Apple
Job review sites have long sung the praises of the employee experience at Apple. Apple has poured extensive resources into designing an employee experience that sets them apart as one of the most appealing employers in the world.
However, one of their most effective strategies actually doesn’t cost anything at all. Among the many lessons that can be learned from Apple about the employee experience is the value of unexpected recognition.
As an example, one year, Apple surprised their entire company by giving them the whole week of Thanksgiving off, rather than just their usual Thursday and Friday. Those extra days employees got to spend recharging weren’t counted toward employees’ annual PTO — they were just gifts, courtesy of the company, to thank employees for the hard work they put in that year.
A generous time off policy can also be a component of a strong employee experience, but incorporating this element of surprise takes it to the next level. The best part is that it doesn’t cost a thing to replicate this element of the best corporate employee recognition programs into your own.
Whether you follow Apple’s example and give unexpected vacation days or practice other kinds of surprise recognition, showing your employees you appreciate them when they least expect it can be an extremely memorable gesture.
With a Great Employee Experience, Everyone Wins
Although we framed these best practices in the context of how they can help you create an employee experience that’s attractive to new hires, there’s a slew of other benefits that the best corporate employee recognition programs have as well. Recognition has been shown to increase productivity, improve overall performance, and has even been associated with greater profit margins.
These positive outcomes are a case of simple cause and effect: Companies run on the work done by the people at them. People work better when they’re in an enriching, enjoyable environment. When people work better, so does the company.
No matter what stage your company is at in its employee recognition journey, these best practices can help you refine your program to deliver maximum impact. By showing your employees how much you appreciate them, you can elevate the quality of your company’s employee experience and move all parties closer to their goals.
Katerina Mery is a Marketing Specialist at Fond with a background in cognitive psychology and a passion for improving the way people live and work. She especially enjoys learning about how to accomplish this through rewards and recognition. In her spare time, you can find Katerina running outside, admiring art, and exploring the latest and greatest local restaurants.