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How to create an engagement program employees will love

Getting caught up in the mire of research and opinions about whether or not rewards work can drive one to drink—or something stronger! It’s especially true if you have a large workforce and are getting pressure from the top to produce results. What kind of behavior changes are you looking to achieve in your workplace? What measurements are you using that confirm certain behaviors are improving?

We know what doesn’t work. Compliance is not engagement. Fear isn’t respect. Intimidation creates costly turnover. Cooperation isn’t always collaboration. Throwing only cash or rewards at your workforce will produce only temporary changes in attitude and behavior.

The Pavlov approach to changing employee behavior gets a one-time response at best. Once the reward runs out, your employees will often revert to their old ways. Losing weight, showing up on time, quitting smoking, practicing safety, contributing ideas, saving money, or improving sales are all goals that need more than a pat on the back or a new TV. You can spend a lot of money—only to get a temporary result.

So do rewards work?

The answer will depend on how your programs are designed and implemented. What you want is the best use of your organization’s resources for long-term positive and productive performance. Here’s a hint—sincere and deserved recognition is the foundation.   

Topics: retaining your valued employees Communication Employee Engagement Safety Employee Retention Employee Recognition Sales Performance Peer to peer recognition tangible reward Attendance Employee Incentive Programs

Why marketing needs employee engagement

When examining notable Chief Marketing Officers like Marissa Riccardi, Michael Lazerow, Eileen Zicchino, Simon Clift, Pamela Kaufman, Terri Graham, and so many others, a common understanding is shared. Employee engagement dramatically affects the success of building your brand.

“When it comes to clients, it’s all about trust,” notes CMO Eileen Zicchino. “When we look at our brand attributes, it’s about character, intelligence, and strength. Our employees help us put the client first. Our workforce works very closely with them which, in turn, builds our brand. It must be about relationships and trust even if it means we have to turn away business.”

The promise your brand makes to customers is powerfully delivered through the behaviors of your workforce. They are your brand ambassadors. With every move, they represent your brand and they are what differentiates you in the marketplace. All the advertising dollars in the world can proclaim how great your products are or how customer-focused your company is but it’s not enough. How your receptionist answers the phone, how accessible your customer service hotline is, and how well you serve the interests of your clients is what ultimately wins and retains customers.

Properly identifying what makes your brand valuable while helping employees to live and breathe your brand promises will result in superlative employee and customer experiences. That’s what you want.

The focus then becomes how best to collaborate with your employees to match brand values with your customer requirements. What are your strengths? What are you excellent at? What is innovative about you? Are you delivering on your promises? Does your workforce enthusiastically advocate for your brand’s message?

Topics: Employee Engagement Employee Recognition employee training Results Suggestion Programs Employee Incentive Programs Social Engagment Tools Employee ideas Chief Marketing Officer CMO marketing

More success stories from the employee engagement archives

It’s not difficult to make the case that the ongoing financial mess on Wall Street and TARP payments to some of the country’s biggest banks have victimized smaller firms. One victim is the investment management industry. A big challenge becomes being able to assure clients they can continue to trust them with their money.

As we have emphasized in previous blogs, having a workplace that engenders a culture of respect, engagement, trust, and fairness will aid in empowering your organization to keep clients. And how do you do that?

By inspiring your most valuable asset—your employees. When individual employees feel a part of the whole, they will invest more of their efforts on your customer’s behalf. And your customers will respond positively. Often a customer’s only perception of your business comes from their interaction with your employees. That presents a wonderful opportunity for you to become remembered as the deliverer of a great brand experience. The perception of being a caring organization will resonate well within the marketplace.

The employee factor is a powerful asset you already have that can offset market conditions. So ask yourself—what is your client’s perception of your company? Is their interaction with your organization conducive to them staying? Is your customer’s recollection of their entire experience with you, at all touch points, a good one? Is your organization still cautious about implementing an employee recognition and rewards program? Do these programs really work? Here are some success stories guaranteed to reassure you of the value of employee interaction.

Companies that have embraced the power of engagement

Topics: Communication Employee Engagement Employee Retention Employee Recognition Peer to peer recognition Performance performance improvement solutions

What is a happy employee? What is an engaged employee?

Companies today want to attract and retain the best quality talent. Some of these same organizations believe the best way to do this is to offer the most enticing perks one can imagine— sauna rooms, nap areas, free lunch, paid days off, afternoon bowling, and the list goes on.

Much confusion remains among employers as to the differences between a happy worker and an engaged worker. Of course, anyone would be happy with a free lunch but the point here is that being engaged must come before being happy. They are not necessarily exclusive. They just need to be put in the right order. Your highest ideal, as an employer, is the development of a productive, creative, loyal, and passionate workforce. That will happen when you have engaged your people. The results will also affect your customer base because your engaged employees will take better care of them. Your customers, in turn, will tend to stick with you.

If you are a forward looking brand, you will have to contend with the economic uncertainty out there among consumers. No one has to tell you, the customer is always right even when they’re not. Although the level of consumer skepticism is high, this can work to your advantage if your employees are inspired to provide great customer service and experience. For example, an employee may be happy at work but not necessarily investing their energy on behalf of your organization.

When surveyed, some employees might even claim to be happy and satisfied with their job but will not hesitate to jump ship when another “opportunity” comes along. By coming to a better understanding of what it means to be happy, satisfied, and engaged, you can take intelligent steps to improve your overall workforce retention and performance.

Topics: incentive programs Rewards Communication Employee Engagement Employee Retention Employee Recognition Results engaged employee

How to motivate a sales champion

Industry Hall of Fame winner and AMD Founder Jerry Sanders launched an American Dream sales campaign as an incentive for his sales champions reaching 200 million in sales. When the goal was reached, the sales team was paid handsomely plus every other employee’s name was placed in a hat. Factory line worker Jocelyn Lleno was chosen and awarded a new home. Two others received Cadillac Sevilles.

Topics: sales incentive programs Communication awards Employee Recognition Sales Performance Sales performance improvement solutions Rewards and Recognition

How and when to start a peer recognition program

The top three employee incentive programs are: length of service, outstanding service, and peer recognition. Why peer employee recognition? Peer programs offer an organization great benefits. They are relatively easy to develop, they are inexpensive, they involve large groups of employees, and they fulfill the demand of being recognized by coworkers. The mantra? Recognition feels good—especially from colleagues.

A well designed peer initiative brings a good experience to the receiver as well as the giver. More and more organizations may be catching on, but the truth is, peer recognition programs are not a new idea.

In 1895, Alfred Nobel established the Norwegian Nobel committee of peers awarding the Nobel Peace Prize for promoting fraternity between nations. Categories expanded to include contributions in chemistry, physics, literature, physiology, and medicine. Winners are awarded medals, diplomas, and money.

Since 1929, film stars have been acknowledged by their peers for outstanding performance. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, originally conceived by MGM’s Louis B. Mayer, helped improve the film industry’s image and mediate labor disputes. As the first winner, Emil Jannings held up his “Oscar” in triumph while acknowledging his peers with, “I’d like to thank the Academy.” The UN uses a type of peer recognition to recognize and give awards to delegates for their outstanding service.

The rise in peer recognition programs today is due to the rising pressures on managers and HR to oversee more employees and larger teams. Workplace conflicts and a heavier workload leave less time for those in charge to focus on employee development and engagement. Peer programs fill in the gap because this method of recognition supports camaraderie, develops employee leaders, and strengthens a sense of ownership in your mission. Simply put, peers banding together in mutual recognition for doing meaningful work engages, motivates, and raises performance levels.

In a very real sense, employees operating their own recognition and rewards system is a type of employee ownership—a type of stock ownership and shared capitalism. The latest research findings on the benefits of employee ownership coincide with the results using peer recognition. The trust, respect, fairness, and pride index goes up. Your company becomes recognized as a great place to work with lower turnover.

The peer-to-peer recognition program—and your mission

Topics: Communication Employee Engagement Loyalty Programs awards Employee Recognition Sales Performance Peer to peer recognition

Workplace conflict—where to find the silver lining

There are many reasons why conflicts occur in the workplace. Even the most enlightened among us might actually be the source of some of it. How do we start off our day? What outside influences do we allow to get into our psyche? We can, inadvertently, bring our morning edginess into the office along with our low tolerance for disagreement or opposition.

I remember one cold, rainy autumn morning last year—I hadn’t slept great the night before. The town had decided it would start a construction project outside my window at 6 am. Facing me at the office was a mountain of paper work that had to get done and a big meeting with a new client who promised to bring tons of demands. OK, client demands come with the territory. But then my electricity went out in the middle of a shower and my office manager called to let me know her daughter was very sick and she would be out for the rest of the week. My clock alarm wouldn’t shut up. By this time, I had amassed a nice headache. I was ready for a conflict—not good for anyone. (By the way, I don’t recommend checking emails first thing in the morning either. Spam will annoy you, urgent messages will stress you, and being reminded of something you didn’t finish yet will give you guilt.) In the end, everything worked out OK that day and I didn’t have to take an aspirin. Thank God for counting to ten and taking a deep breath! But a bad day is a common reality that we all have to deal with at some time—but how we choose to allow it to affect our work also affects everyone around us.

When conflict happens, morale gets lowered and absenteeism goes up—undermining your creativity and productivity. But all conflict is not destructive. Sometimes it can be a sign of commitment to a cause or a passion about something positive. There can be a silver lining around every conflict when we understand what it is and how to turn it around.

Topics: employees Workplace conflict Communication Loyalty Employee Retention Employee Recognition Recognition

Why listening to employee ideas will boost growth and profits.

San Mateo Times September 15th 1955 page 2:  "Ray A. Hammerstrom, a roller at the Pittsburgh factory of the Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation, had an idea worth 15,000 dollars. Events leading up to his happy dream began in the summer of 1953 when a new 10-inch bar mill was installed at the works. The switch that controlled the delivery of the straight bars to the cooling bed were not functioning. Company engineers couldn't find a solution. Hammerstrom made some rough sketches for a new design with no success. That was until one afternoon when he took a cat nap. His visionary catnap revealed the solution and won him a check for 15,000 dollars, the largest award the firm ever made to an employee for an idea."

Fact is, whatever amount Jones and Laughlin paid out to Hammerstrom, the return they received for his idea was infinitely higher. Jones and Laughlin knew they would be paid back in spades. But, in spite of the huge benefits implementing employee ideas, few organizations invite their input. History is replete with examples where new products, innovations and ways to improve the organization began with an employee idea.

Consider why it makes big time sense to encourage and reward employee ideas. How can it improve workforce engagement and product innovation? Why is listening to employee ideas a smart management practice?

Bringing in the collective wisdom for the greater good is wise because it promises to produce great ideas and increased benefits for your entire organization.

Here are some examples and what you can do to boost your profits with employee ideas.

Topics: Communication Employee Engagement Employee Retention Employee Recognition Sales Performance Performance Taico Incentive Services Retention

Employers. Jump over your obstacles and increase performance!

My friend, John A, called me about all the new taxes affecting his music company. He was a bit anxious about his ability to continue operating in the black while retaining his talented employees. After some discussion he decided the best thing to do was to reach out to his accountant to get professional advice. John asked, What can I do to reduce my tax burden, I am already at the limit. His accountant's reply? "Well John you're doing everything right and by the book. Seems to me you're just going to have to make more money.", then hung up the phone.
Businesses today, across the country, face the very same problems. Regulation, not enough growth capital, health care costs, energy costs, more taxes, complexity of taxes, uncertainty about the economy's future. Sure, if you have the time, the money and the mentality to lobby legislators all day long for relief, more power to you. Frankly I haven't found one business owner, large or small, who enjoys such luxuries. Irrespective of the obstacles being imposed on you by regulation and economic uncertainties, facing these gremlins squarely will help you survive and excel. Here we look at the most pressing obstacles you face and ways to jump over them.

Topics: incentive technology retaining your valued employees Communication Employee Recognition CFO performance improvement solutions Results

Peer to Peer recognition. What to know before taking the plunge!.

"I was very honored to be nominated by my co-workers for my efforts in the company," noted project specialist for a high profile technology company.  "I will go above and beyond for anything that my team needs in the future. And it makes me want to be more aware of all the people around me and what I can do to recognize other employees."
Workforce community recognition or peer to peer can be an effective, low cost approach for reducing turnover, boosting performance and morale. Co-worker acknowledgements inspire. When a peer recognizes a colleague it creates strong bonds within the workforce conducive to all doing a better job. Another plus is the lessening of pressure on managers and senior leaders already overburdened with additional work responsibilities. Peer to peer recognition is positive and personal. One example is the peer nomination structure in the entertainment industry. Winning a peer driven Tony or Oscar is largely what makes it so prestigious. However, before you decide to make the move to a co-worker recognition initiative, here are some observations I hope you will find helpful.

Topics: Service Awards Communication Employee Engagement Employee Recognition wellness programs Sales Attendance Rewards and Recognition Results