How to recognise and thank staff for going the extra mile

uploaded on 7 April 2020

Recognise and thank staff

How to recognise and thank staff for going the extra mile

When business returns to a new normal and social distancing is but a faded memory, the one thing your staff will remember is how you supported them during these challenging times. Staff are being asked to step up, make difficult choices and do things differently, not as a one off, but probably for at least three months. 

It is likely that organisations will need to adjust their usual approach to recognising and rewarding staff in order to sustain their commitment over the longer term, to reflect the new circumstances that people are working in.  Here are five essential steps you can take to ensure your staff feel supported. 

1. Think, what support do your people want from you?

First, take a step back and think about how the experience of work has changed for your staff over the past few weeks. Healthcare workers are dealing with unprecedented levels of emotional and mental stress and physical exhaustion from working extended shifts.

In addition to worrying about infection, front line workers in supermarkets, factories and distribution warehouses are working long hours and being asked to pick up new shifts at short notice.

Homeworkers are adjusting to remote working, operating new technology, and working in different ways to keep business as usual.  Those with children are trying to stay on top of their workload while keeping young children entertained or supporting their child’s home learning.  In short, not the ideal circumstances to stress test the world’s largest experiment in working from home.

Under these challenging circumstances do the values and behaviours you reward under normal circumstances still make sense?

2. Check your recognition strategy drives values and behaviours that are relevant

Your core company values may need adapting to support the current needs of your business and workforce.  A key function of employee recognition programmes is to reinforce company culture, or the way you want staff to behave and treat one another.  In these challenging times you may want to reinforce the need for colleagues to be extra supportive and patient with one another. Or perhaps it is to recognise the employee who took time away from their own work to help a colleague get to grips with new technology.  It’s those small, selfless acts that are making the difference in today’s world.

Organisations will take different approaches to this issue.  Many may feel their existing values are able to recognise employees for doing great things in the current situation.  Whereas others are adding new ones or a 'Special Contribution' award in light of Covid-19.  Whichever approach you choose, it is important to make sure your recognition values resonate with what your employees are experiencing.

 3. Be fair and consistent

There’s no right or wrong answer to whether you continue to use existing values or add new ones.  What really does matter is that line managers are consistent in the delivery of recognition.  More than ever, it is critical that employees remain engaged.  Frankly, recognition that is delivered inconsistently, for reasons which are unclear, or simply not at all, is more detrimental than not having an employee recognition scheme in the first place.  Employees will see it as unfair, unjust, and won’t bother with it.  This is particularly the case when you have a reward budget as part of your recognition scheme

Most companies will define a base level criteria to help managers understand if a reward should be given or not. “Doing a job well”, “Going above and beyond”, “Saved the day”, “Working in difficult circumstances” are all good examples of this.  In this period when so many people are going the extra mile, but not necessarily in ways that would have been valued before, it is critical that the line manager that gives the award is explicit about what the behaviour the recipient is being rewarded for, and how it helped the organisation in today’s context.  

 4. Give reward that an employee will most appreciate

Several supermarkets are giving store workers a bonus in recognition of the extraordinary circumstances they are working in.  Employees with school age children working from home appreciate being given extra days for family leave. This is a deeply worrying time for most people and seeing their employer ramp up investment in employee wellbeing sends a clear message that their employer understands and cares about the stress they are experiencing. 

 5.  Adjust the way you say thank you to a virtual or socially distanced environment

Irrespective of the size of the reward, the way the recipient is thanked makes a significant difference to the value they place on it.  Keeping up the ritual of gathering the team, announcing an achievement, hugging or shaking hands with the recipient, handing over the reward, and the wider team clapping their appreciation is arguably more important than ever. 

At times when the team can’t be together, recognition platforms make saying thank you a community event.  The recognition is visible to all and for the employee creates a buzz around being thanked in the moment when they done a great job.  

How an organisation communicates to remote colleagues the great work and efforts that are being recognised is critical to maintain morale.  In today’s socially connected world, HR, managers and business leaders are spoilt for choice in the range of social tools they use to shout out employee success and remind them to visit the recognition platform. 

Don’t forget to encourage employees to engage with your culture of recognition and acknowledge great work done by colleagues.  It’s easy to forget when you’re not exposed to reminders in the office to do so.  A monthly HR/MD bulletin is a simple yet effective way to call out some of the great stories and remind people to recognise each other when appropriate.

Let your people know you appreciate the circumstances they are working in today and they’ll thank you in the new tomorrow.

If you would like to learn more about setting up a recognition scheme in your organisation, please click here.

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