How to keep employees happy in a troubled economy? Celebrate their work

No matter how much an employee may love Remote or hybrid workwe have yet to replicate full-time camaraderie and culture that comes with sharing office space with your bosses and co-workers. During the pandemic, employee rewards and recognition have been adopted to raise spirits and remind employees that they are part of a larger community. But as the economy is falteringare these coveted perks on the way out?

In the US, the rewards and incentives marketplace is a $90 billion industry that includes gift cards, merchandise and other “prizes” used to boost productivity and connection within an organization. For Blueboard, a startup that helps employers offer personalized, experience-based rewards to their employees, business has boomed during the pandemic — and demand for those offerings has yet to slow.

“You’d think that in a recession, companies would certainly withdraw these programs,” said Taylor Smith, co-founder and CEO of Blueboard. “But we’ve actually seen existing customers spend more in the last quarter.”

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As told to him by a middle-class CHRO, Smith explains, vital benefits such as maternity leave and Support for working parents will never experience cutbacks, no matter how bad a recession or economic crisis may be. The world’s free lunches and wellness programs — the perks of the workplace — are at greater risk. But the idea of ​​employee recognition, especially in a remote and hybrid world, is starting to shift to the “must-have” rather than “nice-to-have” category.

“This CHRO’s view was that recognition is truly a necessity, even more so when a company is facing difficult times,” says Smith. “You can really rise and rise by investing in your people.”

From Smith’s point of view, just as companies need to rethink how they operate in a post-COVID world, it may be time to rethink the way they reward employees.

“Some organizations spend tens of millions of dollars of their budget on recognition every year, but they spend it on things like giving an employee who did a great job a $250 Amex card,” says he. “The person receiving that in that moment is going to say, ‘Oh, that’s really nice. But they will spend the gift card on groceries or a haircut rather than something really for them. They won’t remember it a week later, they won’t tell their friends, and it won’t make them any more loyal.”

Continue reading: To be successful at work, employees need to be seen, recognized and celebrated

According to the Incentive Federation, a trade body for the incentive industry, this way of thinking is in line with well-known trends. For example, incentive and rewards programs that offer merchandise or gift cards generate a 46% higher return on employee productivity than programs that simply offer cash.

At BlueBoard, Smith hopes to take recognition to the next level by working to increase employee recognition to more than a dollar amount. Rather than giving a Rockstar employee a $500 cash prize or even a gift certificate to celebrate a milestone project or achievement at work, Blueboard enables employers to allow their employees to select an experience of their choice from the Blueboard platform – from reservations at a Michelin-starred restaurant to NFL tickets for the team of their choice, or even a behind-the-scenes zoo tour for employees with children.

The amount of the premium is at the discretion of the employer; From the employee’s perspective, no visible dollar amount is assigned to their work, ideally making the exchange feel more authentic.

“Recognition has become so transactional that it no longer feels like recognition,” says Smith.

But celebrating employees with unexpected rewards can’t be the beginning and end of a company’s commitment to recognition, he emphasizes.

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“There’s a recognition pyramid that gives a good framework to look at, and there are essentially three types of recognition that you as a company should be doing,” says Smith. The first is peer-to-peer, “free-flowing” recognition that occurs in day-to-day interactions. The second is the informal recognition that flows out Manager to employees. (“People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers, do they?” warns Smith.) Finally, the formal recognition that shifts from company to employee.

“There are many opportunities to feel seen,” says Smith. “And that’s what recognition is about.”

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