Opinion

Three ways staff recognition can be used to improve wellbeing

8 min read

20 September 2017

Almost a third of UK workers believe their productivity has suffered as a result of work-related stress and 44 per cent claim their motivation has suffered, and one in four thinks stress has held them back in their career.

And as a result of wellbeing issues, workplaces lose up to 27 days of productive time per employee each year. Can staff recognition solve this?

The issue of wellbeing is at the top of most HR professionals’ agendas right now – for good reason. Compared to employees who report poor wellbeing, those with excellent wellbeing rate their personal work output as 19 per cent higher (83 per cent) and the work productivity of their immediate team 20 per cent higher (81 per cent).

Many businesses are offering a range of solutions targeting different aspects of employee wellbeing, including providing financial advice, discounted gym membership and employee assistance programmes that offer a listening ear to stressed employees. But businesses are struggling to develop an effective, centralised approach to tackle this.

It is good practice to combine and layer a number of different employee wellbeing programmes alongside staff recognition and reward programmes, for maximum impact.

Interestingly, companies spending just one per cent of payroll on staff recognition are 79 per cent more likely to see better financial results. Yet, only 14 per cent of organisations provide managers with the necessary tools for staff recognition and rewards.

Staff recognition also improves “social wellness”, another key component of wellbeing. Good social wellness is grounded in work-life balance and the presence of high quality, positive interactions with others, both at work and at home.

Too often, businesses overlook the influence social interactions have on employees. In the drive to improve productivity, companies focus on getting more work done when in fact employees who have excellent social wellness yield higher productivity at work than individuals with poor social wellness.

There is no doubt that employee wellbeing aligns directly with the wellbeing of the business. This begs the question, can businesses do more to improve staff wellbeing and staff recognition?

Here are three steps to develop a staff recognition programme and improve staff wellbeing:

(1) Improve team and inter-departmental bonds

Recognition from colleagues is valued more highly than recognition from team leaders. As companies grow, a silo mentality can become the norm, with different departments, divisions and offices concentrating on their own projects in isolation from other areas of the business.

Empowering employees to give non-financial peer recognition can help to break down these barriers.

A centralised platform for peer recognition, sometimes dubbed social recognition, is highly effective. Employees can send each other quick e-cards, thanking colleagues for working late with them on a project, for example. A second tier to the programme could allow employees to use peer recognition mechanisms to nominate each other for monthly awards.

Such a centralised peer recognition platform also enables the business to appeal to millennials’ desire for public, real-time recognition and is much more effective than traditional annual award ceremonies. It also drives continuous positive interaction between employees and between teams.

Read on the next page for insights of the remarkable impact embracing recognition can have for managing performance.

(2) Improve manager-employee relationships

Relying on annual appraisals or annual engagement surveys alone will allow resentment to fester. Many employees cite managers as the root cause of them handing in their notice or underperforming, so it is essential to build a healthy relationship between manager and employee.

Staff recognition, via a well-managed platform, gives managers the tools they need and a constant reminder to showcase great work and thank their team members.

When employees feel appreciated, the effect on their productivity can be remarkable. Harvard Medical School reports: “Researchers randomly divided university fundraisers into two groups. One group made phone calls to solicit alumni donations in the same way they always had.

“The second group, assigned to work on a different day, received a pep talk from the director of annual giving, who told the fund-raisers she was grateful for their efforts. During the following week, the university employees who heard her message of gratitude made 50 per cent more fundraising calls than those who did not.

Recognition data is also a useful performance management indicator. If an employee has been recognised by peers for good work ten times in the past month, clearly recognition for good performance is in order. If an employee received no recognition, there may be an engagement issue to be addressed.

Line managers can also maximise the impact of staff recognition platforms by adjudicating peer nominations and presenting monthly awards to employees in person, in public.

On the next page, read how staff recognition can create bonds between top management and employees.

(3) Foster shared values between senior management and frontline employees

Businesses can use staff recognition programmes to break down barriers between its top dogs and its workforce.

At the same time, recognition can give employees purpose through having a better understanding of the company’s vision for the future and the values it holds dear – ensuring that they feel that they are contributing to the wider success of the business.

Half of the employees responding to one survey believed being thanked by managers not only improved their relationship but also built trust with their higher-ups.

The recognition platform can function as a vital communications portal to reinforce the business’ values.

Senior management might review all the peer-to-peer nominations, identify those that demonstrate best practice in relation to business values or objectives and communicate this good practice across the organisation.

Senior management can also participate directly in providing recognition to these employees, perhaps by giving them public recognition in some way such as inviting a star employee to a senior management restaurant meal.

Measurable improvement

Staff recognition improves mental wellness by reducing stress and providing positive associations with work. It can help give purpose to employees’ working lives, especially when used to improve their understanding of organisational values.

Businesses that put in place effective tools for supporting employee well-being will see measurable benefits ranging from improved staff engagement to higher productivity and rates of retention.

Adam Whatling is engagement and technology lead at Love2shop Business Services

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