Motivating Your Workforce Toward High Performance
By Gregory P. Smith
Money may attract employees to the front door, but something else has to keep them from going out the back. Managing people takes an entirely different approach than it did just a year ago. Managers and supervisors must place equal importance on employee development as they do on customer satisfaction and retention. Today's workers don’t just expect a paycheck, but good employees also want personal fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment.
Reward and recognition programs are a vital part of creating a motivating work environment. A successful reward and recognition program does not have to be complicated to be effective. A well-administered program allows people to celebrate success, have fun, and feel good about who they are and whom they work for.
The size of your organization and the age of your workforce dictates which type of program works best. One organization improved motivation and almost eliminated turnover by creating a family environment including special incentives.
- Every year employees celebrate their work anniversary with a cake and receive $100 for each year employed made out in a check.
- Twice a year employees’ children receive a $50 savings bond when they bring in their “all A’s” report card.
- They reward employees with a “Safety Bonus Program.” Each employee’s driving record is screened twice a year. Anyone who has a citation is removed from the program. Those employees remaining at the end of the year split $2000.
- To minimize the “we-they” syndrome, every Friday employees rotate jobs for one hour. For example, the person in the Sales Department works on the front desk. Someone from Maintenance will work in the Customer Service etc. This builds a stronger team and improves communication within the company.
One of the easiest and most effective programs to initiate is peer recognition. Peer recognition gives employees the power to reward each other for doing a good job. It works because employees themselves know who works hard and deserves recognition. After all, managers can’t be everywhere all the time, and employees are in the best position to catch people doing the right things.
Queen or King for the Quarter. Dayton Metro Housing created the QUEST program to reward their workforce for demonstrating good customer service skills. Each quarter, employees receive three tokens. When they spot a fellow employee or manager providing good customer service, they hand them a QUEST token. At the end of the quarter, the person with the highest number of tokens is crowned king or queen. Those with eight or more tokens are “knighted.” All the King, Queens, and Knights attend a special banquet. At the end of the year all token winners can use their tokens to bid on various awards and prizes. Furthermore, the individual with the highest yearly number of tokens is bequeathed a “scepter.”
You’re Magnificent! At the MAG Insurance Company they use a form of recognition called “You’re Magnificent!” The form is printed in triplicate and given to all employees to nominate each other for outstanding behavior. The top copy goes to the recognized employee. The second copy goes to the employee’s supervisor. The third copy is posted for everyone to see on a bulletin board. Once a month they take the posted copies and randomly draw the names of five individuals called, "You’re Magnificents" for $10 gift certificates. Then three additional 'Magnificents" are drawn each quarter for a $250 gift certificate.
Safety Bingo. For every accident free day at the Emory Conference Center Hotel, associates are awarded a bingo number. Each associate has a card and plays the game. A pot grows at the rate of $1 per day with a starting amount of $100. The associate who wins at safety bingo is awarded the cash in the pot. If they go over 100 days without an accident, it increases by $2 per day. If we have an accident, the pot falls back down to $100 and it starts over again. If someone wins, the pot remains at same pay out level, and continues to grow $1 or $2 per day. This program reduced accidents by 50% each year.
Guess Whose Pet This Is? At Industrial Developments International, the "Esprit" Committee organizes fun activities such as the Pet of the Month contest. A pet’s picture is put on the bulletin board and they guess who the owner is.
Shining Stars. Employees are allowed to reward each other and provided an unlimited supply of Shining Star forms to handwrite notes about a coworker’s good job. On the back of the form is a list of behaviors such as:
- Demonstrates friendly, caring service
- Shows flexibility
- Demonstrates teamwork
- Helps to save money etc.
Workers hand completed forms directly to coworkers or send it through interoffice mail. At the end of the month the department holds a recognition ceremony for everyone recognized. The employee who received the highest number of forms gets an extra appreciation and a reward by the director. Then, they place all the month’s forms into a basket and they randomly draw out 4-5 forms for additional prizes. Then the read the forms aloud and provide recognition to both the awardee as well as the person who submitted the form.
In its "Thank You Coupon" program, the Texas Credit Union gives each employee seven coupons a year to give to any employees they wish to recognize for going out of their way to help customers or fellow employees. The coupons are redeemed for $10 certificates for food, movies, golf, and the like. Everyone in the company, from the president and vice presidents down, is eligible for a coupon.
A work environment that attracts, keeps, and motivates its workforce is one that gives workers a sense of pride, accomplishment, and purpose in what they do. These informal programs provide an effective strategy for motivating employees and they are simple to administer. They do not cost much, do not take much time, and do not complicate the payroll. Instead of providing cash incentives, you can substitute by providing winners with extra breaks, movie tickets, time off, t-shirts, and other small gifts.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gregory P. Smith shows businesses how to build productive and profitable work environments that attract, keep and motivate their workforce. He is the author of the book, Here Today Here Tomorrow: Transforming Your Workforce from High-Turnover to High-Retention. He speaks at conferences, conducts management training and is the President of a management consulting firm called Chart Your Course International located in Conyers, Georgia. Phone him at 770-860-9464.
To check out his website that is packed with information you need to grow your business, I highly recommend visiting his website at
Chart Your Course International