Ask most employees working for a large company what a human resources department does, and they will say interviews, hires, and fires the workforce. For many, that will be their only contact with the HR department.
However, a good HR dept will have a much larger remit, and work continuously using employee recognition ideas, to improve the wellbeing of the workforce.
Everyone likes to feel appreciated, and in the workplace, it is one of the driving factors between high employee turnover and excess sick leave – and a happy, contented, and productive workforce.
How though, does a small to medium company’s HR Dept show employee appreciation, when margins are tight and cash-flow even tighter? The good news is, employee recognition ideas come in all shapes and sizes, and don’t have to cost a fortune to implement.
Many ideas will depend on the type of business you operate, location, and its size, but if the will is there to improve workplace satisfaction, increase productivity, and employee longevity, a way will be found. Consider the following.
Engage with your staff
Easy if you run an office-based business with half a dozen staff, everyone should be on first-name terms anyway. If they’re not, your business is already seriously out of sync.
If you operate a small engineering company and your office is on the mezzanine floor, make a point of walking around the machine shop before heading for your office. Be casual, use first names and enjoy a little banter, while enquiring if there are any problems with the latest order.
Consider a staff suggestion box
Nobody knows the way a business operates better than the people at the sharp end. Those on the shop floor or in the offices. Put up staff suggestion boxes, where employees can suggest ways to improve production or reduce waste. Include incentives such as the best monthly suggestion receives a voucher for a meal for two. Or a cash bonus depending on the saving.
Most importantly, let staff know their suggestions are being taken seriously. Even if a particular idea can’t be incorporated into day-to-day operations, call the staff member into the office.
Explain the idea that has been looked into and considered, and why it has had to be rejected. You could even go a step further and pin a statement onto the notice board, thanking the member for submitting the idea.
Form an employee welfare committee
Employee recognition ideas could include an employee welfare committee. One employee from each section to voice workplace concerns regarding welfare, working conditions, health and safety, and any other problems.
Arrange a monthly meet to discuss their concerns. What can be done to improve operations, what are their worries, and how best to overcome them.
You can also voice your disquiet about any aspects of the work process, and how the problem can best be resolved. The meeting and the results can then be passed down the chain via a company email.
Employee recognition ideas – consider flexi-hours
In a world where many employees and staff members have to mix raising a family with earning a living, the constant pressures of juggling the two can often lead to increasing levels of stress. This usually manifests itself in reduced productivity and increases mistakes.
Offering those affected the opportunity to start work an hour later, change lunch break times, or if part-time, changing the days worked, maybe all that’s needed to rectify the problem, and increase workplace productivity and employee satisfaction.
Increase employee participation in company business
One of the best employee recognition ideas is to encourage greater participation in company business. Don’t just issue instructions on what you want to be done when a new machining project arrives, or a new financial client turns up.
Take the plans down to the shop floor, discuss them with the workforce, and how to best undertake the job. Have a group meet in the office and discuss the new client’s needs, your aims, and how they can be achieved.
One of the best employee recognition ideas, a little surprise
Who doesn’t like a surprise – well, a nice one anyway? You will no doubt have the birthday of all your employees in company records.
As coffee break time arrives for the birthday girl (or boy), what better way to up the office mood than by throwing open the office door and singing Happy Birthday, as you deposit the birthday cake on their office desk, and announce the coffees are on you.
Consider dress-down Friday
Although many companies still expect formal office attire in such sectors as finance and insurance, others have slackened their dress requirements to smart casual.
Nonetheless, you can still have a bit of fun with dress-down Friday, by including a free coffee and doughnut for the person voted by other staff members to be wearing the loudest jumper or blouse.
To work from home – or not
If much of your office staff is made up of mums and dads with family or other responsibilities to consider, the option of working from home is worth talking about, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. For some, getting up in the morning and going to work is the highlight of their day. Others would jump at the chance to save on those child-minding costs.
Another thing that needs to be considered is that, while some employees are more productive when working from home, others are not so, due to other distractions in the household. Part office, part home, is another option worth considering, but make sure the idea is fully discussed with all staff.
Allow a little home into the office
Everyone likes to make their workplace a little unique, a little like home from home. That could be family photos, photos of a favourite baseball or soccer team, a cuddly toy, or a quality houseplant. Providing they don’t create any workplace health and safety issues, that little uniqueness can often provide a more focused and productive worker.
Taking a break won’t break the bank
We’ve all read about the big high-tech companies that provide sumptuous couches and loungers so their staff can relax. And games machines so they can take a break from all that programming. While these ideas won’t suit the work pattern of most industries, something similar can be done on a much smaller scale.
If some upcoming major sporting event, or the swearing-in of a new president during normal working hours is the talk of your employees, consider putting a TV into the works canteen, office or shop floor, and give the staff a couple of hours away from their workstations or machinery.
In most cases that lost productivity will be made up by a happier workforce during the remainder of the day.
Reducing your carbon footprint
Nowadays, businesses around the world are constantly looking for ideas on how they can contribute to a cleaner, greener planet, and reducing company waste is a great way to get the staff involved.
Whether it’s improved recycling of manufacturing waste or reducing office costs by cutting the amount of paper used or recycling printer cartridges, get your employees involved by offering cash or vouchers for ideas on how to save the company money by reducing waste costs and your carbon footprint.
Make your business a team operation
The more any business interacts with its workforce, the more successful the business will be. Everyone likes to feel appreciated, that their efforts make a difference, and they are not just another spoke on the company wheel.
If your business is IT-based, that could be a company website or social media page, but a monthly newsletter can serve just as well.
Amid the usual company news and information include staff news. With a head and shoulders pic welcoming any new members to the team, promotions, and retirements.
Praise Sara in accounts for reducing overheads by sourcing materials from another company, or Chuck on the shop floor for a new time-saving manufacturing idea, or Paul, whose idea has increased recycling by 20%.
Not only will a little praise go a long way, but it also encourages other employees to get involved and up their game.
The use of employee recognition ideas is not just to provide numerous perks to staff with little in return. Tasks still need to be tracked and the time is taken to complete them recorded. If completion time is poor, would increase training improve production rates? Deadlines still require to be adhered to, if the company is to retain and increase its customer base.
Although the object of the exercise is to keep staff more informed of the operation of the business, staff meetings for every little thing can be counter-productive. Instead, for those smaller items, use your company email.
Don’t be too rigid with the timing of coffee or lunch breaks. Research has shown that regular short breaks will often increase productivity compared to fixed break times.
It gives staff the chance to stretch their legs and exercise a little. It is also the reason why stand-up workstations are gaining in popularity, and many companies now operate the 90-minute routine. Work for 90-minutes, then break for 10.
Always remember that a well-run business that encourages the participation of its workforce in the way the company is managed and operated, will stand the test of time. While the workforce will benefit from small perks during the good times, they will also get behind the operation during the lean times, to the benefit of all.
About the Author
Eoin Pigott is a Business Development Associate for Wisetek, a global leader in IT Asset Disposition, Data Destruction, & IT Reuse.