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Cakes Are Tasty, But Here’s How to Put the Icing on Employee Recognition

$html.esc($author.firstName) Pearson By Bryan Pearson on June 7, 2017

Typical company celebrations of employee anniversaries, accomplishments and milestones can ring hollow. LoyaltyOne CEO Bryan Pearson offers a sweeter, three-layered approach.

Don’t let sugary sweet words fool you.

When it comes to effective employee appreciation, what really takes the cake is how the organization enables celebratory communications. Pre-form emails or notes that recognize employee anniversaries or performance milestones can ring hollow, and that hollowness can stick with your employees well beyond their day of celebration. Any actual cake, as well as its confectionary message, should be merely the icing on a robust infrastructure of activity. 

Instead of pre-ordered cakes, employers should commemorate staff accomplishments with layers of appreciation. By transforming employee milestones into opportunities to applaud their achievements before peers, organizations could ladder such moments from hollow to powerful — both psychologically and behaviorally.

Here are three layers of employee appreciation that will elevate an employee’s role within — and support of — a company, whether that worker is a new hire or a company veteran.

Layer 1: Make gratitude a key ingredient. This basic layer of recognition applies to all employees and all events, from initial training to unexpected good deeds. Use these public moments as opportunities for the team to share, with examples, how the associate elevated himself and the company. LoyaltyOne’s Achievers Employee Success Platform, for instance, provides workers a way to call out team and individual contributions from across departments. The result: a 6% increase in employee engagement scores, and evidence that shows workers who know why their peers appreciate them will be motivated to build on those contributions in the long term.

Layer 2: Mix in complementary sweeteners. This layer of recognition applies to anniversaries and more advanced performance achievements. In addition to acknowledging an employee’s specific contributions, team leaders should correlate those contributions to the organization’s success and reward the employees accordingly. LoyaltyOne’s President’s Circle Award, for example, celebrates employees who make exceptional contributions to the business and community in ways that specifically align with our values. In past years, we honored associates with weekend getaways and recognition dinners in Manhattan and Quebec City.  

Layer 3: Slather on the company culture. Finally, we have major milestone anniversaries and rare accomplishments. These are opportunities to inspire all associates that they can do anything they set their minds to. The goal is to make the recipient a company hero, so these gatherings require more fanfare. A 20-year anniversary, for example, could be celebrated by bringing the entire company together and giving the employee one gift that exemplifies each year of his or her service. The key is sharing firsthand how the associate expresses the company’s values, emphasizing that the organization really is the product of its people.

Lastly, never forget that the final result is only as good as the quality of its ingredients. Or, to quote Benjamin Franklin: A great empire, like a great cake, is most easily diminished at the edges. This means the management team has to fully believe in its recognition program and play a visible role for it to add richness and depth to the culture.

These moments, because they encourage an interactive environment, can be mile-markers on the organization’s path to desired success. If a piece of celebratory cake is a part of that path, then all the better.