Regular rewards and recognition can boost employee engagement during coronavirus

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Upgrading employer awards programs can be a key strategy to keep employees connected and engaged during work-from-home arrangements imposed during the coronavirus quarantine.

Due to the physical disconnect between employees and the workplace, smart employers should use strategies to bridge that gap, including increasing the frequency of employee recognition and reward programs throughout the year, experts said at WorldatWork’s 2020 Total Resilience Virtual Conference and Exhibition.

“Your employees are going to remember how you're treating them during this difficult situation that we all find ourselves in,” said Rob Schmitter, principal solutions architect at Workhuman.

When recognition in the form of dollars, points or other rewards happens throughout the year, organizations see benefits in key areas. Research from Workhuman found that on average, seven to 10 recognition moments per year result in employees being two times less likely to leave the organization.

“Think of it as a micro bonus if you don't want to call it recognition. It's the idea that we're going to look for more opportunities to leverage our bonus pool to drive a higher level of connection,” Schmitter said.

Having multiple employee recognition moments throughout the year is a departure from the traditional model of delivering rewards on an annual basis — and can have long-term benefits. Employees who received at least five recognition moments per year were more likely to have higher year-over-year performance ratings, while those who were recognized once or twice per quarter were more engaged, the Workhuman research found.

“Employees who receive multiple rewards, it turns out their performance rating increases year-over-year. It's telling the recipient that what they did mattered, and when you describe what they did, they do more of it,” Schmitter said. “Then other employees can read up on that and mimic the same behavior. Frequency drives performance.”

Spacing rewards and recognition out throughout the year was already becoming more common among employers prior to the onset of COVID-19, and the resulting rise of remote work has only accelerated that trend, says Bill Schaefer, HR advisor at SHRM.

“With remote employees, there is a change to greater communication, through just emailing or instant messaging where you're praising somebody or thanking somebody,” he said. “These are random acts of kindness, in a sense, where you're doing it more often because we don't see each other.”

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Employee engagement Employee productivity Employee retention Employee benefits Work from home Coronavirus