The importance of “recognition and virtual awards” is rising among the U.S. workforce according to a recent study, but a professor and business manager say pay and peer review are also critical factors in improving employee morale and performance.
Make Their Day, an employee motivation firm, and Badgeville, a gamification company, made public results from a survey of 1,200 workers to learn how employers “can drive top performance of employees today.” Survey results indicate that 70% said that their most “meaningful recognition” from management had no dollar value. The number is up from 57% from a 2007 survey.
“The value of non-tangible recognition is clearly identified in our findings,” Cindy Ventrice, author of Make Their Day! Employee Recognition That Works, said in a statement. “Workplace technology today, such as gamification, provides many new opportunities for non-tangible recognition. With nearly one-fifth of meaningful recognition being delivered virtually, it is clear that these methods can be effective.”
Gamification is a process by which work tasks can be made to be competitive among employees. In some cases the competition creates “virtual currency” that can be used for things like extended lunch hours, early departure on Friday afternoons, etc.
Other survey results included:
• 83% of employees said recognition for contributions is more fulfilling than any rewards and gifts;
• 71% said the most meaningful recognition they have received had no dollar value;
• 69% said that being recognized as an individual over a team was more motivating;
• 76% found praise from their peers to be very or extremely motivating;
• 88% found praise from their managers to be very or extremely motivating;
• Only 14% said their best recognition or reward was of a gift over $1,000; and,
• 76% of respondents said opportunities for growth was the top reason they stay in an organization (this increases to 90% for millennials under 25).
"Workers of all ages, especially the rising millennial population, are motivated by real-time feedback, fun, engaging work environments, and status-based recognition over tangible rewards,” said Ken Comee, CEO of Badgeville.
Professor John Delery, holder of the Raymond F. Orr Chair in Management at the University of Arkansas, said the non-monetary options must be part of an overall package that addresses various preferences.
“When looking at what actually motivates employee behavior – particularly turnover (quitting) – we often find pay to be one of the most important. Again, that doesn't mean that pay is the most important factor,” Delery explained. “One way of thinking of this is that when praise and non-monetary rewards are lacking, employees may start looking for alternative jobs. If they find their current pay is pretty good, they may reevaluate their current job and stay. If they find alternatives that pay the same or better, they are more likely to leave.”
Delery said in some situations an employer may want to be careful about the levels of non-monetary rewards given.
“I would also be careful about spending on non-monetary rewards. If you are seen spending too much on plaques and such, employees may ask why that money doesn't go into pay instead,” Delery said.
Tim Bailey, president of Fort Smith-based Candy Craze, said creating “a culture that values people” is hard to do but will pay off in terms of employee morale, performance and financial results.
Candy Craze has 31 stores – including one in Fort Smith and two in Northwest Arkansas – in 10 states and employs about 150.
Bailey said the company also uses a system in which each store posts pictures of their operations and the photos are judged by employees. They vote on which store has the cleanest layouts, has the best lighting, the most organized backroom and other factors. Bailey said a pat on the back from co-workers has had a big influence on maintaining a consistent and clean operation at the stores.
“The peer review is way more valuable than me making surprise visits,” Bailey said.