How to Sell Employee Recognition to a Skeptical Executive
While many members of the C-suite have personally benefited from recognition, their priorities now are operational and financial. They are accountable primarily for the bottom line, sometimes to the detriment of indirect influences on the bottom line.
“Manage the top line, which is your strategy, your people and your products, and the bottom line will follow.” – Steve Jobs
In order to successfully launch employee engagement initiatives like recognition programs, it is important to gain active buy-in by speaking to impact on revenue and costs. The evidence here will help recognition champions address the most common skepticism in the C-suite.
Below are some of the most common misconceptions among senior leadership regarding recognition, and the hard data you’ll need to dispel those myths.
Employees want money, not praise.
Tens of thousands of employees disagree: 82 percent think it’s better to give someone praise than a gift.
Millennials want more than a paycheck, and a big part of that is frequent recognition and feedback. They are not alone: the more employees of any age are recognized, the more satisfied they are with their jobs – even the difference between weekly and daily recognition increases the number of satisfied employees from 85 to 94 percent.
A 2016 survey of over 1,000 employees showed 30 percent would rather be recognized in a company-wide email from an executive than receive a bonus of $500. In fact, within that 30 percent, over ¾ would only choose the bonus over recognition if it was $2,000 or more.
Quality of course matters a great deal. Empty praise and meaningless trinkets can do more damage than nothing at all. Modern recognition programs often empower employees to choose a gift that is meaningful to them personally, leaving the power of the appreciation to come from thoughtful words emphasizing the intrinsic value of their performance.
Values-based recognition programs are also more effective. Beyond acknowledging how employees exemplify corporate values, and signaling to others how that looks, rewards like days off and donations reinforce Employee Value Propositions (EVP) that include work-life balance, community, and social responsibility.
Appreciation has little financial benefit.
For skeptical executives, return on investment must be proven for immediate and long-term benefit to the organization.
Willis Towers Watson reported that recognizing performance increases engagement by almost 60 percent. Likewise, Bersin by Deloitte found employee engagement, productivity, and performance are 14 percent higher in workplaces with recognition programs. And organizations at the 99th percentile of employee engagement have four times the success rate as those at the 1st.
Recognition satisfies the human needs of approval, esteem, and affiliation, which triggers the norm of reciprocity to give back to supportive employers. So, when employees perceive the organization values their contributions, they are less stressed; return to work sooner after injury; and, their performance improves: traffic patrol officers make more DUI arrests, and steel company staff make more creative suggestions for improving operations.