Employee Performance Plans that Actually WorkI don’t know a single leader who enjoys dealing with employee performance issues. Few things are more frustrating in a business setting than an employee who is either not performing or who has behavioral issues. It is an area where experience doesn’t really make it easier.

Yet, every leader, at some point or another, has an employee they have to coach and discipline.

Progressive disciplinary policies are common among organizations of all sizes. Most employee performance issues do not warrant immediate termination so policies are put in place to give employees an opportunity to improve. These policies vary but they usually have multiple steps that could include verbal warnings, performance improvement plans, written warnings, suspension, and eventual termination.

Out of all steps I believe the performance improvement plan may be the most crucial. If done well, and early, a performance improvement plan can map out the exact performance or behavior that the employer is not happy with, outline the behavior that is expected and give the employee a clear path to improvement. Unfortunately many performance improvement plans fall short of being worth the paper they are written on.

Here are our guidelines for performance improvement plans that we think actually help improve performance.

The biggest mistake leaders make when trying to improve performance is waiting too long. The longer poor performance or bad behavior goes on, the harder it is to fix. By the time the employee is told about the issue, the leader is so frustrated they have no patience left to try to help the employee overcome. All employee issues should be dealt with as soon as they creep up. For this reason we recommend employees receive verbal coaching as often as the opportunity allows. In weekly one on ones or regular performance meetings, employees should be cautioned about any issue that may create problems down the road if they continue.

Then, after that same issue has been coached on multiple occasions, it’s time to get serious. If regular performance discussions are happening, the time between first coaching and performance plan should be relatively short.

Complete Plan:
The second biggest mistake that leaders make when delivering performance improvement plans is only delivering half the plan – the employee portion. Leaders sit an employee down, tell them what they are doing wrong, tell them to fix it and ask them to sign the form. This leaves the employee feeling as though they are on their own and probably have one foot out the door so why bother even trying.

A complete performance improvement plan follows this outline:

Description, with recent examples, of undesired behavior.
Description of desired behavior.
Why desired behavior is important to the business.
How leader is going to help employee improve.
Milestones to improvement.
Next steps and check in dates.
Consequences for not improving.
Employee opportunity to comment.

The piece in italics is the most crucial. Hopefully all leaders want employees to improve. If so, they should be willing to do their part to help employees turn the issue around. Including this in the documentation provides accountability for the leader to ensure they are offering support and assistance as needed.

The Discussion:
Discussing performance issues with employees really is an art form. I’m not convinced there is only one right way to do it. I think it depends on the employee/leader relationship, the communication style of both and the egregiousness of the issue to be discussed. Here’s what I do think should be consistent regardless of style – preparation. Nothing is worse for an employee than feeling like they have just been the victim of a drive by where their leader vomited a bunch of bad news on them and then left.

Leaders should take time to think about the personality of the employee and how they will best receive the information. They should think about framing their words in a way that the employee will be able to hear and understand what is being communicated while, and this is key, being motivated to fix it. The discussion should take as long as is needed for the employee to walk out of the room focused on the issue at hand and understanding what they need to do to fix it.

Dealing with performance issues is a necessary task for most leaders. They are best dealt with swiftly and directly before they grow into something larger than they ever needed to be. Done correctly, they can often steer employees onto a better path, and if they don’t, at least the leader can say they tried to help and the onus for failure lies with the employee.

How To Help Employees Find Meaning In Work

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

From Dan Marlin of West Africa: I’ve got a somewhat philosophical question about the nature of work. What can leaders do to make their employees feel that their work has meaning? And why is it important for people to feel that they’re engaged with meaningful work? I’ve heard lots of perspectives on this topic… but would love to hear yours.

Daniel MarlinDaniel Marlin

Daniel Marlin is a writer and entrepreneur from West Africa.

This is a wonderful question because it provides an opportunity for me to also talk about something I believe ranks right at the top of the list of key leadership qualities. First and foremost, let’s be clear — no one can “make” anyone feel anything. However, there are ways for company leadership to facilitate a sense of meaning and purpose for their employees.

Let’s talk about what constitutes “meaning” for workers—is it contributing to the improvement of communities? Is it having a positive impact on coworkers and the company? Bottom line: there are many ways to define meaning, and it’s important for every person, working or not, to have clarity about what has meaning for them.

There are some uniform characteristics of meaning, though; a study led by Professor Catherine Bailey from University of Sussex illuminates some of the way employees identify meaning in their work. Interestingly, though probably a side note, while effective leadership was rarely pointed to in finding meaning, poor leadership was frequently connected to a loss of meaningfulness. Research has shown that meaningfulness applies across employees’ full lives, and is driven by finding a connection to the rest of the world through their work. Organizations can support this process by developing and living a culture of ethics, morals and social responsibility that their employees can connect with and support. The net answer: the chief way that employees are able to discover meaning in their work is to reflect on their work, their contribution in the company and their impact on their respective lives.

So let’s go back to the beginning: the leadership quality I mentioned. It’s communication. That’s how leaders can help their employees to find their meaning. Here are some suggestions for these conversations and communications:  

  • Make sure to frequently discuss the meaning of the organization. It’s absolutely critical that employees understand the purpose of the organization, along with its positive impact on both the business and greater communities. They need to be clear about the company’s goals, plans for the future, overall values and vision—all of the things that paint a picture of the organization’s mission. In late 2015, Deloitte conducted a survey with nearly 7,700 millennials from 29 countries, and discovered that a whopping 56% of respondents had ruled out working for a company or organization because of a lack of fit in values. Another interesting data point—70% felt that their personal values were congruent with their companies. Open and authentic discussions about these key topics help to avoid the disconnect that occurs when an organization is “talking the talk,” but not “walking the walk.”
  • Give employees clarity about their personal contribution to organizational meaning. People need to see their work as part of a bigger picture and to understand how their work contributes to that big picture. Every manager should be able to explain how every role in their organization impacts the greater organization, and how each role contributes to the overall company mission. Sometimes this means diving into the weeds to show how day-to-day tasks, many of which are repetitive, push the company mission forward. This might be a tedious process, but it is important for employees to truly understand how their work impacts the good of the company.
  • Provide vision to employees about the cultural and community meaning and value of their work. A sense of meaningfulness also is driven by the human factor; that is, understanding and connecting with people who benefit from the company’s work and by having positive and open relationships with their fellow workers. Again, communication is key—leaders need to find ways to help their employees feel connected to those who are impacted by the company’s products or services, so they understand clearly who it is that they are helping. There are many ways to make this happen—it might be through creating specific feedback forums so employees can learn about and feel connected to their company’s customers while also connecting with their fellow employees. It’s almost like creating a community in which conversation and sharing are paramount and encouraged.

Meaningfulness often is hard to pin down; there’s not much in the way of metrics to measure it. However, if leaders focus on communicating the company’s mission, and the employee’s place in the success of that mission, they can have a significant impact on the overall level of fulfillment of their employees.

What does it take for people to thrive at work? What can companies do to ensure their employees feel energized and empowered to contribute at work and maximize their productivity?

There’s no single silver bullet, but companies that score high in employee satisfactionand don’t have team members jumping ship tend to have many characteristics in common. These companies focus on inclusion, and help share insight into the value-add various departments bring to the table. They are committed to professional development and encourage staff to learn new skills that can help advance their careers. They organize mentorship programs for their senior and junior staffers, and they celebrate diversity.

These initiatives, while important, will likely get an overhaul in coming years as telecommuting becomes more normative. In fact, by 2022, 60 percent of today’s employees are expected to work remotely.

We know cultivating a thriving workforce is key to collaboration, success, and your bottom line. The following strategies, proven for building winning teams, can help you maximize production and engagement wherever your employees are based.

Embracing a Remote Workforce. While news of IBM calling back their remote workforce to the office made headlines, working remotely is gaining in popularity. Research indicates work-from-home jobs are a viable career path with increasingly more managerial and C-level positions turning into location-independent roles.

It behooves companies to give more thought to the tools and strategies they can use to help in-house and remote workers collaborate to achieve shared goals. This can include dashboards everyone on a team or in a company can view in real-time, as well as weekly check-in calls for teams, no matter their location. Incorporating expectations around collaboration in performance reviews will also send a message that working well together as a team is critical to getting ahead at your company.

Setting Plans for People Development . As routine tasks continue to be automated, it’s important to encourage your workers to identify and develop tomorrow’s in-demand skill sets. These can include design thinking, predictive analytics, and collaboration skills, such as inclusive and digital leadership capabilities. Increase retention, while also adding value to your bottom line, by providing in-house training to help employees develop the skills they will need to drive your company forward in the future. “Even such things as collaborative projects and blogs can help employees learn and gain new skills,” says Sam Liu, a consultant with Mercer.

Motivating Employees Through Opportunity, Meaning & Benefits. Help employees—particularly those working remotely—to fully understand how the company operates and the ins and outs of their roles. Explaining in detail to a new sales manager how the sales team generates leads, makes calls, and closes sales can go a long way and is worth the time investment. This “can mean the difference between a powerful and motivated sales team adding to the bottom line; or a floundering, confused sales department working ineffectively, wasting precious time and losing prime opportunities for new business,” explains business strategist Howard Lewinter on his blog, “Talk Business with Howard.”

Role of Recruiting in Cultivating Office Culture. When hiring, be as transparent about your company values and the corporate culture as possible–starting with job listings, during interviews, and for the onboarding process. In fact, you may even conduct the entire interview process without meeting the candidate face to face if they’ll be working remotely. That process has worked for seven of his recent hires, says Sten Tamkivi, the co-founder and CEO of Teleport, a company that helps workers choose which city in which to live and work.

Tamkivi stresses the importance of incorporating tasks into the interview process that potential hires can do remotely. “We ask people to set deadlines and then deliver what they promised by then—often this reliability and transparency is even more important than the contents of the trial work delivered in a short time,” he says.

Many of the same tactics that have been working for decades to increase employee engagement—such as professional development opportunities, being transparent about the office culture, and creating mentorship programs—will continue to be important. However, as the remote workforce gains more ground, these initiatives will need to shift as companies will use technology to ensure that employees exchange ideas freely and bridge the physical distance that may divide them. Succeeding in these efforts will boost morale—and your company’s bottom line.

Photo Credit: sabanabibi Flickr via Compfight cc

Workplace Wellness is critical but should it fall on the employers’ shoulders

Wellness in the workplace has again hit the ‘Workplace trends’ lists for 2017 as companies use wellness programs to reduce absenteeism and attract talent.

It’s not a surprise, as employees continue to become more health conscious and employers recognise workplace stress as the biggest health issue that employees face.

But how do SMEs create a healthier workplace that doesn’t break the bank? Not only are gym membership perks expensive, they also have minimal impact on an employees health.

My personal view is that an individuals’ health is their responsibility. As employers we are not our employees’ parents. It is not up to us to make sure they eat well, get enough rest and stay fit. Surely as adults we can make the right choices without relying on our employer to look after our health?

However, employers can certainly promote a wellbeing-focused workplace and encourage healthy living without it being an extra expense to a SMEs already stretched budget.

At wattsnext I am very committed to endorsing and leading a company that promotes a healthy approach to living in all aspects. I do this with very minimal expense and responsibility.  It all started with a challenge that we called #projectfit. We made a small investment in providing each employee with a mid-range Fitbit, implemented a 10,000 steps per day challenge, and set up a slack channel called “Wellness”. Let the competition and the banter begin!

On this slack channel we share updates on who is the ‘weekly step winner’, photos of post-workout red faces, sulk about our injuries and generally share the ups and downs of keeping healthy.

I have loved watching my team focus on their overall wellness. We don’t just do thousands of steps each week, we also have team members playing team sport, doing hot yoga together, surfing, meditating, and sharing healthy recipes.

But my most favourite post was from one of the team members just last week who shared that her boyfriend and his sister (who weren’t overly active) are now partaking in their own step challenge and loving their new exercise routine. Our internal team self-driven health challenge is having a ripple affect into our community — now that’s a win!

So before you leave ‘wellness programs’ to the big corporates, SMEs should also consider the importance of this to attract and retain quality talent and increase productivity.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money, you just need to be creative and let the team lead the way!

What makes an enterprise organization successful? Is it a phenomenal understanding of the market? A visionary growth strategy? A value-driven customer focus? A strategy that enables digital transformation, both from a tech standpoint and a culture standpoint? Yes, yes, and yes. So many yesses. But there’s something else, something that would fall into the “all of the above” category: Winning enterprise companies are innovative, keeping them out in front of the curve and always on the cusp of something bigger.

I’ve always been an innovation-first kind of person, and I’d like to focus here on fostering innovation from a leadership perspective. How can senior leadership ensure innovation that goes beyond the generation of a couple of new ideas and turn that into a strategic, guiding principle that touches every part of the company? Here are six ways to do just that.

  1. Embrace a multi-faceted approach to innovation, starting at the bottom. Often, we think of innovation as something that happens in brainstorming sessions about irresistible new products, developing clever marketing campaigns to launch and sell the heck out of those products, and the like. But take the product out of the equation for a moment, and consider a multi-faceted approach to innovation across your entire organization. Forbes, for example, suggests starting with the “4P’s: profit models, processes, products, and policies.” Breaking innovation down into these factions and tackling them as individual challenges will allow you to move faster and with more operational agility.
  2. Empower your employees, and they’ll provide value in new ways. Innovation as a corporate value means creating a culture so that every employee feels as though he or she has some level of autonomy—with expectations, of course—to think independently and find new ways to solve problems. Great leaders make smart decisions, but they also know they can’t—and shouldn’t—do it all. Leading is as much about listening, mentoring, trusting, and empowering your teams as it is about anything else.
  3. Understand that failing is okay. If you’re never failing, chances are you’re not innovating much. Failure is inevitable when you’re fostering a culture of innovation, and that’s part of the challenge—the reality that there’s almost always a degree of uncertainty. Fear has been called an ‘innovation crippler’ and, while no one ever sets out to fail, understanding that it will happen, and that you’ll be just fine when it does, is a mark of a great leader.
  4. Choose your approach to innovation metrics wisely. We all know data matters, but can you measure something as intangible as an idea? Even harder—an idea culture? You can, as long as you look long and hard at what it is you’re going to actually measure. Whatever your industry, you’ll undoubtedly need numbers on customer activity in relationship to your product or service—that’s a no brainer—but look elsewhere, too. What about the return on your strategic partnerships? How about getting the data on how much time your team actually has to dedicate to discovery? How many of them have been trained on what it means to innovate? Isolate what can change the game for your organization, and build your approach to innovation metrics from there.
  5. Don’t be afraid to take action—and quickly. To truly create a culture of innovation, you must be willing to encourage action on innovative ideas, not just continuous conceptual chatter. This isn’t to say that every idea is a great one or every new product proposal should directly go to prototyping. Take time to gather data and make an informed decision—but not too much time. Whether you invest more of your resources or take a different path, be agile enough to make those choices in a way that’s confident, measured, and with no more downtime than is absolutely necessary.
  6. Learn from the past and look to the future. According to Accenture’s 2015 US Innovation Survey, 60 percent of companies admitted they did not learn from past mistakes in relationship to their approach to corporate innovation. That’s a lot! Seventy-two percent of the organizations polled said they often miss opportunities to exploit under-developed areas or markets. Ironically, the same companies indicated they were highly confident in their innovation performance. This discrepancy in perception about what it means to be successful innovating on the corporate level is proof that many leaders don’t take the time to learn from their mistakes. It’s important to fix what isn’t working while moving forward. I know I said failing is okay—and it is—but complacency with failure is not.

The Burning House

The burning house scenario. We’ve all heard of that, right? Your house is on fire—what do you grab as you run out the door? It would be something special, something important, something you couldn’t bear to live without. Now, think about your business. What would you take with you if it all came crashing down? I’d grab the ability to innovate and to inspire innovation in my team—that’s the foundation for growth, the difference maker, the special sauce.

What would you take? What does innovation look like in your organization? Are you approaching it as an idea factory you only visit on occasion, or have you embraced innovation as a strategic imperative? Can you think of any additional ways leaders can create a culture of innovation other than those I’ve mentioned above? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

As an aside, if this topic is of interest to you, check out Vincent Brissot’s (HP’s Head of Channel Marketing and Operations) post on this: Visible vs. Invisible Innovation. He makes some really salient points on things you may not be taking into consideration.

Additional Resources on This Topic:

How Small Companies Can Innovate Like Big Enterprises
The Role of Failure in Rapid Innovation
Can Productivity Tools Lead to Business Innovation?

This article was first published on FOW Media. 

7 Quick Ways to Boost Productivity at Work

August 28, 2017

8:30 am

When building a business from the ground up, your team is everything. They’re the people responsible for making your vision a reality. They’re the relationship managers who preserve your deals, the accountants who make sure your business remains profitable, and the producers who keep your products and services moving. More than that, your team becomes your family, and together, you all work toward one cumulative goal—success.

Obviously, you want your team to be as productive as possible, but you also don’t want to lose that tight-knit, family like dynamic that allows you all to function as a group. So rather than imposing strict rules or quotas on your team in an effort to increase productivity, try one or more of these smaller, more efficient methods:

Cut Meetings

First, get rid of the biggest time-suckers in any office—or at least cut them short. Meetings are rarely necessary, and they tie up thousands of hours of work time every year. When scheduling a meeting, it’s easy to group in everyone on the team and budget a loose hour for the discussion. At the time, it seems like no big deal, but if you have 10 members on your team, that’s 10 cumulative working hours you’re spending. Is 10 hours really necessary to go over that new policy or brainstorm about a new product? Chances are slim that this is the case. Substitute emails, memos, conference calls, and shorter meetings for these overlong behemoths, or cut them out completely (and be sure to only invite people who genuinely need to attend).

Allow Some Remote Work

Old-school entrepreneurs and businesspeople might shudder at the thought of working from home, but the early empirical evidence suggests that working from home actually makes workers more productive. They get more done because they have more flexibility to work how they want to work, fewer interruptions, and less stress because they don’t have to worry about personal responsibilities as much. If you’re still not buying the legitimacy of the strategy, roll it out in small doses and see how your workers adjust to the change.

Study: 98 Percent of Remote Workers Find It Enhances Their Productivity

Set Team Goals

You’re collectively working toward the same ultimate goal -working for a thriving business- so why shouldn’t your shorter-term and smaller goals also apply to the team? Setting goals as a team encourages everyone to work together, and helps individual team members hold each other accountable to reach those goals. Plus, when you achieve goals as a group, you get to celebrate and reward each other as a group.

Work With Individuals

The team mentality is important, but don’t lose sight of the individuals that make up that team. Everybody has different working preferences, different strengths, different weaknesses, and different perspectives, and it’s your job to help each of those individuals find their place on your team. That might mean setting individualized goals (in addition to team goals), accommodating special requests, sparking motivation on an individual level, or just showing more of a personal touch. The goal is to get each individual more involved in the company dynamics.

Learn (and Teach) to Delegate Effectively

Delegation is critical for a business’s success. Obviously, you can’t do everything yourself, but you also can’t forward your tasks randomly. As I’ve established, everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, so you’ll need to learn how to delegate your tasks effectively. Learn what your team members excel at and what weaknesses require compensation. Beyond that, teach your employees to delegate effectively as well, your team leaders will do well to organize their smaller teams into more efficient machines.

Encourage Breaks and Vacations

This one might seem counterintuitive, especially if you’re used to a culture that values never-ending work cycles, long nights, and weekend work. Unfortunately, that workaholic lifestyle doesn’t take you very far—you might get a short-term boost in productivity, but ultimately your workers will tire, dragging their productivity to a halt and leaving them with so much resentment that they end up leaving the company. Instead, encourage your workers to take breaks whenever they need one, and implement a flexible vacation policy.

Facilitate Team Bonding

Just as important as setting goals for the team, it’s necessary to give your team members the chance to bond with each other. Doing so helps establish the group mentality that you’ll thrive or flounder as a team, which will in turn give your team members more reason and more initiative to work hard and help each other out. You can facilitate team bonding in a number of different ways, from reducing the number of walls and obstructions in your office, to hosting team lunches as rewards for achieving goals, or even sponsoring recreational activities to get everyone working together.

These approaches are designed to capture the best of both worlds, allowing your team to be more productive without compromising the culture of your business. They won’t work for everyone, nor do you need all of them to be effective. Try them out and see which ones work best for your business and for your team.

7 Rules Naturally Clear Leaders Follow When Making Decisions

I write about the power of clarity to create commitment and results. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.



If you make decisions by consensus, you waste a lot of time. But if you make decisions without sufficient involvement, you won’t gain the cooperation and commitment you need for subsequent steps and successful implementation. How do naturally clear leaders thread this needle? They consciously, or intuitively, follow these seven rules:

1. Process matters

If people trust and embrace the decision process, they are more likely to trust and embrace the decision. What makes a decision process trustworthy?

• Those who will be affected by the decision know what is being decided.

• They understand how the decision will be made and are confident the right people will be tapped at the right time.

• They know how to participate.

• They believe those making the decision are informed and working in the best interests of the organization.

• They know how to influence the process if it seems to be going awry (e.g., suffering from uninformed decision makers)

2. Process doesn’t just happen — someone needs to own it

 The natural inclination of most people is to dive into content without first establishing a process. Someone needs to get ahead of the game and explicitly establish and communicate distinct outcomes, steps, and roles that honor the characteristics of a trustworthy decision process.

3. There are only two reasons to include others in any decision

You should only involve people in a decision if you need their smarts or their commitment. While people often fall in both categories, those who only belong to the first group are experts who can help you make a smarter decision. You tap their smarts, not their emotions. The second group consists of people whose behavior is essential for supporting the decision. They absolutely must understand what, why, and how their support can make a difference. You must tap their smarts as well as their emotions.

4. Time is of the essence 

The time spent on any decision must be in proportion to the potential impact of the decision. Don’t convince yourself that everyone will be affected by every decision. That’s a lazy abdication of responsibility. It wastes too much of everyone’s time and all your employees know it.

Furthermore, time is often a luxury you don’t have. Windows of opportunity often open and close too fast to allow for inclusive decisions, no matter how consequential. In these cases, you will need to rely on good explanations and your reputation as a champion of transparent and trustworthy process.

5. Different people may be needed for different steps of the process

The reason for establishing clearly defined steps is two-fold and mostly unrecognized, or at least under appreciated:

• Too often, decisions are expected to emerge from a jumbled series of conversations where participants are rarely actually talking about the same thing at the same time. A disciplined process honors the natural, logical, and sequential steps in any decision (SOAR: Statement, Objectives, Alternatives, Risks). By making these distinctions and proceeding one step at a time, you focus the collective brainpower and never fail to achieve discernible progress.

• Once you think in terms of these four steps, you realize that roles vary depending on the step. For example, an executive may need to approve the objectives with input from implementers, but may then be ready to walk away and trust the rest of the decision to others. The people in the trenches may be best positioned to generate alternatives. Those most affected and accountable for results may be best positioned to select the most promising alternative. And experts may be the best choice for identifying risks. Establishing process steps before diving in is the only way you will successfully involve the right people at the right time.

6. Representation must be explicit

You can’t always include everyone who is affected in a decision. The numbers may be too great, the time too short, or the importance unworthy of that investment. The answer is representation. A clear, fair, and transparent process is a prerequisite for allowing one group to represent the interests of others. Both steps and roles must be explicit. People tend to speak only for themselves. If you want someone to work on behalf of others, you must explicitly and repeatedly make that clear to both parties.

7. Authority must be transparent

There are few feelings worse than investing your physical and emotional energy in making a decision only to have your conclusion overruled. All decision participants need to know who is making the final decision. Are they providing input, feedback, making the decision themselves, or helping to drive a group to consensus? Is the ultimate approver an individual, a boss, a small group, or a large group? There is no right answer. There isn’t even a preferred answer. But the answer is important. The answer depends on the time available, need for expertise, importance of the decision, number of people affected, and potential repercussions. Regardless of the approach, clarity is critical. Be honest and crystal clear.

As people become accustomed to fair, transparent process, especially once the entire organization has a culture of clarity, you’ll find more and more people are content to leave decisions to others and trust they will be called upon as needed. Productivity and empowerment increase with clarity. Use these tips to develop fair and transparent decision making processes.


by Sabrina Son on May 22, 2017 5:00:00 AM

Today’s workplace is experiencing a shift from employee recognition as being “nice to have” to “need to have.”

A survey by World at Work reported that 88% of organizations have a staff recognition program in place — this can range anywhere from Employee of the Month to bonuses or gift cards.

But these traditional employee of the month ideas are starting to grow a reputation for being inauthentic and, frankly, boring.

In fact, according to our 2017 Employee Engagement Report, only one in four workers feels valued at work — representing a 16-percentage-point drop from the previous year.

You can’t simply have a recognition program in place and assume that all of your employees will automatically feel as though their contributions are appreciated.

You have to have to come up with staff recognition ideas that actually work.

So what does a successful employee appreciation program look like? Each company is different, so what works for one organization might not work for another. But, generally speaking, recognition programs should be comprehensive and feedback should be given on a regular basis.


PS: The Definitive Guide to Employee Engagement


Before we look at some of the tactics used in successful recognition programs, let’s first see some of the more common reasons employee appreciation doesn’t always work as intended.


Pitfalls of Employee Recognition

There’s nothing worse than giving it your all at work and not receiving any sort of acknowledgement for your efforts. Anyone who’s ever worked for an employer that rarely if ever gave out compliments knows how demoralizing it can be.

One thing that follows in close second is receiving empty praise that has no meaning behind it. Consider these findings from CareerBuilder and Badgeville:

  • 50% of employees believe increased recognition would reduce voluntary turnover
  • 40% of employees who don’t feel meaningfully recognized will not go above their formal responsibilities

So if you’re going to praise your employees, make sure that recognition is genuine. Otherwise, it may end up actually doing more harm than good.

Barb Hurley, Operations Manager at Knot So Perfect Designs, explains the importance of employee recognition:

“As the saying goes, an ‘atta boy/girl goes a long ways,’ and it does. Getting a compliment of good job gives the person pride, confidence, and self esteem. It makes you want to continue to do even a better job. People crave compliments as well as approval. When the employee gives 110%, it helps the company or gives a good impression of the company. Why wouldn’t supervisors and managers express appreciation for a job well done? It also makes them look good.”

Ready to take your recognition program to the next level to increase employee engagement and create a happier workplace? Check out these 18 staff appreciation ideas that you can try out the next time you want to show appreciation to your employees.



  1. Lunch drawing

Keep in mind that recognition doesn’t always have to come from the top. If you have apeer-to-peer recognition program in place (which you should!), enter your employee’s name into a hat every time they recognize ones of their colleagues. The more kudos they send, the higher chance their name will be chosen. At the end of the week, draw out two names from the hat and let those employees enjoy a meal on the company.


  1. Social butterfly

Take to your company’s Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn to recognize your employees in a public setting. Highlight who they are, what they’ve done, and why it was such a great deed.


  1. Birthday celebration

Allow employees to use a floating holiday for their birthday. They deserve a day off!


SOURCE: StockSnap

  1. Off-site day

Take the whole team to work off site for the day — work at cafes, libraries, or anywhere with Wi-Fi. You’d be surprised at how a change of scenery can really boost productivity.


  1. Sticky notes

Leave a handwritten note saying “thank you” and why you’re thanking them on a Post-It. Stick it on your employee’s desk so that when they come into work the next day, they’ll be received with a pleasant surprise.


  1. Rotating trophy

Find a fun trophy, stuffed animal, or figurine that you can pass around the office. Give it to an employee who has exemplified one of your organizational values, and let them keep it on their desk for a week. Come the next week, let that employee hand it off to one of their peers who has done the same.


SOURCE: giphy.com


  1. Surprise treats

After an employee has left for the day, stick a candy bar, their favorite snack, or treat in their desk drawer. They’ll be able to start their day off on the right foot after they’ve found their tasty surprise.


  1. Recognition Day

Organize a formal employee appreciation day at work. Make a whole event out of it with food, awards, and team-building activities.


SOURCE: StockSnap

  1. Daily wins

If an employee landed a huge account or pushed a new feature live, have them let their peers know. Post it on your internal chat or announce it during meetings. It’s a great way for employees to highlight their own achievements in front of their colleagues.


  1. Project plan

Let employees pick out an upcoming special project to work on. It shows that you trust them to keep accountable for their responsibilities. It can also serve as a professional development opportunity where workers get to try new things.


  1. Wall of fame

Snap photos of your employee’s accomplishments or take candid shots of them hard at work. Celebrate their contributions by creating a collage showcasing their blood and sweat — and hopefully not their tears.


SOURCE: giphy.com


  1. Spontaneous treats

Bring in donuts one morning or chilled drinks on a hot afternoon. Let your employees take a quick break to kick back and relax before they go back to the task at hand.


  1. Show off recognition

Have employees send each other kudos, whether through a peer-to-peer recognition platform or physical cards. Display them around the office so everyone can see all the great things that have been happening around the company.


  1. Send a card

Rather than giving employees a pat on the back or high five, send a card to their home. Snail mail has largely become a lost art. Who wouldn’t be excited by receiving an encouraging personal note unexpectedly?


  1. Cheer tee

Has someone done a spectacular act or gone the extra mile at work? Have teammates sign a company tee with a thank-you message.


  1. Prize tokens

Whenever you see someone doing something great, give them a token. Make them tradeable for prizes such as a bike, t-shirt, or a gift card to a store of their choice or their favorite local restaurant.


SOURCE: giphy.com


  1. Hackathons

You’ve probably heard of hackathons before. Let your employees take a whole day (or even just half) to work on a project of their choice either in groups or on their own. Then have them present it in front of the leadership team so that the top ideas can be implemented into everyday operations.


  1. Commute help

Transportation can get costly when you consider the price of gas, car maintenance, and parking — or even just a bus pass. Consider reimbursing your employee a free bus pass or giving up your parking spot for a week.


Some of these ideas may seem relatively inconsequential. But it’s always the small things that make the biggest differences.

Try a different tactic here and there with recognition to make it truly meaningful. Your employees will appreciate it and so will your organization’s bottom line.