As the Economy Turns, Time to Get Your Rewards & Incentives Geared Up

As the economy took a turn for the worst, many companies were forced to take a hard look at their corporate programs as well as their employees. This often meant cutting programs that seemed unnecessary to day-to-day operations.

This is why many an employee reward or incentive program, seen as frivolous and unnecessary, went by the wayside. Now, the economy is turning around and that means the time is right to start looking at your employee rewards and incentives programs again.

During times like this, there is little that is more important than keeping your employees motivated. If you have a company that was forced to let some employees go, it is doubly important to keep the employees you still have motivated and happy now that there are signs the economy is turning around. Studies show that employees are not waiting for the economy to turn around completely before they start looking for a job that appreciates them.

Gearing up to restart rewards programs

While the country was in the midst of the Great Recession, many employees were just grateful to have a job while others around them were out of work. However, as the company cut benefits, salaries, and jobs, employees may have developed a growing resentment towards their current employer.

At the very first sign that things are turning around they may start looking for a new job — and they may find a company willing to give them the recognition they feel that they are not getting right now.

Right now, smart companies are laying the groundwork to start or restart their incentives and rewards programs. That way the programs will be in place once they feel they are stable enough to resume the program.

Of course, the days of lavish rewards without a direct link to a company’s mission and vision are long gone. That does not mean a company cannot have a sound incentive and recognition strategy, however. It just means a company looking to take care of their employees needs to be careful, plan things out and come up with a method of rewarding employees that makes sense and doesn’t seem frivolous.

Why non-cash rewards work best

It’s important to remember that an incentive and rewards program does not have to be cash. In fact, there are many good reasons why cash does not work as an incentive.

For example, cash is often just deposited directly in a bank account and then used to pay bills. There is nothing special about it, and, employees often forget the money had anything to do with an incentive program. Awards that have a special meaning, tailored to the employee, have a deeper impact.

In fact, studies have shown that employees generally perceive non-cash awards as having a higher value than cash. When non-cash awards are given out, employees can show them off, brag about them, or display them in a way that has more impact than a check deposited in an account. It also makes it easier for the company to make a bigger deal out of the award itself if it is more than just a check or another direct deposit.

As such, non-cash awards can actually save a company money, overall. At the same time, the employees are getting a higher return for their work because they are perceiving the award at a higher standard than when they receive cash. This is key when you set about creating a plan that can stay within your budget.

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Remember that rewards and incentives can be given at almost any time during an employees’ career. There are some companies that might want to give out “welcoming” awards to new hires. That can set the right positive tone for new employees and give them a reason to want to stick around. Those first few days or weeks are the most important for an employee in their ultimate decision to stay with a company or to move elsewhere.

Do your employees feel appreciated?

The people who are working for you now, and who made it through the lean and tough times, are loyal. It’s a good time to consider rewarding them for that loyalty. It isn’t enough just to supply them with a paycheck.

Studies have shown one of the key factors that determines whether or not an employee stays with a company is whether or not they feel appreciated. Having an effective rewards and recognition program goes a very long way toward making them feel that they are.

Companies are looking for ways to stay lean and still remain effective. During a time when companies have had to cut back on bonuses and benefits, the solution may be within rewards and recognition.

The economy is showing signs of turning around and that means employees will start looking if they don’t feel they are being appreciated for their efforts during the difficult times. That means now is the time to start considering your company’s rewards, awards and recognition programs.

Laying the groundwork now can save you hassles down the road. It’s always better to plan ahead than to try and catch up when the pack leaves you behind.

Jennifer Vecchi is the Manager of Individual Incentives and Recognition Programs at Atlas Travel in Milford, MA, where she is responsible for supporting her client’s recognition programs and sales contests.

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