Posts tagged: Low or No Cost Employee Recognition Ideas

What’s the Best Form of Recognition for Today’s Employees? It’s a Communications and Trust Challenge

By John Schaefer, February 5, 2014 11:07 am

If you Google “Recognition” or “Performance Management” you’ll get a ton of information and it all sounds good.  Our industry has become a very confusing place full of impressive-sounding books, expert advice, and all kinds of versions of the “new secret to recognizing and engaging today’s employees”.

Some guru’s claim that trophy-value, logoed recognition awards have the best ROI, because they can’t be shopped and have lasting, reoccurring value to employees.  Other experts claim that the secret is in top down, transparent and honest communication; everything is driving from upper management with their level of believability as the key to getting employees to bring extra effort to their work.

Still other consultants claim that in today’s workplace Peer to Peer recognition is what is valued and suggest that all you have to do is spend small amounts of money to get big results in discretionary effort.  They say that employees value the recognition of other employees more than management, because their peers are down there in the trenches with them and know what’s really going on.

Guess what? … they’re all correct, based on each expert’s background, experience and viewpoint.  People who come from the Incentive side of the industry see the value of calculated ROI based on measurable behaviors.  Those who come from a background in traditional recognition and the Service Awards side of the industry see the value of engaging employees emotionally and how love and respect leads to lower turnover, higher morale, more creativity and behaviors that lead to greater profits.  Those who come from a more academic background, the psychologists and teachers, tend to focus on the low or no cost Peer to Peer recognition tools as the best way to get the most out of employees in the workplace.

Having studied all of these theories and ideas for over 25 years, I have come to the conclusion that all of these tools need to work together, so the best possible approach to optimizing employee value is really a communications and training-based challenge.  Yes, it requires support and transparency from the top down, but Peer to Peer and Supervisor to Peer recognition is where the rubber meets the road day to day.  When presented properly, customized, logoed awards do have the most long term value, however for earned incentives, cash equivalents; travel and lifestyle awards work better for recognition of earned behaviors that can be calculated against actual dollar savings for the company.

It all trickles down to an exercise in improved communication and a properly structured approach. You must start with upper management buy in, and then move to a training-based approach that engages midlevel managers and supervisors, so they come across as enthusiastic and believable to employees. A comprehensive program will then fan out in to recognition awards that appeal to the employee’s Right Brain, creating trust and emotional engagement, and performance management rewards the appeal to the employee’s Left Brain and achieve logical, calculable results.

If you start with company Mission, Values and Goal, engage your management team first, then reach out to employees emotionally and logically, you will be able to get the most ROI from your combined recognition and incentive investments.

We call this an Umbrella Recognition Solution and it is what top performing organizations are using to optimize their most value asset – people!

I just received a great piece from Skip Weisman called The 4 Conversations.  I think that this does a great job of simplifying the communications challenge that most companies face in dealing with their employees.  Since recognition is a subset of communication, I think The 4 Conversations can be a great part of your training-based approach to a powerful recognition culture. Check it out –  #mce_temp_url#

The Case for Unlimited Vacation Time: Increased Productivity

By John Schaefer, April 20, 2012 6:00 am

Businesses are increasingly looking at unlimited vacation time in an effort to increase productivity. Sounds counterintuitive but for companies like Hubspot, the benefit outweighs the cost. Since Hubspot implemented the unlimited vacation time the company has been ranked the number two fastest growing software company by Inc. 500.

The fact is that Hubspot and other companies with similar vacation policies have created an environment where employees know they are trusted. In turn employees have a vested interest and personal responsibility to get their work completed. The result is increased productivity and less employee turnover.

Employees want to stay with a company that trusts them to get their projects completed “anytime, anywhere as long as they are completed.” We’ve come a long way from the 1950’s boss who breathes down the neck of their employees while screaming deadlines and the value of 9-5 business hours.

The fact of the matter is that unlimited vacation time won’t work for all industries. A manufacturing plant needs people to manage the plant functions. Municipal services like trash pick-up can’t be done whenever the driver wants to work. The lesson to be learned is in the value of creating a work environment where employees are trusted and appreciated.

John Schaefer is a Consultant with over 20 years of experience helping companies realize and react to what he calls theEmployer/Employee Disconnect. “Your people have the capacity and desire to become far more involved and productive than they are today. The resources required are freely available, if you simply choose to use them,” says Schaefer.   “The key is to get your managers and supervisors to embrace this challenge by seeing what’s financially in it for them.”

Schaefer Recognition Group will share a thorough understanding of the WHAT, WHY and HOW of employee recognition and training to help you – Optimize Your Most Valuable Asset – PEOPLE!

John R. Schaefer   –  toll free (888) 646-6670   –

Large Firms Face Obstacles – In This Tight Economy Company Size and Market Dominance May Work Against You

By John Schaefer, June 16, 2010 4:38 pm

By John Schaefer – America’s Employee Recognition Expert

Arizona Republic reporter Russ Wiles presented this interested observation last week and I immediately saw a parallel with the Recognition and Incentive industry. Wiles’ theory is that the big players have a giant target on their back and nobody in their industry is rooting for them to succeed. As a matter of fact, if you look at GM, Bank of America, Toyota and BP, it seems like onlookers are almost celebrating their challenges.

In the recognition and incentive industry, we are seeing a similar situation; and it’s not really new. The biggest vendors, the ones with the big name clients and impressive market share, are experiencing tough going during this down economy. Customers are tightening their belts and when they see the gigantic office campuses, corporate jets and monstrous trade show displays, many wonder if they are getting as good a value on their programs as they deserve.

Schaefer Recognition Groups and our clients are benefiting from this opportunity. As a smaller, more nimble and far more flexible alternative, we are seeing many more potential opportunities to help new partners save considerable money – often as much as 50%; get far better results and enjoy the tools to prove it to their CFO. Our training-based approach is making more sense than reputations and physical clout to many companies.

If you’d like to know more about how this can happen at your company, visit me at

Basketball Inspirational Annimation Video

By John Schaefer, May 25, 2010 3:10 pm

By John Schaefer – America’s Employee Recognition Expert
I saw this fun and inspiring video today and thought I’d share it with you all. Really makes you think about the messages that words put in our heads and how a few minor changes can make all the difference.

America’s Employee Recognition Expert’s Rant

By John Schaefer, May 10, 2010 3:10 pm

(yes, I’m a big Dennis Miller fan)

I don’t mean to get off on a rant here, but . . .

It amazes me how quickly the desire to outsource and achieve quick results is leading companies to more and more Compensation solutions for their employee recognition and award programs. Brian Tracy, in his book Something For Nothing introduces the E (expediency) Factor. This theory describes everybody as:

lazy, greedy, selfish, ambitious, vain, ignorant, and impatient.

At the same time we all strive to fulfill our needs to get as much:

safety, security, comfort, leisure, love, respect, and fulfillment.

In other words, we are all looking for expediency!

The down side of this view of human nature leads to an entitlement culture where everybody is on welfare and complaining that the government doesn‘t do enough for them. The positive side is Bill Gates – creative people using human nature along with ingenuity to create ways to make life easier and more productive. It’s not the nature, but how it is applied that’s the key.

All of the research shows that Behaviorist, Left Brain “Carrot and Stick” approaches not only insult employees, but are only able to achieve the minimum acceptable performance, yet they are heavily promoted today. Why? You guessed it . . . because they are expedient! Some of the major companies in the recognition and awards industry are using this weakness of human character to take advantage of their customers by promoting quick-ship retail gifts as the best way to achieve employee appreciation among today’s Generation X and Y employees.

Sadly, if you ask employees what they want for recognition awards, they will usually say cash or a day off – both compensation solutions that support the above scenario. However, if you ask psychologists what the survey results say about human motivation, the top motivators are emotional – LOVE ME, RESPECT ME, INVOLVE ME. You can’t buy these things, you must earn them with genuine appreciation, trust, and communication. So why the big communication disconnect?

I am convinced that the very act of asking employees what they prefer demonstrates that you don’t “get it” and you really don’t care. When they realize that you are only interested in recognition because you have to (what’s in it for you), they sigh, emotionally throw up their hands and give you the pat answer, “ . . . just show me the money”. Research consistently shows that while Love and Respect rate high on the “What Makes Me Feel Engaged at Work” scale, Money and Job Security come in somewhere in the middle. When managers are asked how they “think” employees respond to engagement surveys, they tend to put Money and Job Security at the top and Recognition (Love) and Keep Me Informed (Respect) at the bottom – no wonder the way they treat their employees is often insulting and demotivating – “You’re on a need-to-know basis, now here’s a few bucks, get back to work!”

Technology is not helping the situation. As they strive for expediency, companies are finding more ways to fully outsource their programs. Points can be awarded online. Employees can log on to a web site, see huge product selections, order today and shipped have the items shipped right to their homes in a matter of days.

In his book High Tech-High Touch futurist John Naisbitt warns of this danger. He claims that if companies don’t develop a “high-touch strategy” employee’s feel more and more like just cogs in a big machine. Relying too heavily on web-based recognition promotes this lack of touch in a powerful way.

It’s been said that the only “Quality Time” is “Quantity Time” and just like your kids, employees quickly see through your excuses and justifications. If you don’t demonstrate you “really care” then all the dangled carrots in the world are only seen as more ways to “buy ‘em off.” I don’t care what generation you’re from, this is not a good feeling!

The answer is educational. If managers better understand how employees think, demonstrate honest, genuine appreciation and approach employees from their Right Brain, Emotional side; employees will respond with improved Attitudes, better Morale, and will bring enhanced Discretionary Effort to work automatically. You get more productivity, less wasted time, better longevity, less sick time, more concentration, more referrals, less grumbling . . .

Most employees want to be more involved, more productive, more profitable and more responsible, if you just let them. It’s not about money, bonuses and goodies, as much as it’s about a perception that they are truly valued. Then, they bring all the good stuff for free!

. . . that’s just my opinion; I could be wrong!

If you’d like to know more about how this can happen at your company, visit me at

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