Recognition Can Go A Long Way Toward Inspiring Engagement

Want to encourage hard-working and engaged employees and members? Take a cue from some associations that have implemented reward programs.

Would the offer of gold inspire you to lose weight? The local government in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is hoping this kind of positive reinforcement will help encourage some of its citizens to shed a few pounds.

Recognition lets volunteers know that others acknowledge and appreciate what they do.

Concerned about burgeoning waistlines, government officials there are offering citizens one gram of gold for every kilogram of weight they lose (or about $45 for every 2 pounds lost), according to the Associated Press.

The idea is similar to employer wellness programs offering financial incentives to employees to get healthier. The belief in support of these programs is that employees are more likely to engage in healthy activities if monetarily inspired to do so and that healthier employees work harder. Similarly, positive reinforcement and rewards can be used to increase employee and member engagement.

A recently published Society of Human Resources 2013 survey of about 800 HR professionals found that, while positive feedback and praise do impact employee performance, when coupled with a reward, that kind of feedback affects performance even more.

Eighty-three percent of those surveyed believed recognition that includes a reward motivates employees more than recognition without an award, and 94 percent of HR professionals reported they believe positive feedback as opposed to negative feedback has a greater impact on employee performance.

This is nothing to sniff at, considering employee engagement was listed as the most important HR challenge by almost 50 percent of the surveyed HR professionals.

The American Optometric Association implemented a reward-based employee-recognition program several years ago whereby staff members could nominate each other for “Now You’ve Gone and Done It!” awards after witnessing colleagues going above and beyond their everyday duties. Eight-five percent of respondents to the SHRM survey reported they are either currently or would consider empowering employees to recognize each other for great work.

As part of the AOA’s program, nominees received a form detailing what actions they had taken that inspired the nominating staff member to recognize them, and then they were entered in a drawing to win a $25 gift card.

The National Association of Realtors began offering rewards as a way to increase member engagement as part of its Member Value Plus (MVP) program. Every two weeks, NAR members can take an “action,” such as downloading e-books through NAR’s library or completing online ethics training, and then receive a reward like a social media how-to guide.

“We want to give [members] some tools that will be of value to them, but we want them to also engage with NAR and do things that are to their benefit but also that will benefit NAR,” Ken Burlington, NAR vice president of strategic alliances, business development, and product management told Associations Now.

Since it began in April 2012, the program has generated more than 24,000 member actions, and NAR has given about $400,000 worth of rewards.

In addition to monetary rewards, recognition can sometimes be as informal as a thank-you note, especially when it comes to recognizing the work of volunteers.

“Informal methods of recognizing volunteers and their contributions are frequently overlooked in place of more formal methods; however, these informal methods—such as writing personal thank-you letters—are often the most effective,” KiKi L’Italien, senior consultant at Aptify, wrote in an ASAE newsletter article [paywall].

Showing appreciation—through something as simple and thoughtful as a thank-you note—can be a powerful validation of volunteers’ work and efforts.

“Recognition lets volunteers know that others acknowledge and appreciate what they do,” L’Italien wrote. “It tells volunteers they are doing something well, and that they have something meaningful to contribute. Recognition and approval offer volunteers a feeling of warmth, pleasure, and accomplishment.”

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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