“Don’t let employee recognition become a ‘COVID- casualty’”

HRD explores tips and tricks to recognise employees on leaner budgets

“Don’t let employee recognition become a ‘COVID- casualty’”

Reward and recognition has climbed the HR agenda during COVID-19, becoming more important than ever before. Dealing with low employee morale throughout lockdowns, adjusting to remote working, and forgoing authentic, person-to-person contact has left many of our people deflated and depressed.

With working from home now the new norm, it’s essential that leaders remember to say ‘thank you’.

The occasional office shout out, the odd pat on the back as you pass an employee’s desk, these old-fashioned forms of appreciation just don’t fit into our remote working model. As such, employers need to make that extra effort to really showcase their gratitude to their top talent.

Prioritising appreciation, ingraining certain practices in your culture, is the only way of ensuring reward and recognition doesn’t become a “COVID-casualty” – that’s according to Alex Hattingh, chief people officer at Employment Hero.

Pandemic or not, Hattingh said leaders can reinforce positive recognition by associating it with explicit behaviours that align with your company’s values.

“Recognition is all about timing; it shouldn’t be ‘ticked off’ quarterly or annually - it must be done on the day,” Hattingh told HRD.

An OGO survey found that, for the typical employee, it’s been at least 50 days since their manager last recognised their efforts at work.

Hattingh went on to tell HRD that shout-outs are another good way of recognising efforts – with some employers opting to use Zoom or Skype to publicly recognise their employees. 

“Create dedicated channels where employees can call-out their colleagues who have gone above and beyond. Recognition shouldn’t just be management-led; it should be a part of your working culture across all tiers,” said Hattingh.

“Celebrations for the week are a great way to kick-off weekly team meetings. Start your weekly meeting with each person doing a one-minute celebration for the week. This generally starts with recognition of wins or other team members.”

As we grapple with these uncertain times, HR teams will likely be operating on leaner budgets. Hattingh said rewards should have an element of personal value – tailoring benefits to individual tastes. One effective way of doing this is through the use of giftcards and vouchers. 

Read more: Why you should separate recognition from reward

If you have no budget to work with, you could reward your team with something as simple as a hand-written note.

“Rewards should never be confused with remuneration, so focus on the personal element above all else. There are also many tough situations where businesses have had to make people or teams redundant, so spending money on rewards can send a conflicting message to your employees,” added Hattingh.

This is where handwritten cards and small rewards can be impactful. Incentives such as additional annual leave are a great way of showcasing your appreciation without breaking the bank.

Hattingh went on to tell HRD that COVID-19 resulted in the world’s largest work-from-home experiment, and what many of us learnt is that we actually prefer working from home.

“Our company conducted both an internal and external survey and found that the overwhelming majority of people want to continue remote-working, even after the pandemic ends,” said Hattingh.

Read more: Are you rewarding the right behaviours?

“As an HR leader, COVID-19 has made me rethink how I can accommodate the evolving needs of my team. As a company, we have since transitioned to become a remote-first workplace, meaning that our office is now a space for collaboration and company-wide catch-ups, while most of us are using our homes for deep-work. “

Hattingh said asking your team where and how they would prefer to do their best work environments is something valuable for HR leaders to tap into in a post-COVID world.

“Lockdown has taught us that some teams thrive through more flexible routines, so if you’re in a position to do so, why not offer them that choice?” 

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