Meetings Canada


Program Savvy

Five tips on how to develop an awards program to motivate employees.

By Leighanne Parent

As event planners, we are in the enviable position to be witnesses to acts of appreciation on an ongoing basis. Clients come to us to help organize events and trips, to recognize the valuable contributions of their staff, and we see first-hand the power that appreciation has on motivation in the workforce and its impact on the employee’s need for validation and sense of belonging. So as we head into the holiday season, what better time to reflect on the importance of motivation and its ability to strengthen loyalty within the workforce.

Since corporate events are often a public acknowledgement of the achievements of a corporation’s top performers, it is equally important to ensure that our clients provide other opportunities for recognition—either tangible or otherwise, to make it a more comprehensive awards program. Corporations that have an effective awards program for their employees can be rewarded themselves by having a more engaged, loyal and hard working staff who are committed to its success. It is a mutually beneficial relationship, where everyone wins.

Knowing what type of program motivates in today’s diverse work environment is complex. As a result, leaders often look for advice on how best to put together a corporate awards program that will truly motivate their staff.

Here are five tips on how to develop an awards program to motivate employees:

1. Align the program to the business and provide opportunities for all to participate and earn.

Clients need to ensure that they have established and communicated their corporate vision. What values and growth goals does it have? They need to tell their employees and ensure their employees understand that knowledge and commitment to these values are critical to the success of the organization. They need to make it clear what measurable criteria will be used to recognize desirable behaviours. Are they measuring them on performance? Will they be rewarding them for certain milestones? Have they made the program easy to understand and achievable?

2. Use a creative theme with ongoing communications and activities to drive awareness and participation.

Clients need to keep the program top-of-mind and live and breathe it at all levels of the organization. Employees should be engaged with fun activities or events, to celebrate achievements and behaviours on an ongoing basis. They need to be heavily invested in the program.

3. Make it fun! Leverage social media to engage employees.

The program should be current and relevant. Social media are, without question, today’s single most important and pervasive marketing vehicles. Recommend they take advantage of this trend and magnify the success potential of their program by ensuring they are reaching as many employees as possible, while keeping them engaged in fun and exciting ways.

4. Find a balance between legacy company traditions and fresh new award strategies.

How will they be rewarding employees? With today’s diverse workforce, both cultural and generational, how do they assemble a set of rewards that are capable of inspiring all of their employees? They must seek to understand what motivates their employees—prestige- and honour-type awards, popular rewards, travel awards, philanthropic contributions, experiential options or simply gifts of time.

5. Offer employees something to brag to family and friends about—a prestigious honour or a cool reward.

Tangible rewards can be a powerful motivator. Have them consider what tangible items will have a memorable impact on the employee. Rewards need to be relevant, so knowing current trends, along with their audience’s interests, is important. Trips, prestigious trophies and awards all have an element of ‘brag’ value to them, as employees get to share their recognition with their peers, increasing the perceived value of the award over its actual monetary value.

Leighanne Parent is senior buyer at Aimia, based in Mississauga, Ont.

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