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Why "Inchstones" are the New Milestones

September 25, 2018
| ByJudd Weisgal

The days of getting an engraved watch on your 25th employee anniversary are - mercifully - a relic of a bygone era. Most of us know by now that milestones cannot be calculated in five-year increments. Your employee recognition program must be mindful of the changing needs of a multi-generational workforce, recognize behavior in addition to goals, and provide managers with the flexibility they need to reward employees in a timely and appropriate manner. When an organization chooses frequent recognition over long-term service anniversaries, it can be transformative for both the company and your employees.

Multi-generational workforce

Traditionalists and baby boomers are reaching retirement age, and may well be celebrating 25 years or more with your company, but you cannot afford to ignore the gen xers, millennials and gen z generations. By 2022, these last two cohorts will likely comprise 70 percent of your workforce. They are mobile and do not hesitate to switch companies and even careers if they feel unappreciated. While it is definitely a drain on your company's resources to constantly fill these positions, it can also inhibit your company's potential to retain the talent you have in place simply because your rewards program only recognizes 5-year anniversaries.

According to a study in 2017, 66 percent of workers said that they would quit their jobs if they did not feel appreciated, up from 51 percent who responded that way in 2012. Additionally, most people prefer appreciation and recognition to monetary rewards. Instead of waiting for the annual awards dinner, take the time to discover what is most meaningful to your employees and give it to them when they earn it. They will be much more likely to feel appreciated and continue to contribute to your company.

Behavior versus attendance

Recognizing an employee's tenure is certainly worthwhile, but not at the expense of rewarding behaviors that benefit the employee and not your company. Attendance is an extrinsic activity in that the employee puts forth no special effort in order to comply. Creating and implementing a program that streamlines a company's process is an intrinsic activity that the employee does for internal motivational reasons. Between the two, intrinsic behavior is more meaningful and should be rewarded.

Unfortunately, many recognition programs are not constructed to provide spontaneous rewards that support company goals and values. And while you may feel that you recognize your employees' initiative, 42 percent of your employees feel that you do not. If you want employees who are on-time drones, continue to reward extrinsic attendance. If you want employees who are motivated, engaged and appreciated contributors, reward intrinsic creativity.

Flexibility and timeliness

Managers need the flexibility to reward employees as individuals and in a timely manner. Your employees know when they have done something over and above the call of duty or when they’ve done a really good job. Recognizing their behavior 1. as soon as you are aware of the achievement 2. while they are still excited about their accomplishment and 3. via a social recognition technology platform and you will not only give the recognized employee a boost in morale, but the social nature of the reward will also inspire others employees to emulate the same recognition worthy behaviors. If you wait until the next awards ceremony, that opportunity to create excitement and build loyalty may be several months in the rearview mirror.

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