Decades of scientific research have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that people perform better in environments that are based on rewards rather than punishment. So why do so many in the hospitality industry still stick with the more traditional, punishment-oriented approach to personnel management? Well, as many managers have probably already discovered, developing and maintaining an effective employee recognition program can be much more challenging than it sounds. With the help of a few basic guidelines, however, effective recognition of your outstanding employees can be simple.
Several recent case studies in the hospitality industry have proven that some employee recognition programs can reduce turnover, eradicate redundancies, and improve profits, while increasing retention, customer satisfaction, and overall morale.
- Monterrey, Ca.-based chain Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. was able to reduce both managerial and staff turnover and significantly increase sales by developing an array of employee rewards and incentives.
- Joie De Vivre Hotels of San Francisco saw a sharp reduction in turnover and skyrocketing employee satisfaction after implementing a radical employee reward and recognition program. High-performing team members are gifted with prizes ranging from a month-long sabbatical after three years of service to a "Dreammaker" contest that subsidizes an outstanding employee's long-held wish or aspiration.
- Charlotte, NC-based Bojangles Restaurants oversees the "Bo Star" program, which rewards employees who go above and beyond what is expected of them in serving customers. Since the program has been implemented, chain turnover has dropped and average of more than 40%. According to Bojangles Vice President of Human Resources Vickie Smith, the firm has paid out nearly $800,000 in incentives and prizes since initiating the program.
If you reward the wrong kind of behaviors or offer the wrong kind of recognition, you may actually be doing more harm than good. Human motivation is a complex thing that even decades of research has not yet been able to fully explain. To fully maximize your team's potential, your program has to be able to strike the right balance. Follow these steps to develop and implement a rewards and recognition program tailored to your company's unique needs.
Using both market data and the observations and impressions of managers and staff members, create a composite snapshot of the business as it stands today. What do you already do right? What can you further capitalize upon to strengthen your competitive position? How do your team members fit into this picture?
Realistically, you aren't going to be able to institute massive change right away. Even the most effective employee rewards and recognition program can't fix all of your problems. Instead, focus on a select few challenges -- common targets in trial rewards programs include service quality, retention, sales goals, and punctuality.
According to employee recognition expert Bill Sims, rewards programs won't work if team members are ambivalent about the incentives you're handing out. In order to maximize the efficacy of your program, do a little market research and find out what your team members really want. What would change their quality of life most dramatically in the short-term? Subsidized parking? An all-expenses-paid night on the town? Gasoline stipends? Spa treatments? Identify the kinds of incentives that your staff truly craves and develop your program around them.
Believe it or not, many well-intentioned programs have been derailed because team members found the rewards offered to be insulting. Don't condescend to your team by offering them thoughtless or insensitive rewards. For example, a luxury hotel that offers outstanding team members a discount voucher may not be displaying a full awareness of workers' financial situations. Avoid thoughtless or cheap prizes that may doom the program to failure and serve to alienate, rather than motivate, your crew.
Remember those rat-in-the-maze experiments that scientists use to study animal behavior? They've actually yielded a lot of practical information about the processes of motivation that you can put to use in your employee reward and recognition program.
Your program is unlikely to have a positive impact if the standards for recognition are unattainable. Indeed, employees are likely to develop a "who cares?" outlook and give up altogether when faced with unrealistic goals.
Nothing de-motivates personnel faster than perceived unfairness. Make the standards and instructions for your rewards program as lucid, straightforward, and objective as possible.
If there is too much lag between the behavior you are reinforcing and the official recognition of it, the reinforcement loses its potency. Try to begin awarding prizes soon after the campaign launches.