Employee Recognition: Winning the Hearts of Your Workers

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Owners and managers in a thousand different businesses across many industries share a common lament: good help is hard to find. And, if you can find it, it’s not easy to keep. This is certainly true in the oil and lube world. High turnover rates and low employee morale and motivation, cost oil and lube shops money each year. The time and effort expended in hiring and training new workers to replace those lost along the way can take a serious toll on the efficiency and profitability of any company. To protect your business from this, it’s important to take an employee-focused approach.

More than Money

It may seem a bit counter intuitive, but your employees don’t come to work every day just to get a paycheck. That’s certainly a big part of it; however, they, like you, get out of bed looking to accomplish something. It’s important they feel like they have that opportunity at your establishment because if they don’t, they’ll find it somewhere else. Making a difference is important, but it’s equally crucial to recognize employees for their contributions.

It all starts with the boss. Employees have to know their boss and/or manager is on their side and cares about them. If not, any attempt to motivate and encourage them with bonuses or other perks will be seen as hollow at best and manipulation at worst. If your employees don’t believe you’re sincere, any money spent on recognition programs is likely to go to waste.

It should be obvious, employees who feel validated and appreciated will work harder and with more enthusiasm than those who feel overlooked and unappreciated. Simply making sure your staff falls into the first category will go a long way to improving productivity, workplace relations and customer experiences, not to mention help reduce turnover.

So, how do you ensure the atmosphere in your place of business is positive and conducive to bringing the best out in your employees? The answer is to foster a culture of encouragement. An individual’s every workplace accomplishment and mistake is an opportunity for their boss ger to either encourage or discourage them. When accomplishments go unrecognized — while mistakes don’t — a worker is likely to become bitter and jaded. They will find less incentive to achieve goals set for them, reproofs will fall on deaf ears and sooner or later they’ll leave in search of what they view as greener pastures.

A good rule is for every time you have to rebuke or correct an employee, you should give at least five compliments. When correction is needed, a good technique is to sandwich the rebuke between encouragements. Of course, when an employee resolves a tough situation, goes the extra mile or simply does a really good job, be sure to take the opportunity to publicly recognize that individual. A little intentional encouragement and a few relational tweaks can work wonders for the working environment in your shop. Chances are, you’ll see a change almost immediately in your workers’ attitudes and demeanor — all without spending an extra cent.

Money is Definitely Important, Too

Allowing your workers the opportunity to share in the financial success of your establishment beyond their hourly wage or annual salary is simply good business practice. After all, you wouldn’t get much accomplished (or make much money) without them.

One of the biggest mistakes managers in many industries make with their employee incentive and recognition programs is to hand out small bonuses or worse — gift cards — at the end of the year. This often comes across as an afterthought, making employees feel like their boss is throwing them a bone. This feeling gets exacerbated if the same bonus gets offered year after year, making it seem like management is going through the motions.

Instead of stamping out the Christmas bonus checks every year, do your best to tie the amount directly to the performance of the business. If it’s been a good year, spread the wealth and celebrate with your workers. If things have been tight, it’s OK to pull back a bit (not too much though), but be honest with your crew about it. Either way, you’ll build real, meaningful camaraderie between you and your workforce that will translate into hard work, loyalty and a sense of ownership.

For exceptional members of your workforce who’ve been with you for a while, consider offering them a raise. There are few better ways to make someone feel recognized and appreciated than an unsolicited raise, and it will set an example for other workers to aspire to reach.

Managers

As previously laid out, the relationship between a worker and his or her boss is key to the vitality of the business. That’s why it’s important for all the managers to be initiated into the culture of encouragement you’re establishing in your shop. Be sure to take time to cast your vision for the company to those who are in immediate management positions over the bulk of your employees. It makes sense whoever spends the most time with your workers will have the most influence over them, for good or ill. Just as it only takes one bad apple to spoil the whole barrel, it only takes one bad manager to completely disrupt the atmosphere you’re trying to create.

Make It Formal

Even as we’ve been emphasizing the importance of the relational side of doing business, it’s also a good idea to make your employee recognition program a formal company institution. A few possibilities along this line include starting an employee-of-the-month program with a specific reward (read: dollar amount). Though it’s not a good idea to repeat a certain bonus amount year after year, the process of end-of-the-year recognition should be a mix of formal — bonuses reflecting each employee’s contributions and the overall profitability of the business — and informal — public acknowledgement of individual accomplishments.

No Assumptions, Spell It Out

Communication is the key to just about every relationship, and it certainly is of paramount importance in the interactions between employer and employee. It’s essential for your workers have a clear idea of the company’s purpose for existence (hint: it’s not just to make money), how each customer should be treated and what his or her role in accomplishing that purpose is. Similarly, be sure to spell out the way employees can share in the success of the business and be recognized for it. This includes communicating the specifics of what it takes to become employee of the month and what he or she can expect as an end of the year reward for all the hard work put in.

Moving Forward

Chances are, you’re already doing a lot of the aforementioned things. Perhaps you’re just a little bit of extra effort away from transforming the morale of your workforce. Though it may cost a bit more up front in the form of larger bonuses, raises or an employee of the month program, you’ll soon start to reap the rewards of reduced turnover, happier employees and a better work environment. After a while, you’ll see the benefits in black ink, too. 

The author would like to thank John Schaefer of Schaefer Recognition Group for his contributions to this article.

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