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Recognizing, Appreciating Workers Will Help to Keep Them Motivated
Keeping employees motivated

By Clarence Leising
Date Posted: 10/1/1999

I have a theory about employees. Regardless of the size of the group, I believe that you have three different types of people. You have 10% of the group that are going to do a good job. Another 10% are going to put all their efforts into doing as little as they can get away with. The middle 80% can be pulled up or sucked down, depending entirely on how you manage them. If you concentrate most of your management efforts on the middle group, you will be successful.

There have been studies to determine what motivates an employee to do a good job. Guess what? It is not money. It is recognition and appreciation for their effort. Happy employees mean more production, more production means more profit, and more profit makes for happy owners.

An effective employee recognition program does not have to cost a lot of money. Here are some of ideas I have used that cost little or nothing:

Write a note to each employee who met production quotas for the week on his paycheck envelopes.
Ask several people to go to an employee and say that you asked them to thank that worker for something that deserves recognition. Tell them they did a good job!
Buy an employee a cup of coffee at the morning break.
Walk through the plant every morning and make it a goal to spend at least a couple of minutes with each employee.
Greet employees by their first name when you see them or pass them in the shop.

Here are some things that I have done that cost a little:


Take each employee out to lunch on his birthday.
Buy a small bouquet of flowers. Give them to the employee at the end of the day so he can go home and give them to his wife on her birthday. They are a gift to her from him, not the company.
Give a gift certificate from Toys R Us for $10 or $15 on their children’s birthday.

Safety Bingo

Every employee gets a Safety Bingo card. Daily drawings are contingent on the shop being cleaned properly and no accidents or injuries; if the requirements are met, pick a number.

Have several different games and allow three winners per game. One game could be regular bingo. Another could be two at the same time. Assign prizes as you deem appropriate, with a grand prize for a complete card "black-out."

If an employee is injured, his game ends and he starts anew the next day. If an employee is injured and misses time from work due to the injury, everyone’s game ends and starts over the next day.

Christmas Bonus

Each employee is allowed two late days or two unexcused absences during the year. For each full week that an employee works, put $5 towards a Christmas bonus. At the end of the year, if an employee has not had more than two late days or two unexcused absences, double the bonus. This gives an employee the opportunity to earn up to an extra $520. It also puts the responsibility on the employee for the size of his bonus. Pay bonuses on Dec. 1 so employees have plenty of time to do their Christmas shopping.

Safety Meetings

Have a safety meeting once a month with all employees and provide lunch. You’ll have a chance to talk about safety issues and other things, too. More importantly, it gives you a chance to spend some friendly time with your employees and just shoot the bull. Make sure everyone feels welcome. Schedule the meetings at least a week in advance and hold them at a time when everyone can attend. I held mine on Fridays, and, yes, I paid them for this time.

‘Attaboy’ Awards

Print small cards or certificates that say ‘Attaboy!’ Give them to employees who do a good job. Let employees accumulate them for a reward. For example, five ‘Attaboy’ awards earns them a free lunch, and 10 gets them dinner for two.

Employee of the Month

Make up some simple nomination forms. During the month, have the shop foreman nominate employees for doing good things, filling out the forms and placing them into a box. At the end of the month, select the winner by drawing a nomination form at random from the box.

Give the winner a dinner for two and a special parking space or whatever you deem appropriate. After the winner is picked, give all the forms to the people who were nominated.

These are just a few ideas to begin or improve your ‘Employee Automation Program.’ These kind of incentives can be rewarding for them and for you and your business. We spend a lot of time and resources on our customers, and we need to spend some of that time and some of those resources on our employees. If you make your employees happy, you will have a safe employee, and your customers will always be happy.

And remember, as former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara said, ‘Brains, like hearts, go where they are appreciated.’

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