Employee Appreciation “Gifts” Can Be Worse Than Doing Nothing
What to Avoid When It Comes to Employee Appreciation Efforts
Employee appreciation doesn’t have to be difficult, but sometimes the simplest of gestures can backfire — and the results are worse than if you just did nothing.
Can you think of a time when your company meant well, but the reaction from employees did not go as planned?
Perhaps your executive team sent a branded fleece blanket to everyone for the holidays or encouraged leaders to buy personalized anniversary gifts but left it up to individual managers to execute.
Or, in the case of one healthcare company, they encouraged employees to paint a word of encouragement on a physical rock to give to a friend as a reminder that the work they do “ROCKS!”
While the intent of employee appreciation is rarely nefarious, it’s critical to put yourself in the shoes of your audience to be sure intent matches common perception.
When Good Intentions Go Sideways
Back to the ROCKS initiative… here were some of the reactions from hospital employees:
“Someone in upper management was so proud of his/her idea and how much it would motivate their employees.”
“This is the type of thing that happens when someone has gone to school to be in a management position for something but hasn’t actually done the job they are in charge of.”
“Isn’t this infantile? Why would you hand out middle school prizes to grown adults in a high stress position? Rocks and pizza parties and candy bags are things you hand out to little kids.”
“Here’s a better idea! Write your resignation on it and throw it through the window.”
Do you blame them for reacting this way?
Given what nurses and the healthcare community in general have dealt with over the last couple of years, these reactions aren’t all that shocking. What IS SHOCKING, perhaps, is the complete lack of awareness of employee morale and a clear disconnect between what leaders want to cultivate and their methods for doing so.
The Double-Edge Sword of Incentives
This employee appreciation program went sideways because hospital administration didn’t consider the Double Edge Sword of Incentives:
- One size never fits all. Everyone will react to anything in their own way. New nurses were impressed with the thoughtfulness of the message that accompanied the rock while experienced nurses are more likely to roll their eyes because they’ve seen similar attempts before.
KEY LEARNING: People react to anything in their own way, so be sure you “ask around first” before you engage thousands of human beings (in anything).
- Convenience for the giver is often at the expense of the receiver. Pizza parties were extremely popular at the start of the pandemic, with the general public even getting involved to organize meal delivery to healthcare workers. Unfortunately, the execution of the pizza parties created additional work for staff to navigate. Who takes care of the floor during the pizza party? What about the night shift who will see the leftover boxes and know they missed out on something?
KEY LEARNING: Think through the overall experience to ensure the intent (i.e. to thank people) doesn’t have negative side effects (i.e. create logistical issues).
- Someone has to do the ‘extra’ work. Even something as small as ordering a pizza lunch for a hard-working team creates additional work for someone. Consider the experience of the “ROCKS” appreciation project for a moment. To participate, an individual had to gather their own supplies (i.e. paint or markers) and use their personal time to complete it. So while the administration intended to acknowledge all the hard work being done, they instead gave staff yet another task to complete — that could only be fulfilled on their personal time no less. KEY LEARNING: Start and end with the goal in mind, and make sure the final plan ladders up to the goal.
Innovative Solutions Can Help
If you’ve been wanting to attempt a new employee appreciation program — or any program that involves employees — you’re in luck. Whistle Payments provides many useful tools to help you avoid the Double Edge Sword of Incentives.
Here are a few examples:
- Empower people managers with discretionary team-building budgets.
By equipping your people managers with a budget, you empower them to address their team’s most pressing needs. Front-line managers will tell you if a pizza party or a “ROCKS” initiative will have the desired impact. With Whistle, managers can appreciate their teams while giving Finance the controls and reporting it cares about.
- Pre-authorize team lunches with a Whistle Payments card.
Remove any awkwardness or unwritten rules when it comes to taking employees and teams out to lunch by using Whistle Payments. Managers can easily push a set amount of funds to each employee’s card, and then let employees order whatever they want. The Whistle platform will even collect all the unused funds at the end of the day. No time, or money, wasted — that’s a Whistle-Win-Win!
- Set up a recurring monthly wellness budget for each employee.
Put money straight into the hands of your employees for specific wellness-related initiatives. The Whistle platform handles recurring payments with ease and even allows you to set “categories” to prevent sinister spending.
There’s plenty more where this came from. If you or your team have struggled to make a positive impact on employee morale, maybe we can help. At the very least, you can get some free consulting if you set up a meeting with our experienced solutions team.