How to Sell Employee Recognition to a Sceptic

how to sell employee recognition to a sceptic

The increasing commercial pressures that come with running good businesses often mean that priorities change regularly, with financial and operational issues always demanding the lion’s share of time and energy. When looking to implement an employee reward and recognition program, your challenges are two-fold.

1) to get it on the agenda with senior executives and

2) to make a compelling case in order to engage those stakeholders who are more sceptical about its value.

Your sceptics are often rightly focused on financial & operational goals and are sceptical about the value of employee recognition programs to company goals because they draws their focus away from what they believe are the right priorities. They also often don’t have confidence that such programs will have a real impact on profitability.

On the other hand, 88% of employees working at a company with a values-based employee recognition program report their work experience as positive.

But how do you convince a sceptical HR Director, CEO or metric driven executive at your company that recognition programs can make a real difference to company goals? This post will address some of the doubts sitting in the minds of a sceptic, and how you can address them to get them on board to create a culture that truly drives your business strategy.

Let’s get into it!

Scepticism #1: Employee Recognition and Reward Programs (ERRP’s) Don’t Translate To Profits

Executives are under high pressure to pursue activities that get them runs on the board. Given that employee recognition is about praising employees, recognising good work and being supportive, sceptical executives often view ERRP’s as the ‘softer side’ of people management, having no direct impact on results. It’s not the equivalent of rising sales, or reducing costs, which is the ultimate goal.

How To Address It

You need to educate executives that profits should be the byproduct of a healthy ‘people strategy’, rather than making it the goal itself.

In a recent survey where workers were asked why they stay at their company, more than 32% responded that they stay because they ‘find the work meaningful’. In a global workforce where nearly 50% of employees are millennials, it would be a blunder to ignore this statistic in the context of controlling employee turnover rates. Executives need to be shown just how much money they could save on hiring costs, simply by giving recognition and making work more meaningful for their employees.

Another research study has shown that companies with the most engaged employees show revenue growth that’s 2.5X faster than their competitors with the lowest levels of engagement.
Clearly, having an ERRP in place is key to not only building a great culture but also with strong financial results.

Scepticism #2: Employees Don’t Want Recognition, They Want Higher Salaries

Some executives are of the opinion that good performance should be rewarded with higher salaries and bonuses because that’s what employees really want. So why would an ERRP make any difference to their goals?

How To Address It

You need to understand the questions and concerns your sceptics have. Without understanding what their concerns are in relation to non-financial incentives, how will you address them?
Ask the sceptics, what do they think about non-financial incentives like ERRP’s and why. Then go to your company at large, and ask your employees if they feel the same way?

A survey conducted in 2016 among a 1000 employees revealed that 30% of employees would rather be recognised in a company-wide email than receive a bonus of $500. And within this 30%, over three quarters would only choose the bonus over the recognition if it was greater than $2000. That’s the ‘unspoken’ value of recognition!

Non-financial incentives like employee recognition can provide the much needed intrinsic motivation your employees need to come to work with an upbeat attitude every day. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, esteem is one of our basic needs. Saying a simple ‘thank you’ to your employees when they do great work, giving a pat on the back, sending an email expressing gratitude are all small gestures that cost nothing and make a world of a difference.
Show to your sceptics that there are countless cases of employees quitting their jobs despite having massive compensation packages, all pointing to the importance of the non-financial elements of their work experience.

Scepticism #3: Employees Just Need To Be Directed, Not Appreciated

Some sceptical executives view leadership as directing employees on what they should do and how they should do it. They believe they know what they want, and use employees as ‘resources’ to achieve their vision of the future.

For dictatorial leaders, showing appreciation only makes them look ‘weak’ rather than people who need to be ‘feared’. They have a preset agenda, and a vision, and don’t have the time for social courtesies like saying ‘thank you’. For them, an ERRP is a waste of time and money!

How To Address It

Gone are the days when top executives were ‘tyrants’ running an organization like they knew exactly how things must be done. Today’s modern workplace has a flatter management structure, with employees at all levels bringing in a fresh pair of eyes and new perspectives.
If such ideas are not valued, executives will end up crushing the spirit of innovation that’s needed for growth.

Executives need to be explained that they need to encourage employees to speak up, share their ideas and contribute because the modern day workplace is not about power, it’s about ideas, and anyone can have ideas. This can only happen when executives appreciate their employees.

Giving executives information about how organizations are no longer hierarchical and top-down, and more collaborative and bottom-up and why this is so will hopefully open their eyes to new possibilities.

Wrapping It Up

Using a combination of persuasive communication, and data, you have the power to influence sceptical executives about just how beneficial ERRP’s can be for your company. Don’t forget that employee recognition is a need, and not a want, and ignoring the importance of an ERRP will defeat the very purpose of why we come to work. By driving employee engagement through recognition, you become more attractive to today’s modern workforce than companies who just don’t care about their people.