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I'm looking for suggestions for ways to recognize/reward/show appreciation for my employees without spending [b]any[/b] money. The purse-holders here will not allocate [i]any[/i] funding for this kind of thing.

I'm the "chair" of our Morale and Recognition Committee. We even have a special recognition "week" set aside nationally for our profession (National Public Safety Telecommunications Week) and my boss and co-workers expect me to come up with a week long recognition of this event every year and get media coverage for it, and then 6 months later have a special recognition day just for our employees (not including the management staff). All without any funding.

In the past, I've printed up "fun" recognition certificates for certain "accomplishments", made up booklets of funny work-related stories, I print up work-related word-search games, that kind of thing. The past three years, we've had enough "stuff" to make up "goody bags" of freebies (promotional items other companies have sent us), but that well has dried up, and this past years goody bags were pretty lame, in my opinion (I spent about $70 of my own money buying stuff to pad them out). And our supervisors usually provide a meal or two for their shifts during the week, and sometimes purchase or make small gifts for everyone on their shifts. We've also tried theme-days such as hat day and blue-shirt day.

My department won't allow fundraising, won't allow soliciting donations. We did that once and got a bunch of great stuff, but we all hated doing it and felt like we were abusing our relationship with the citizens ("Give us free stuff or you might not get help when you call 9-1-1" - that would never happen, but that's what it felt like we doing).

My department won't hang anything on the walls (certifcates of recogntition, awards, etc).

And the media isn't usually interested in covering us "just because" (although we do have a pretty good relationship with the media).

Any suggestions?

MattJBeckwith's picture

Hello Kev.

Welcome to the greatest manager resource online!

Here's my opinion (and some stolen from Mark)... reward your employees by having regular one-on-ones and by giving praise and feedback all the time. Recognition, like team-building, cannot only happen at these specified times, they must be there always. (see also, http://www.manager-tools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=67).

I think that looking for a way to celebrate your employees for an entire week [b]AND[/b] getting media coverage can lead to your manager (or department) looking cheap (imagine the headline, "LOCAL 9-1-1 DISPATCHERS APPRECIATION WEEK - LACK OF FUNDING = LIMIT 1 HANDSHAKE & THANK YOU PER PERSON... NOW GET BACK TO WORK".

Ok, that's taking it to the extreme but I think it is dangerous to have morale and recognition assigned to someone. It sounds like you have done a great job with the previous events but perhaps it's time for a change.

Have the employees been asked how they would like to be appreciated? I work in a call center for a bank and our agents typically have some of the best ideas when it comes to events (we do hat day and blue shirt day as well).

Sorry there's no real answer in my reply but I think one-on-ones, skip levels and communication with the employees can go a long way!

Again, welcome to the M-T forums.

SteveP's picture

Some quick observations
[b]
“The reward for a job well done is to have done it” [/b]– Ralph Waldo Emerson.

But how about

A [b]symbolic small gift [/b]like
[list]A knife for “Hitting the cutting edge”
Scissors for “cutting costs”
Golf ball for “being on the ball”[/list:u]

Above maybe a bit “cheesy” but maybe of some use?

Think the secret is following the MT approach “reward performance immediately and often” ,i.e. [u]the feedback model[/u].

A good reference for this is [b]Bringing Out the Best in People[/b] by Aubrey C. Daniels

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/product-description/0071351450/102-2911...

Hope this is of some help to you.
[i][/i][u][i][/i][/u]

kevbayer's picture

[quote="DaveTehre"]Hello Kev.
Have the employees been asked how they would like to be appreciated? I work in a call center for a bank and our agents typically have some of the best ideas when it comes to events (we do hat day and blue shirt day as well).
[/quote]

They have been asked. Basically they say they don't want recognition, and then spend the rest of the year griping about never being recognized for their hard work.

[quote]But how about

A symbolic small gift like

A knife for “Hitting the cutting edge”
Scissors for “cutting costs”
Golf ball for “being on the ball”[/quote]

Event that requires funding. We have done stuff like that in the past though.

And we do verbally recognize their efforts throughout the year as conditions warrant. Sometimes even other agencies will send a thank you letter or something for a particular event, and many of our associate agencies send us food/snacks around the holidays. So we're not completely forgotten.

[quote]I think that looking for a way to celebrate your employees for an entire week AND getting media coverage can lead to your manager (or department) looking cheap (imagine the headline, "LOCAL 9-1-1 DISPATCHERS APPRECIATION WEEK - LACK OF FUNDING = LIMIT 1 HANDSHAKE & THANK YOU PER PERSON... NOW GET BACK TO WORK". [/quote]

I kind of agree with that.

[quote]... but I think it is dangerous to have morale and recognition assigned to someone. It sounds like you have done a great job with the previous events but perhaps it's time for a change. [/quote]

I'm not solely responsible, thank God! A few years ago when I suggested we start doing something for the national recognition week, I was hoping it would be a team effort on the part of all the management staff. Because I'm the one that brought up the topic, I got [i]volunteered[/i] to be responsible for it! :lol: I thought it would just be for that year, and the responsibility would rotate amongst the rest of the supervisory staff - but that hasn't happened as we all got assigned or volunteered for new duties and committees (which we had never had before).

So "Morale and Recognition" became my baby - and because I've done so much with the local media, my co-workers call me the "media whore" 8)

But I try. My biggest problem is crafting a media release that will make the media want to cover us without sounding like I'm either bragging or begging for attention. I read a good book that helped a bit with that called "How to be your own publicist" .

Thanks for the welcome from both of you. I hope to find some good info around the forums.

Mark's picture

I hate sounding truculent...but...

Your folks are griping because their bosses are mostly not doing the day to day blocking and tackling of feedback and communication and pleasant professionalism. You can't make up for this once a year.

It won't help the underlying problem, but just go to Amazon and search on employee recognition. There is a book like "1,001 ways..." which is full of small and trivial stuff, some of which might bring a smile.

But it's lipstick on a pig... :wink:

Mark

lou's picture

Mark just said what I've been trying to write since I read your post. Recognition isn't an event easily removed from the activity that merited it.

You still need to give a nod to the week though - so why not let everyone come in casual. It's simple and free and usually well appreciated.

kevbayer's picture

[quote="lou"]Mark just said what I've been trying to write since I read your post. Recognition isn't an event easily removed from the activity that merited it.

You still need to give a nod to the week though - so why not let everyone come in casual. It's simple and free and usually well appreciated.[/quote]

We [b]do[/b] give recognition throughout the year as is warranted for specific examples of a job well-done. The week-long National Event is more to make the public aware of our profession, but we also use it to give a more generic recognition to our staff. Like National Secretarys Week, Bosses Day, Mothers Day, etc.

I have read the 1001 Ways book, but most of the stuff mentioned in there still involved funding.

Some of the things we've done in the past have included: a particular shift meeting before work for bowling, a particular shift going out for drinks after work, cookouts/potlucks on each shift, that kind of thing.

I'm not talking about saving up all the recognition from throughout the year and then doing it all on one day - "Hey Tina, great job talking to that mom back in December." That's not the kind of recognition I mean - that's a daily thing. I'm talking about a "Hey, we know all the other agencies we work with don't remember you are here and never tell you they appreciate the work you do for them, but we know it and This Is Your Day. Here's a celebration in honor of you."

Mark's picture

Kevin-

My favorite is the managers (all of them, and up more than one level) cooking for the staff. Lunch fajitas, burgers, etc.

It becomes about the service...

Mark

ThomasH's picture

You really have to be careful that this sort of exercise doesn't backfire. Employees aren't stupid. They will quickly pick up on subtle (or not so subtle) indicators of management's true attitudes.

If there is no willingness to provide any funding, and there is apparently little enthusiasim amongst your peers for taking responsibilty for the event, it would appear that management doesn't really place any real value on the recognition activities. Staff will work that out, at which point the entire exercise becomes largely counterproductive. Management is seen as merely paying lip service to the idea of recognition and staff are forced to participate in charade that allows management to feel like they are addressing the issue of staff morale without actually having to put any effort or money into it.

In addition, it seems unclear whether the point of the exercise is to boost morale or to gain publicity for the organisation. It seems like an abdication of responsibility by management - they can't actually be bothered to recognise staff and would really prefer someone else (i.e. the media) to do it for them.

I like Mark's idea of managers cooking/serving food to employees. There has to be a real investment by management, and if it is not monetary then it needs to be an investment of time and effort. Otherwise don't bother, it will just make people more cynical.

kevbayer's picture

[quote="ThomasH"]In addition, it seems unclear whether the point of the exercise is to boost morale or to gain publicity for the organisation. It seems like an abdication of responsibility by management - they can't actually be bothered to recognise staff and would really prefer someone else (i.e. the media) to do it for them.
[/quote]

Good points. We do recognize their individual efforts as warranted throughout the year - we've been using this annual event to recognize them as an entity - and to get publicity for us.

I think I might suggest to management focusing on smaller year-round events and just trying to gain publicity as warranted throughout the year.

Gareth's picture

[quote="kevbayer"]
Good points. We do recognize their individual efforts as warranted throughout the year - we've been using this annual event to recognize them as an entity - and to get publicity for us.[/quote]

As a team member I've looked back at my amazingly long 1 year career :shock: at what the management has done too 'reward' us as a group.

- Speed Boat trip, Dinner Out (Free Bar)
- Team build go-karting
- Meal, stand up act from a well known snooker player

While you will have to rule out the above i like the idea about cooking breakfast/dinner. Don't knock it as too simple and not worth the hassle, from someone on the receiving end its a nice 'plus' to the day.

kevbayer's picture

[quote="GarethAs a team member I've looked back at my amazingly long 1 year career :shock: at what the management has done too 'reward' us as a group.

- Speed Boat trip, Dinner Out (Free Bar)
- Team build go-karting
- Meal, stand up act from a well known snooker player

While you will have to rule out the above i like the idea about cooking breakfast/dinner. Don't knock it as too simple and not worth the hassle, from someone on the receiving end its a nice 'plus' to the day.[/quote]

Free food is always nice, IMO. So if having someone else prepare it!

One of my corworkers recently read an article about companies that give really cool stuff to their employees:
[quote]Brogan & Partners, a Michigan marketer, takes its 60 employees on annual mystery junkets - no one's told the destination (they've hit Amsterdam, Iceland and the Caribbean). At UCG, a Rockville, Md. business publisher, the 1,000 workers (and significant others) are sent on a surprise, all-expenses-paid long weekend every five years [/quote]
and
[quote]Employees at New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, Colo. receive a case of beer a week, which the company does not recommend they drink while riding the bike (like the one on the label of NBB's Fat Tire Amber Ale) that they get after a year on the job. After five years, they go to Belgium to sample the brews that inspired the company's creation.[/quote]

Very cool.

Expendable income is very nice.

Todd G's picture

Kev,

You obviously work for an organization that doesn't provide servant leadership. Maybe your senior management folks ought to read "Focus on Leadership: Servant-Leadership for the 21st Century. It just might open their eyes to what is expected of the leaders of tomorrow. Many people including, Warren Bennis, Stephen Covey, Margarte Wheatley and John Bogle have all contributed to this text.

Russ Moxley describes Leadership As Partnership: (Chapter 4).
He describes the Five Requirements for Leadershipas Partnership- Something I don't believe you see in your company:

1. There must be a balance of power: A partnership will not work when one person has power and others don't.

2. There must be a shared goal: Even though there may be differing oppinions of how to reach a goal, everyone is a partnership must share the understanding of what the goal is. In your case it is the recognition of the employees and their work to the company.

3. There must be a shared sense of responsibility and accountability: Whether in a one-to-one, a group, or a larger community, partnership requires that EVERYONE be responsible and accountable.

I would recommend utilizing the advise you have received and start something that people are going to look to you for the future. I agree with Mark! There is no way to do this annually. It has to be thoughtful, authentic, and sincere. It has to be done frequently. My organization has 4-5 "Grill Days" during the summer for all employees.... Senior Management grills hamburgers, brats, chicken, with chips. We have icecream socials, etc....

4. Partnership requires respect for the person: Each person in a partnership must believe in the inherent worth and value of everyother person...... Partnership thus honors diversity in word and deed. It requires that everyone be treated with dignity and respect.

5. Partnership MUST be applied to all area of organizational life: It will not work if it is applied only to unimportant issues.

Spears, L., Lawrence, M. (2002), "Focus on Leadership: Servant-Leadership for the 21st Century. Thousand Oaks, Sage.

Good luck with your quest. "1,001 ways..." is a great tool, and you can do alot for nothing.