Ways to reward and recognize your employees this Labor Day

While we're still in the dog days of July, Labor Day is not really that far away. As an HR leader, managing employees' vacation time for Labor Day weekend will be critical. Making sure time-off requests are appropriately submitted and processed, updating staff schedules and keeping other department heads in the loop (so productivity stays on track) are just a few of the biggest points. But there are major opportunities here related to the upcoming holiday, for you to benefit employees' engagement and the company's bottom line year-round – through reward and recognition programs

Labor Day is the perfect time to debut a recognition initiative. Per the Department of Labor, the holiday's origin – as the brainstorm of leaders in prominent unions – is a testament to the resilience of American workers. They fought tooth and nail to establish rights that are now commonplace in U.S. businesses. Just as we all owe them a great debt, your organization should strive to honor the staff who make everything possible. Let's look at some of the ways you can get this initiative started and how doing so can make your employees' working lives better:

Understanding the formula for successful employee recognition programs

According to a presentation prepared by the Organizational and Professional Development Division of Human Resources at the University of South Carolina, an employee reward and recognition program will best succeed if it works as follows: the right rewards, going to the right people for the right reasons and producing the right results.

But the substance of the rewards initiative can take many different forms to meet those four qualifications. It'll be up to you (and others in your department) to figure out what reward program structure will be best for your organization and its workforce. For example, you'll need to determine if team managers and company leaders will be solely responsible for providing rewards for employees, or if you want to use a peer-to-peer recognition structure. (Completing this type of preliminary planning is something you can establish as a goal to reach before the upcoming holiday begins.)

Ways to reward and recognize your employees this Labor DayEmployees who are recognized and rewarded for their successes will be more likely to have greater commitment to your organization.

Defining the achievements you'll reward

There should always be clear parameters regarding the conditions that lead to rewards in your program. As detailed by the Society for Human Resource Management, these can include:

  • Length of service
  • One-off instances of excellent work
  • A steady track record of success
  • Client/customer retention
  • Innovations that make the organization a better place overall

A lot of this depends on the type of organization you are: A tech startup that's been around for just a couple of years and is still getting its feet off the ground, for example, won't be able to cite and celebrate the length of employees' tenure and work anniversary because no one on staff really has that much service time. But that doesn't mean employees don't deserve citations and rewards for the successes they achieve – of course they do! This is especially true when you consider that in the hectic early days of the company, you and your compatriots might have missed a few holidays due to work demands. 

"Many different employee achievements are worthy of rewards and recognition."

For businesses on the other end of the spectrum in terms of their history, you certainly want to commend employees who stick around, especially if they develop proven reputations for success in their departments. SHRM noted that five-year increments are common lengths of time for such rewards. This will vary between companies, but you should be careful not to make the intervals too short or too long.

Also, it will be important for you and other administrators of your new rewards program to make it perfectly clear that tenure-based rewards aren't being given out to employees for the mere fact of their tenure, but because they've met reasonable benchmarks of success during that time. All things being equal, an underperforming worker won't have lasted at the company for particularly long. But even in a stable office environment, other staff may assume cronyism – or worse, the Peter Principle of tenure-based endurance dictating treatment and promotion over talent – is at work if someone whom co-workers widely regard as flawed earns a public "attaboy!" from management.

Figuring out the right rewards for the right achievements

TalentLyft noted that there's no single reward – or reward structure – that HR professionals across the board consider to be better than any other. It all depends on what's best for your specific organization. Sometimes verbal or written praise, delivered informally through a quick chat, is enough, according to Bonusly. This is ideal for smaller-scale achievements that are still noteworthy, especially in instances where you know an employee was having doubts about their work on a certain project or their overall role. In other situations, though, rewards must be more substantial. 

The nature of a worker's achievement should also dictate the rewards associated with it. For one-off successes or impromptu company contests, something like a gift card or a small cash bonus will work. (An Amazon gift card or perhaps a gift certificate to an esteemed local restaurant might be exactly what an employee needs to plan a particularly great night during the Labor Day weekend.) Continuing achievements, like exceeding sales quotas, helping to retain clients, inspiring them to upsell on your services and so on, deserve bonuses from a recurring program. In such cases, you'll want to make sure that the conditions for earning bonuses in any circumstances are clearly defined in transparent, easily accessible company policies.

Last but not least, offering additional vacation or personal days will probably be immensely popular among employees – especially in light of the upcoming holiday! MetLife's 17th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study found that unlimited paid time off (not literally unlimited; more like "not restricted in when you request it") is the most popular emerging benefit for American workers right now. So you should strongly consider offering extra PTO days as rewards – as long as they're given out for the most exemplary successes.

Leveraging HR technology for better reward and recognition management

Launching a successful rewards program, whether it's tied into Labor Day or deployed at any other time, will only turn out for the best if you manage it the right way from the start – and you won't be able to do that relying on outdated HR tools. 

PeopleStrategy's cutting-edge HR solutions offer you and other managers the ability to track employee performance across all departments and make personalized notes on individual workers to provide insight that goes beyond strict KPIs and metrics. In conjunction with a well-constructed rewards program that has clear benchmarks and associated incentives, you can help ensure that employees feel valued for their hard work, boosting morale and supporting the organization's bottom line.