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At this point, there’s no denying that remote work is part of our new normal. For many employees, that is a relief. They can spend more time with their families and less time commuting. They can set aside time for deep work without the inevitable interruptions that come with an in-office day. And they can make themselves truly comfortable wherever they decide to get the job done.
But remote work isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It can be harder for employees to collaborate with team members and stay motivated to engage with their work each day. If organizations don’t act, team members may lose their sense of connection to its culture and values.
As the top driver of employee engagement and a powerful way to build genuine relationships, supporting employee recognition is one of the best ways companies can address these issues. Virtual employee appreciation needs to be meaningful, frequent, and a core part of organizational culture to have a real impact. Read on to learn why virtual employee recognition is so essential to your organization’s success and how to build a great employee recognition program for remote workers.
Why does virtual employee appreciation matter?
Feelings of appreciation come from being recognized for your accomplishments, big and small. From a public message of appreciation on the company newsfeed to a gift of reward points, employee recognition demonstrates that team members care about each other and value what every employee brings to the table. Ultimately, employee recognition is vital to upholding your company values, which, in turn, creates cultural alignment that increases engagement and reduces turnover.
The numbers speak for themselves. Sixty-nine percent of employees say that recognition and rewards would motivate them to stay with their company. Recognition is also the most effective way to make employees feel valued on the job. And a majority of employees around the world agree that when they’re recognized for specific actions, they’re more likely to repeat them, making appreciation a great tool for fostering positive behaviors and culture. Companies that rate their culture of recognition highly are over twice as likely to see increased employee engagement. With results like these, employee recognition should be a priority for every organization, especially those with partially or fully remote workforces.
12 ways to recognize virtual employees remotely
Even organizations that realize the importance of employee appreciation can have a difficult time developing a recognition program that meets the needs of remote workers. Without a centralized location all team members spend time in, natural opportunities to provide recognition are hard to come by. Here are 12 ways to build a great virtual employee appreciation program, starting with adopting a mobile-first employee recognition platform.
1. Make virtual employee appreciation simple with the right solution
The first step towards making exceptional virtual employee appreciation a reality is establishing a hub for all employees to give and receive recognition. Look for an employee recognition platform designed with a mobile-first approach and with plenty of features to engage team members and build a culture of appreciation. This means the ability for all team members to provide social and monetary recognition tied to company values, a rewards catalog with options that truly excite your workforce, and integrations with the tools employees use every day.
2. Say thanks with frequent social recognition
Social recognition is any type of appreciation that doesn’t involve money, ranging from sending a thank you message in a team Slack channel to congratulating someone on a big project they completed during a daily standup. When social recognition becomes a daily habit, remote workers experience a sense of connection they might otherwise lack 一 not only to each other, but also the company’s mission. In fact, companies that invest in social recognition are twice as likely to see better individual employee performances. Lauding employees who are doing a fantastic job makes them want to continue bringing their best selves to work and encourages other employees to do the same.
3. Give redeemable reward points
Social recognition packs even more of a punch when it’s coupled with the right rewards. The simplest and most effective way to incorporate monetary recognition in your virtual employee appreciation program is through a platform that includes a points-based reward system. This allows team members to accrue reward points on a weekly or monthly basis. They can include these points when providing social recognition, and the recipient can then redeem them for whatever reward they prefer in the platform’s catalog. Reward points work so well because they get everyone at the organization involved and offer unparalleled flexibility. Instead of hoping that an employee likes that they’re given, a gift of points ensures that the recipient can always select a reward they actually find meaningful.
4. Provide incredible incentives
Incentive programs are an excellent way to encourage employee behavior. For example, many sales teams host contests and award reps with prizes for closing the most deals or deals with the highest annual contract value. But incentives shouldn’t be limited to the occasional gift 一 they can include anything from referral programs to tuition reimbursement. The best part is that incentives work just as well for remote employees. Some companies offer digital incentives in the form of hackathons or health and wellness challenges, while others offer more flexible online working hours or support for professional development. Whatever incentives you choose should align with your company’s values and culture to better motivate your employees.
5. Personalize recognition
Personalizing recognition is key to boosting its impact. A generic message of thanks just doesn’t mean as much as recognition that specifically calls out what the giver appreciates. Non-specific feedback can even come across as disingenuous. Explicitly stating what the employee did and how that positively affected their team or the company at large leads to a bigger sense of accomplishment and attachment to the organization.
6. Provide public recognition
Recognition is great on a one-to-one basis, but it’s most impactful when these individual moments are combined with public appreciation. You can shout people out on your company’s website, post on social media, email your entire department, write a thoughtful public note on your recognition and rewards platform, or even host an online awards ceremony. Showing appreciation on a bigger scale adds more weight to your thank you, reinforces positive behaviors, and promotes interaction among your virtual team.
7. Show appreciation for milestones, big and small
Work anniversaries are an ideal time to recognize someone’s efforts. Brainstorm creative ways to acknowledge the work employees have done and get them excited about the work that’s coming down the pike. If they are into music, find out what band they like and buy them a concert ticket. If they aren’t music buffs, front the payment for a class they’ve always wanted to take, make a charitable donation, or even send them on an all-inclusive trip. And remember, anniversaries aren’t the only milestones worth celebrating. Birthdays, passing certification exams, or even being a recognition all-star are things to commemorate as well. Consider hosting virtual parties or awards ceremonies to honor those milestones.
8. Give the gift of food!
Everyone loves a free lunch, especially one that’s a surprise. After a huge project ends, a big deal closes, or a new product feature is launched, consider emailing your team a food delivery gift certificate or sending them a cupcake or cookies. Invite everyone to eat a free lunch together on Zoom if you want to make it more of a team event. You could even treat your team to a nice dinner with their family by reimbursing up to a certain amount. Sending something delicious is a generous, personal gesture, and it’s a great way to show remote workers they’re a valued part of your company.
9. Double down on the flexibility of remote work
The tumult of recent years has done little to improve employee burnout. Any employee might be dealing with the strain of helping a family member in need, experiencing loneliness and disconnection, or suffering from other mental health issues. Fortunately, remote work offers new opportunities to combat burnout. Lean into its flexibility by providing employees with the ability to choose when and where they get work done, within reason. You could even designate a “reboot day” every quarter where all employees are encouraged to be offline, allowing them to rest and recharge. And listen to employees who may need to switch up their working hours unexpectedly because of external pressures. Looking after your employees makes sense from a business perspective and helps your leadership demonstrate empathy.
10. Support professional development
Providing growth opportunities for employees makes your workforce stronger and better able to solve hard problems. Dole out new projects and responsibilities, invite them to industry conferences and events, or design new learning and development courses they can take in-house. You can even hire an outside consultant to teach your team new skills or provide audiobook credits. Encourage employees to share what they learned with fellow team members, whether it be hard or soft skills. Teaching and coaching are some of the best ways for your employees to build rapport, and empowering employees to share their knowledge makes them feel even more confident in their abilities.
11. Offer more support for employee wellness
Employees do their best work when they’re happy and healthy. So why not recognize your remote team members for prioritizing their health wherever they find themselves? The first step is implementing progressive wellness programs, like subscriptions to meditation apps, monthly stipends for a gym or class membership, nutrition education, and proactive health risk assessments. Once those are in place, consider running interdepartmental contests to promote the use of your wellness programs. You can also adopt an employee recognition platform that integrates with wellness solutions. Employees that work remotely may not have the opportunity to engage in these activities with a work friend, but working towards shared goals helps them feel motivated and gives them a sense of belonging.
12. Assist with their remote working space
Over the last couple years, many employees started working remotely from their kitchen table. By now, they’ve likely moved to a makeshift home office, but it probably doesn’t quite feel like their desk at work. So why not help them out? Consider providing employees with funds to buy office chairs, monitors, or standing desks. Making their space more comfortable will help them improve their work and shows that you care about their working conditions. For people who want more of an in-office feel, you could offer a stipend to cover the cost of dedicated workspaces in the cities where they live. You could even send a beautiful house plant, branded gadget, or mug as a surprise gift.
Show appreciation to virtual employees with Achievers
Years ago, it was customary to give someone a gold watch when they retired. But does that one watch truly reflect a person’s contributions to the company? Today, companies realize that the occasional generic gift simply isn’t going to cut it, especially when employees have more choice available than ever before, thanks to the opportunities of remote work.
Start recognizing employees more frequently and meaningfully with Achievers Recognize. Rooted in science, Achievers Recognize empowers all team members with the ability to recognize and reward their peers and direct reports, driving engagement and better business results. It features built-in integrations with applications employees already use, so recognition is simple to incorporate into their daily routines. And it makes rewarding others fun and easy with a points-based system and an incredible rewards catalog.