I don’t know who came up with the “one size fits all” idea. Let me tell you, there are very few women who can honestly say that “one size fits all” nylons actually fit! As someone who is five feet tall (and no, I’m not going to tell you my weight), one size fits all simply means saggy, baggy knees and ankles. They may not fall down, but the definitely don’t fit! Pretty much anything designed as “one size fits all” is guaranteed to disappoint a large percentage of the people it was supposedly designed for.
The thing wrong with “one size fits all” is that it doesn’t take individual characteristics into consideration. And that is the problem with a lot of employee recognition and reward programs. So many programs are designed for ease of use and implementation, rather than effectiveness. I am sure it is less costly to make a whole bunch of “one size fits all” nylons and it is less expensive (perhaps more in time than money) to create an employee recognition program that treats everyone exactly the same, but that recognition program is probably about as effective as the “one size fits all” nylons.
Ordering a bunch of logoed “stuff” from a promotional company and handing it out at five years, ten years and so on, doesn’t say “I know you, I appreciate you, I value you.” I sometimes wonder how many pins, logoed watches, mantel clocks and framed certificates are gathering dust in drawer or closet somewhere. Giving a generic “good job” sticky note or pin, without providing the specifics as to what was done well, doesn’t hold a lot of meaning for many people. Employee of the month programs have become cliché and in many companies, a case of “whose turn is it” this month. No wonder the concept of employee engagement is “pshawed” in so many circles.
Customizing recognition and reward based on employee preferences and personalities absolutely takes more time, although it does not necessary have to cost more. Taking the time to say “Thank you for the effort you put into the report. You clearly identified the challenges and your suggested solutions were thoughtful and thorough” will have much more of an impact than “Great job on the report.” Giving a busy, new dad an afternoon off to spend with his family will create more goodwill than a company sweatshirt. And does anyone really want a crystal clock to put on their mantle after ten years of service? I suppose there are some people that do, in which case, give them the mantle clock. For the rest, perhaps they’d prefer a round of golf, a day at the spa. No, those events aren’t logoed, but who is the program really about? The company or the employee?
At the same time, don’t forget to take into consideration individual personality types. Some people love being the centre of attention. Go ahead … recognize them publically, but don’t force people who prefer the shadows to stand in the spotlight. Remember, this is not about your opportunity to show what a great boss you are. This is about recognizing and rewarding an employee in a customized, personalized way that demonstrates you value them enough to focus on them, not on you or the company.