Recent studies by Bersin & Associates have shown that employee recognition programs and employee incentives are highly effective, but only when done properly.  A solid reward program can boost performance, improve morale, and reduce employee turnover by 31% or more.  An ineffective or inconsistent program is barely better than nothing at all.  So what are the right and the wrong ways to motivate employees?

In June of 2012, Bersin and Associates commissioned a massive research study to prove that recognition programs work.  The results of the study far surpassed their expectations - not only are recognition programs effective, but companies that recognize their employees far outperform those that don't. What Are The Benefits Of An Employee Recognition Program? In the study, an effective employee recognition program resulted in 31% lower voluntary turnover among employees.  This is huge.  Voluntary turnover is when an employee chooses to leave your company, usually for greener pastures.  Voluntary turnover is generally a measurement of how many of the best and brightest your company is losing.  To reduce the loss of your best employees by 31% is a goal worth fighting for.

The new year usually begins with goals, resolutions, and aspirations, but often the sense of pep and excitement don't last into February.  If you want to keep employee motivation high all the way through 2013, you need to implement an effective awards program that will engage your employees and actually change behavior. Our motto at Awardco is "The Things That Get Rewarded Get Done".  If you want to reach goals in 2013, you need to reward your employees for achieving those goals. 3 Ways To Engage and Motivate Employees: 1.) Pay Your Employees A Percentage Of Gains The more directly your employees benefit from an initiative in the workplace, the more likely they are to instigate, innovate, and persist.  If you need to cut costs in your business, offer your employees a 5 or 10% cut of whatever money they can save the company.  If you want to land bigger and better accounts, offer your employees a bonus for bringing in new business.

Most managers pride themselves on their communication skills, yet study after study shows that employees often fail to understand even simple directions from management.  In a recent study by European Leaders, 68% of employees failed to understand their company's vision, and only 18% of respondents described their employer as a "good" company.  Clearly, the motives and direction of their employers had not been clearly communicated. 5 Tips To Improve Employee-Manager Communication: 1. Practice Active Listening If you're a manager, you probably think you're a pretty good listener.  And you're probably wrong.  Studies show that most people in a position of leadership believe they understand the nature of a problem within the first ten words of an explanation.  That's usually impossible.  Most workplace issues are complicated and require multiple questions and answers to get at the root of the problem. To improve your listening skills, practice "active listening".  After your employee makes a point or statement, paraphrase their comment and repeat it back to them to ensure you've understood correctly.  Also, ask plenty of questions, even if you think you already know the answers.  Assumptions aren't helpful to anyone.
A few years ago, the Jefferson Memorial was eroding as frequent cleaning damaged the stone.  National Parks managers gathered together to determine the real source of the problem.  The memorial had to be washed frequently because it was encrusted in bird feces.  But why were the birds flocking around the monument?  Because the memorial was a haven for insects like spiders and midges.  Why were the spiders and midges congregating?  Because of the lights shining on the memorial.  The National Parks managers started waiting until an hour after dark to turn on the lights, and the insects dramatically decreased, as did the the birds, the feces, and the need to wash the memorial as frequently as a sticky toddler.

Managers are often reluctant to fire employees, thinking it sends a negative message, as if the company is disloyal and heartless.  And some managers are just plain chicken, avoiding letting an employee go because they don't want the confrontation or they hate the idea of hiring and training somebody else to fill the position. The fact is, firing is almost as important as hiring.  The saying "One bad apple spoils the barrel" is never more true than in the workplace, where a single negative influence can damage the morale and motivation of everybody else. If you have an employee who is poisoning the work environment and refusing to pull their weight, you need to get rid of them - today.  The message the other employees will receive is that you're serious about preserving a positive work environment, and you won't accept less than 100%, 100% of the time. 3 People You Should Fire Immediately:

Communication is the most important element of management, and one of the most accurate predictors of employee engagement and employee production.  But effective communication can be difficult due to the diverse methods people use to speak, listen, and interact. 5 Keys to Effective Employee Communication: 1. Keep Your Message Short and Simple Too often managers assume they should fill a certain amount of time when giving a presentation or holding a meeting.  If you have an hour-long conference scheduled, don't be afraid to finish in twenty minutes.  The less words you speak, the more people will pay attention and remember your message.  Studies have shown that employees cannot remember more than 3-5 points effectively.  So stick to the point, avoid jargon and remember that shorter is better.

When you're in a position of authority, you know you need to be a leader.  The word "manager" literally means a person who can manage other people, who can inspire, motivate, and direct employees.  But the goals "be a role model", "build team spirit", "engage employees" can be difficult - you know what you want to achieve, but not necessarily how to do it.

3 Concrete Actions You Can Take To Become A Better Manager Today:

1. Manage Employee Expectations

One of the biggest mistakes a manger can make is to set employee expectations that are inaccurate,  or fail to set any expectations at all.  From the moment you hire an employee and every day thereafter, you need to set correct expectations.  "This is what I expect you to do, and this is what you can expect to receive in return."