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Use Recognition Programs to Engage High-Performing Employees

When you notice an employee doing an exceptional job or going above and beyond their normal duties, thank them. Let them know you notice and appreciate their efforts. You might even want to go a step further and offer a tangible reward or incentive for their work. These small gestures go a long way towards retaining those high-quality employees and encouraging them to repeat the behavior that brought the recognition. 

According to a recent study by Gallup and WorkHuman, an employee recognition software platform, there are real benefits to rewarding employee performance, and many organizations are missing out by not investing in or prioritizing it. For it to be beneficial, recognition needs to happen more than once a year at a company picnic or annual review. The study, Transforming Workplaces Through Recognition, found that employees who are frequently praised for their job performance are less likely to feel burned out, less likely to be looking for another job and more likely to be engaged and connected to the company culture. According to the study, for recognition to have the most impact, it needs to be authentic, equitable, embedded in the culture, personalized and fulfill the employee’s expectations and needs. 

Recognizing employees for a job well done can be as simple as publicly thanking them in a group meeting or as structured as a profit-sharing program. Here are some ways retailers reward employees for exemplary job performance. 

Social Media Fame at Hagan Ace Hardware

Employees who do an outstanding job serving customers may be featured on Hagan Ace Hardware’s social media feed on “Testimonial Tuesday”. Each week, management at the company, which has nine locations in northern Florida, recognizes an employee or group of employees who have been exemplary in the way they’ve helped customers. Often, customers will call out employees by name on social media or an online review platform, such as Google Reviews, which will prompt management to nominate that employee for further recognition. The Testimonial Tuesday post consists of a photo of the employee and a short write-up about why they are being featured. 

“I’ve heard from so many managers that when we recognize an employee in this way, their co-workers in the store also congratulate them and make them feel good about their customer service,” says Tera Lageman, director of advertising and marketing. “At Hagan Ace, we know we wouldn’t be here without our amazing employees. This is just one small way to recognize them and make them feel special. Giving a little bit of public praise doesn’t cost a penny, and it goes a long way!”

Regular Pay Increases at PaulB Hardware

New employees at PaulB Hardware in Lititz, Pennsylvania, can expect to see their wages increase as they learn the company’s processes and increase in product knowledge. Those who learn quickly can see wages increase several times in their first year. Management reviews the performance of all employees annually and gives raises accordingly to keep wages competitive. Managers receive a bonus if the company meets sales goals. 

“Taking a proactive approach has definitely helped us retain people in an aggressive hiring market,” says Jim Hostetter, president. “We firmly believe that if we treat our team members well and continue to train and invest in them, they will pass that positive feeling along in their work and their interactions with customers. We continue to get very positive feedback from our customers on the quality of our employees, so we believe it is working.”

Peer Recognition at Northwest Hardware

If you see something, say something; that’s the kind of company culture Kandis Albertson wants to bring to Northwest Hardware in Billings, Montana. Albertson, program coordinator for the company’s five stores, says when an employee sees another employee demonstrating one of Northwest Hardware’s core values, they can nominate them for the monthly “I See You” award. Nominating employees fill out a slip of paper and indicate what core value they saw their coworker demonstrating. All nominees get entered into a drawing for a store gift card at the end of the month. 

“We started the program as a way to have our employees get behind and support our company’s core values,” she says. “These are the values that guide all of us, so when we see someone else demonstrating them, we want to recognize that. Reinforcing our core values has helped with employee retention, too, because the more you can build a positive culture, the more likely employees will stay.”

Surprise, Free Lunch! at Paint Fair

Lesley Davies-Baptista, vice president of Paint Fair in Freeport, Grand Bahamas, typically gives employees annual bonuses if the company made a profit that year. Bonus amounts range from the equivalent of one to three weeks of salary, based on individual performance. While that type of “thank you” comes once or twice a year, she says it’s also important to show appreciation for their hard work more frequently.  

“We try to encompass some smaller gestures as well—lunch on extra busy days or when we are short staffed, or by giving them Easter and Christmas gift certificates,” she says. “Those surprises, even if not a lot, go a long way.” 

Profit-Sharing at Discount Building Materials

When the company earns, everyone wins at Discount Building Materials, which has five locations in Mississippi. All employees receive a base pay that is minimal compared to most retail jobs. However, owner Cliff Sink pays weekly bonuses to all full-time employees based on each store’s gross sales for that week. Rather than using a formula based on an individual’s performance, qualifying employees share the bonuses equally. 

“All incentive-based employees are paid on every item sold in the store, hopefully creating more of a team atmosphere,” he says. “For us, it’s easy to measure and gives them a little ownership in the company. We’ve been doing this for at least 20 years now, and my key employees have been here a long time.”

About Jesse Carleton

Jesse Carleton has visited independent hardware retailers, conducted original research on the industry and written extensively about the business of hardware retailing. Jesse has written for more than a dozen of NHPA’s contract publishing titles, all related to the hardware retailing industry. He also was instrumental in developing the Basic Training in Hardware Retailing courses now used by thousands of retailers across the country.

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