The Top 8 Things Employees Don’t Want For A Recognition Award!

I run a small business.  When I need to know something, I usually reach out to my employees and find out what they think.  It’s not some big fancy ‘research’ survey with thousands of responses, but it’s real.  Recently, I wanted to know what people might want in terms of a recognition award.  Ironically, what I found goes against some big fancy research done by recognition companies who are in the business of selling the crap on the list below – crazy how that works in the research game! Any who, what I found wasn’t surprising to me.

Here’s the list of the Top 8 things my employees don’t want when it comes to Recognition Awards:

1. Anniversary Pins! If you give me one of these I will stick it back in your eye! “Hey, Tim, Thanks for 10 years! Buddy, here’s a pin!” A What!?!? I’ve given you ten great years and you’re giving me a pin. Is this 1955?

2. A Plaque. Or any other kind of trophy thing. If I wanted a trophy to show me that I’m sales person of the year, you hired the wrong person. JayZ said it best “we can talk, but money talks, so talk more bucks”.

3. Corporate logo wear. Giving out corporate logo wear as a form of recognition screams you have executives that haven’t actually spoken to an employee in the last twenty years!

4. A watch. Wait, if it’s a Rolex, I’ll take a watch. If it’s a Timex you better ‘watch’ out, I’m throwing it at someone! Nothing says we don’t really care about you like a $50 watch with it engraved on the back ‘You Matter! 2014!’

5. Luggage. The ‘experts’ would like you to believe that your employees would really ‘appreciate’ luggage because it’s an item they don’t normally like to spend their money on. The reason why people don’t like to spend their money on luggage is because it gets destroyed after one trip through O’Hare! That’s just what you want to see coming around the luggage carousel – “Hey, look honey, it’s your employee of the year award all ripped up and stained”. Sign and symbols.

6. Fruit Baskets. First, most people don’t want to be healthy or we wouldn’t have the obesity problem we have in our society. Second, people like chocolate, candy, salty snacks and diet soda. If you want to send food, send food they’ll actually eat!

7. A Parking Spot with Their Name On It. This goes bad two ways: 1. I drive a $100K Mercedes and you don’t, now you know I drive a better car than you and it’s awkward; 2. I drive a beater and I’m embarrassed to let everyone know I make so little I can even afford a Chevy Colbalt.

8. A Hug! Wait! I totally want a hug! Just not a creepy hug. You know what a creepy hug feels like when you’re about 13 seconds into it and the other person won’t let go! But nothing says “we recognize you” in the totally wrong way, like inappropriate hugs at work!

What do employees want? Well, that’s an entire other post, but my 20 years of HR ‘research’/experience shows people want for their peers and leaders to appreciate their efforts. Nothing says ‘we truly care about you’ like having one of your peers tell you in some sort of way. When teams can do that, they become special! It might be a quick hand written note, a face to face meeting in the hall, etc. It really doesn’t matter the avenue of how it comes, it just matters that you have the culture that it does come and it’s encouraged to keep coming.

8 thoughts on “The Top 8 Things Employees Don’t Want For A Recognition Award!

  1. Great article, you’re spot on about the things that employees don’t want. In fact, giving a gift that is not going to be exciting or motivating to employees can have opposite affect you may have hoped for. A bad gift/reward/award can lead to resentment or disengagement. But, it’s hard to give each and every one of your employees the same gift and have them all enjoy it equally as much. I think the saying “what is one person’s trash is another’s treasure” and vice-versa is quite relevant when it comes to recognition awards.
    For me, the solution is always going to be CHOICE. Let them pick a gift of their liking (in a specified budget) so it ensures that s/he is going to feel the most appreciated and valued by your company. If they want a watch; let them choose a (non-logo’ed) watch. Or maybe it’s luggage they want; let them choose luggage. I guarantee you’ll get a big smile and a handshake in return from a happy employee.

  2. I just came back from the big HR show, SHRM, and spoke to about 100 people about their recognition programs. Most of them would agree with your employees about what their employees DON’T want. I had several people tell me they must be able to logo the gifts – orders from the Chairman or CEO. I agree with you, it’s an old-school way of thinking. Their desire to have the company logo on the gift – and some were spending $500+ on the gifts – is a reflection of doing what they want first, and not focusing on the recognition experience of the employee. How you recognize and what you use for that recognition experience really matters.

  3. Quite true for many companies and employees. Could be the trend toward more egalitarian workplaces or the lack of quality leadership within those companies. I’ve been around long enough to have pins that I keep in my jewelry box because I received them from people I admired and logo wear that I’m proud to wear because I was proud to be there. I’ve also received pins that were trashed on the way out of the presentation and logo wear dropped at the Goodwill on my way home. Maybe it’s not the stuff so much as what it represents to you.

  4. Quite Accurate! I do believe that employees should be rewarded and recognized for their hardwork. Can’t wait to read your next article- What do they really want? How about gift certificates that support their local community- Check out what They do just that!

  5. Great post!

    I know a friend whose boss gave a cheap wallet a couple to each employee for a couple of years consecutively. And the boss kept increasing workload and never increase salary. The employees talked with each other what’s the point to give wallets and don’t give a raise. And many of them looked for job somewhere else eventually.

    This post also reminds me a story by Marry Higgins Clark (I forget the name now). It tells about this corporate gave the employees a picture of the management taken with everyone in that corporate one Christmas, instead of bonus, so they could have something to remember. LOL. Everyone was so upset, but what could they say?

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