Many companies are using survey questions about employee recognition programs to determine what their employees really want.  This is a two edged sword.  While it sounds proactive and caring to ask them for their input, the question itself can often carry the subtle message that you don’t know and really don’t care.  It’s like asking a class of third graders what they want for lunch – it won’t lead to serving a balanced, nutritious meal; more likely they’ll ask for candy.  Employees are no different, they’ll tell you what they WANT – money, not what they NEED – to be genuinely appreciated and respected.

Research from Maslow to Walker Information to Gallup all agree that it’s the emotional aspects of work that engage and motivate employees, not pay or bonuses.  Sure, nobody will turn down extra money, but when you respond with cash or gift cards to the answers to survey questions about employee recognition programs, you’ll end up throwing them candy.  These approaches, while appreciated, will not be lasting, will need to be increased every year, and will leave employees feeling “bought off”, not recognized.

The 100 Best Companies to Work For consistently use caution in the area of compensation.  They know that while good pay and bonuses get them better workers, it’s the ways in which they demonstrate that they care about them as human beings that keeps them on staff and yields their 110% effort.  You can buy their “C” game, but you must earn their “A” game buy showing love and respect.  The minute they think you’re attempting to manipulate their behavior using behaviorist Carrot and Stick approaches, you emotionally lose them and they begin to fall into minimal performance levels (and most don’t even realize or know why).

The best employers engage employees emotionally, then offer performance incentives.