Rewarding and recognizing an employee should be easier.

Back in the day, my VP of HR gave me a $50 gift certificate to Ann Taylor for meeting my quarterly goals and objectives. It was a nice surprise. I was appreciative. I walked into the store — where the cheapest petite pants were over $50 and needed to be hemmed — and I bought a pair of sunglasses. Then I walked out and forgot about the gift.

Isn’t that how most rewards and recognition programs work? You do your job because you are an adult. Someone gives you a nice surprise for being an adult. You say thank you. Then you go about your business and forget about it.

Well, it’s much more complicated than that. There is a huge industry built around the psychology of recognizing colleagues. And there’s a huge business in giving junk made in China stuff to employees and acknowledging accomplishments.

Who’s in that business? There is OC Tanner, Globoforce, YouEarnedIt, Michael C Fina, Inspirus, Martiz, and I Love Rewards. There are hundreds, actually. Go search for them.

Check Out these fun, affordable, and meaningful employee rewards

Some of these companies operate as clearinghouses for gas grills and gold watches. Other companies allow you to use the fancy internet to thank your colleagues and send them a bottle of wine. None of these programs are cheap. It’s more cost-effective to go buy a gift card at Macy’s than to recognize an employee through one of these systems.

But if you are in HR, you want a reliable and valid way for colleagues to recognize one another. You want data. And you want to avoid ‘quid pro quo’ recognition. And you don’t want HR to manage this shit. Aren’t you busy enough with the company picnic?

You probably want to look into employee recognition software, but please don’t pick a vendor based on a catalogue full of pens and golf bags.

  • The best ’employee rewards & recognition tools’ allow an employee to share the recognition with friends and family members. (The recognition is sticky and lasts longer than a simple transaction at an overpriced retail store.)
  • You want to buy a system that allows employees to build a history of her accomplishments and fold that information into her social networking profiles and enhance her professional ‘brand’.
  • And a great tool will allow a manager to keep track of the data, review the information in an organized way, and import the data into a performance management tool.

So If you’re in the market for a rewards and recognition provider, I don’t care what company you pick. I am not part of some chumpy affiliate program where I earn 15% if you pick a certain vendor. I do want you to apply critical thinking skills and understand how your company historically recognizes and rewards its people. I want you to choose a program that is easy to use. I would also recommend a software solution that requires very little effort from IT to implement and maintain. Finally, I would recommend a program that you would use yourself.

  • Is it fun? Is it simple? Does it require very little oversight from HR?

If you can say yes to all three, you’re on the right path.

And you can keep your dated rewards catalogue and give me something meaningful for my hard work. I want to be recognized with a trip to London. (Just saying, Starr Tincup. Just. Saying.)

This is a guest post by Laurie Ruettimann from http://thecynicalgirl.com

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Okay, now check out an award-wining employee engagement platform that is so much more than overpriced rewards. YouEarnedIt is mostly about social recognition, collaboration, and connections.  Oh yeah, we also offer meaningful employee rewards based on your unique culture including Tiger Pajamas, among others. Click Tiger Boy below to see some other fun reward ideas.