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Employee Recognition

When it comes to business success, engaged employees perform 20 percent better and are 87 percent less likely to leave an organization. As more employers start to understand the power of engagement, we see businesses strive to achieve a powerful trifecta of senior leadership, managers, and employees who align to achieve bottom-line goals.

In her Forbes article, “How To Succeed At Real-Time Talent Alignment,” Meghan Biro comments that to achieve alignment, “Ideally, your recruiting process should be linked to leadership, culture and the on-boarding process. How you bring a new employee on board will determine whether or not you keep them for more than 18 months.” She’s right. This cohesion is essential to recruiting and retaining top talent; but how exactly can employers achieve this alignment? The key is recognition. Not only does recognition make employees feel valued, but managers who inspire their employees with meaningful recognition drive alignment and perform better in the marketplace.

Biro highlighted four opportunities that every employer can seize to drive real-time talent alignment. Here, we’ll show you how recognition plays into these scenarios to ensure engagement and alignment across the organization.

Get to know your employees

Employee recognition is the spark that gets it all going. It fulfills our intrinsic need to achieve and motivates us because of our inherent desires for acceptance and belonging. Encourage managers and leadership to get to know the people on their teams and what motivates them, and recognize them for their accomplishments. This will build trust and loyalty among your organization and ultimately drive alignment.

Be prepared to make changes fast

Here, Biro discusses the importance of equipping employees with the tools they need to succeed, and being prepared to gracefully offboard them if they don’t. To ensure that top talent live up to their potential and that their performance meets your expectations, recognize employees for living the company’s core values. Make sure employees understand what behaviors are measured and why. If you reinforce desired behaviors with positive feedback, those behaviors will be repeated.

Don’t hire a resume, hire a human

When filling leadership positions, many companies have a habit of taking their best performers and creating the worst managers. Before you fill a management role, consider what types of skills this position requires beyond the list of qualifications. Does this person have coaching skills, recognition experience, and a track record of success working with a team? Evaluate how you can equip your leadership with the recognition tools they need to be great coaches and ensure alignment.

Hire ahead of need

The number of available jobs is on the rise, and this is creating a job-seekers market in many areas. If you wait until you have an urgent need to fill a role, you might find that it’s harder than you expected to attract top-quality candidates. Plan ahead by building your employer brand and by promoting a culture that is rooted in recognition, engagement, and alignment.

Interested in learning more about how recognition is crucial to real-time talent alignment? Download The Ultimate Guide to Employee Recognition to learn tips and strategies you can implement today.

Source: Lockwood, Nancy R. “Leveraging Employee Engagement for Competitive Advantage: HR’s Strategic Role.” HRMagazine Mar.2007: 1-11. SearchSpot. ABI/INFORM Global (PQ). Web. 8 Apr 2013.

Cox Automotive

At Achievers, we love our customers. We’re interviewing them to highlight their expertise, advice, and secrets to success. 

Cox Automotive, a leading provider of products and services that span the automotive ecosystem worldwide, has nearly 25,000 employees working across more than 24 brands, including Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book, Manheim, and a number of other best-in-class companies. Cox Automotive’s expansion over the past few years has created an interesting opportunity for Heather Markle, Cox Auto’s Manager of Rewards & Recognition.

How many of you remember your Achievers launch? Heather’s first launch was in October of 2012 and her 9th launch will be September 30th.  With at least three more launches planned for 2016, Heather and her team are not only focused on scaling their program as they acquire new employees — often thousands at a time — but also on keeping their existing program fresh and top-of-mind for legacy users.

Spark, which Cox Auto’s iteration of the Achiever’s platform, is a fun play on words for the automotive industry that reflects their dedication to “sparking” motivation, inspiration, and engagement through social recognition.

We sat down with Heather and her colleague Stephanie Hogge, Analyst, Rewards & Recognition, to find out how they’ve managed to keep their program relevant and engaging with so much growth at Cox Automotive.

Q. Is there any one thing that you can share with us that has contributed to the success of Spark?

Heather: Sure, if there is one thing I’d like to stress today it’s the value of partnership. We’re constantly looking for ways to embed our program into company initiatives, contests, and events. That level of alignment reinforces the value of the program and helps us leverage Spark points to drive behaviors. What we’re most proud of is our partnership with our Community Relations Team. Stephanie can share how we work together to offer meaningful rewards to our employees while also allowing them to give back to their favorite charities.

Q. Stephanie, how did you help build this partnership? 

Our partnership really began when members of the Community Relations (CR) team approached us after a big event to see how they could recognize volunteers in Spark. Since then, we’ve worked closely with the team to make sure all of our employee volunteers get the public recognition they deserve. We are always looking for ways to integrate Community Relations and Spark. For example, last year we co-sponsored an event for our Atlanta employees celebrating the 100,000th recognition sent through Spark. Each attendee was encouraged to make a small donation, which the CR team then distributed to some of Cox Auto’s favorite charities. Earlier this year, we were excited to announce that every donation made through Spark’s “Give Back” feature is now eligible for matching through CR’s matching gifts program.

Q. How have employees responded to this partnership? Have you received any feedback?

Employees have been incredibly positive about this partnership. This is made apparent to me every time I look at redemption activity in Spark, and see how many people have decided to donate their hard-earned Spark points to a deserving organization. In 2015 alone, Cox Auto employees donated almost $9,500 worth of Spark points to 70 unique organizations. I think people appreciate the ease of making a donation through Spark especially because the dollars are automatically matched by Cox Automotive.

Cox Automotive

Q. What’s next for Cox Automotive?

Heather: Our company is truly global now. We are working to expand our program to the UK and Australia hopefully next year. We not only focus our adoption efforts on acquisitions, but through enhanced partnerships like the one we have with our Community Relations Team.

As we became Cox Automotive, our Achievers platform was the first platform to launch to our entire employee population. Spark was the first site to bring our company together. Having that level of buy-in from our leaders goes a long way to set us up for success. We look forward to getting our passport stamped in early 2016 as we help to spread our culture of recognition world-wide.

To learn more about how Heather has transformed the culture of recognition at Cox Automotive, and to hear how she’s using the Achievers platform to engage both online and offline employees, be sure to attend her presentation at this year’s Achievers Customer Experience. See the full agenda and register here:


Heather MarkleHeather Markle, Manager of Rewards & Recognitioni
n-tra-pre-neur (In¹tre-pre-nur) n. A person within a large corporation who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable finished product.

I stumbled upon five days after I graduated from Oglethorpe University with a degree in Business and Behavioral Science. Fifteen years and eight roles later, I have become a strategic, multidisciplinary designer & intraprenuer with an eye for innovation and pixel perfection. I continue to look for opportunities to fill gaps with unique approaches to common problems. My creative skill set and passion for new technology make me a natural fit to lead our Rewards & Recognition team, define our awards strategy and champion our platform adoption efforts.

Employee Recognition

You’ve seen the YouTube videos of happy flight attendants creatively rapping the in-flight safety instructions, or read the stories of employees who have gone way beyond their job duties to help a customer. These make for great stories, but you can’t help but notice that most of these employees work for winning companies. Would the employees have gone above and beyond if they didn’t have a great work environment? Or would the companies be so successful without engaged employees?

You may think your employees are engaged now, but have you planned for the future? What will change when baby-boomers retire? What if your company could be more successful just by recognizing your employees? Here are a few reasons you need an employee recognition program:

Impact of the future workforce

Baby boomers are retiring, and they are taking much of the skill and experience in their companies with them. This year, 60 percent of new jobs being created require skills held by only 20 percent of the population. Millennials are already starting to take over; earlier this year, they surpassed Gen Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force. You need to have the feedback channels, communication strategy, and collaborative environment to be able to recruit top millennial talent during this generational transition.

More employees work outside the office

The workplace is changing — literally. New communication tools are making it possible and easy for employees to work from home or other remote locations. As mobile trends continue and mobile apps become more advanced, more work is going to take place away from the office. How will your organization make these people feel like they are an engaged and valued part of the team? Do you have recognition programs in place that allow your mobile team to participate seamlessly?

Customer service is linked to employee engagement

The customer is always right, and that is even truer today. In a world where one tweet or a short video clip can do major damage to a company’s reputation and bottom line, it is critical that customer-facing employees are engaged and motivated. The good news is, you can empower your employees to provide great customer service and create repeat customers. Consider the ROI of this new strategy; organizations that prioritize customer service make 60 percent more profit!

Reinforce the right behaviors

Employee recognition does more than just give people warm and fuzzies. It is a strategic investment that aligns employees with corporate objectives. Employee recognition works by reinforcing behaviors that help achieve goals, and it solidifies people’s emotional connection with their jobs and the company. Engaged employees who are aligned with business objectives will work harder to achieve goals and serve customers, meaning they will push the company to succeed.

Get senior management involved

Although we often hear executives say that employees are the organization’s greatest asset, they are also often viewed as the biggest cost. So how are you going to justify an employee rewards program that increases the cost? By explaining the ROI. Use numbers and provide examples of the outcomes that can be achieved.

Winning companies have a great work environment. Great work environments are created when employees are aligned with business objectives and rewarded for meeting goals. It’s time you created a recognition strategy that can push your company to the next level.

Want to learn how to create a recognition strategy that’s tailored to engage and align all of your employees? Download The Ultimate Guide to Employee Recognition.

Employee Motivation

New generations entering the workforce have unique perspectives and expectations about meaningful work and motivating rewards. Savvy employers understand the difference between intrinsic and external (extrinsic) motivators and develop engagement programs that recognize and reward employees for exercising the right behaviors and aligning with company goals.

Outside in: intrinsic versus external motivators

A motivated employee is more likely to go beyond minimum work expectations, deliver high-quality work, and seek out new challenges. Motivation is a quality that energizes and guides behavior, and each of your employees has different motivators:

External (extrinsic) motivators: An employee motivated by external rewards performs work to specifically earn a reward meted out by the employer. The rewards are tangible and often monetary, like pay increases, new benefits, bonuses, or promotions.

Intrinsic motivators: Employees motivated by intrinsic rewards complete work because it is personally rewarding. These are psychological motivators, and they typically fall into four reward categories: meaningfulness, choice, competence, and progress.

You need to understand the different sources of employee motivation so that you can train managers to match the right rewards and recognition styles to the right employee. If you don’t understand what motivates the multigenerational workforce, you might start losing talent. As the economy picks up, many workers are no longer satisfied staying in jobs that don’t feel rewarding most of the time.

Motivating at all ages

The workforce is now composed of four generations of employees: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y (millennials).

Traditionalists typically get satisfaction from doing a good job, and so are considered self-motivated. They’ve also worked for decades for organizations that rewarded strictly through salary increases and anniversary awards, so they tend to expect less praise and fewer spot bonuses.

Baby Boomers tend to be more motivated than the Traditionalists by work-life balance. They are loyal to their organizations and enjoy sharing their knowledge and experience. Baby Boomers often appreciate more traditional rewards, like items with monetary value, and recognition that they are balancing external duties in their personal lives.

Gen Xers typically have a more individualistic perspective about work. People in this group are after the traditional trappings of success, such as promotions, corner offices, and financial benefits that will help them support their families.

Millennials usually appreciate rewards that let them control their work time, enjoy personal activities, and support their passion for charities, the environment, and social causes. They often prioritize work flexibility over salary and monetary rewards. Millennials also tend to crave feedback, so they can be motivated well by pats on the back and public praise.

Developing an impactful reward system

Salary increases and annual bonuses alone are not the answer to raising levels of employee engagement. A review of 120 years of research found a weak link between salary and job satisfaction, and this is true globally. Salary is important at the point of hiring but becomes less important once an employee is on board. Global employers, in particular, are challenged with engaging and motivating a geographically dispersed workforce. How do you:

  • Understand and address each employee’s motivators
  • Engage the workforce as a whole
  • Align workforce performance across the organization
  • Develop an impactful and fair reward system that includes both intrinsic and extrinsic incentives

Single platform for multiple results

The answer is found in technology. Reward & recognition platforms (like the Achievers Employee Success Platform™), allow employees to earn a mix of public praise and appreciation (which taps into those intrinsic motivators), as well as redeemable points (which tap into extrinsic, monetary motivators).

When you provide employees with a marketplace of items they can shop for with the points they’ve earned, you’re providing a truly tailored experience for each person. Employees are empowered to select the item that’s most meaningful to them, whether it’s plane tickets for a dream vacation, a designer bag, charitable donations, or a Visa® prepaid card they can use for daily expenses.

Forget hierarchy and status

The single platform as a reward system has two important advantages. You can collect global performance data at every level of the organization, and employees can pick the rewards that mean the most to them. The rewards are not tied to an employee’s tenure or their status in a hierarchy, like most traditional reward systems.

You can continue to link the remuneration to your employee’s role, but any reward system should be flexible enough to acknowledge external motivations and the four groups that comprise opportunities for intrinsic motivation. Attract, engage, and align employees, and give them the rewards they want for exhibiting the right behaviors. It’s the formula for a successful employee engagement strategy.

Employee Recognition

We hate to be the one to tell you this, but a lot of employees think sporting a company lapel pin is about as “in” as wearing socks with sandals. There are much better ways to reward your employees and reinforce your brand besides just handing out tchotchkes.

Companies today are getting extremely competitive when it comes to culture and perks. Does your employee engagement strategy reflect what employees truly want and even expect from their employers?

What’s out? Passé trends include:

  • Ad hoc and disconnected recognition
  • Hierarchy
  • Annual or semi-annual feedback & bonuses

What’s on-trend today is:

  • Collaboration and bottom-up communication
  • Cross-team recognition
  • Tailored but fair rewards

Modern recognition strategies are necessary to win in today’s competitive business landscape, and these strategies must be transparent and advanced – just like the modern workplace. Evolving your engagement strategy reaches beyond what’s “on-trend” and extends to the bottom line. We curated this list of ten reasons why you need to replace the lapel pins with real-time recognition:

  1. Create better shareholder value.
    Recognized employees will work harder to satisfy your customers, which has a direct effect on your organization’s stakeholders.
  2. Align employees with business objectives.
    This reinforces the right behaviors and makes recognition more purposeful.
  3. Get employees engaged.
    Recognition solidifies employees’ emotional connection with your company.
  4. Celebrate individual accomplishments.
    While team recognition is important, employees want to feel that they have made an impact at an individual level too.
  5. Employees will work harder.
    80 percent of employees said recognition is a strong motivator of work performance.
  6. Maximize retention rates.
    Engaged employees are 87 percent less likely to leave their organizations.
  7. Leverage your greatest resource.
    Recognition is the easiest and most meaningful way to motivate your people.
  8. Become more productive and profitable.
    Organizations with high engagement rates are 78 percent more productive and 40 percent more profitable than organizations with low engagement levels.
  9. Develop your future leaders and motivate them to stay.
    Engaged employees perform 20 percent better.
  10. Reinforce positive behaviors.

When great work is recognized, it’s repeated.

Wonder what other recognition styles are in this season? Download The Ultimate Guide to Employee Recognition to find out!

Dogs at work

Dogs at work are the latest perk to have employees salivating with envy. From Nestle Purina’s “bring your dog to work day” to the “woof-top” dog park built on top of Zynga’s San Francisco headquarters, a growing number of companies are letting employees bring their pooches to work.

The office is not your home, however. If it’s not appropriate for your employees to wander around in their PJs, why should you welcome dogs at work? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons:

Pooches reduce workplace stress

Employees who bring their pets have less stress. In one study, researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University found that workers who had dogs nearby experienced declining levels of stress throughout the day, but stress levels spiked by 70 percent for workers who left their dogs at home. From a work-life balance perspective, bringing your dog to work means that employees don’t have to worry about their four-legged friends sitting home alone all day. Pooches also contribute to the casual feel of the work environment and introduce a tangible sense of fun that relieves stress.

Staff members become more sociable

One of the reasons pets have such a marked effect on workplace-related stress is because they encourage the staff to open up socially. Even on the most hectic days, team members walking past a dog tend to engage in mushy, one-way conversations and scratch the dog’s belly. A dog’s antics give co-workers something to laugh about, and this binds them together — making for a friendlier office environment that, according to Purina, boosts productivity.

Dogs can distract co-workers

While a study by Central Michigan University confirms that dogs at work could help build camaraderie and trust, the study also admits that pets can distract some employees. What if co-workers have an allergy or phobia? Employees are unlikely to work efficiently if they must chain-swallow antihistamines or cower in their office to avoid canines. Also, what impression might clients get if they hear barking in the background?

Pet-free zones can help

Employers who ignore the wishes of canine-loathing staff do risk alienating a portion of their workforce. That’s why it’s crucial to lay down the ground rules before you invite your tail-wagging friends — and that includes designating pet-free zones for workers who are uncomfortable around dogs. Ultimately, the burden of avoiding messes and aggressive behavior lies with the pet owner. It’s a perk that comes with responsibility.

Inviting dogs to work may not be for everyone, and staff buy-in is crucial. However, if both the dog and team are happy, then maybe it’s worth giving dogs at work a trial run.

Employee Recognition

Ultimate Guide to Employee Recognition

Everyone likes to know that people around them notice and appreciate them.

This applies to the workplace too. We often hear organizations say that their number-one asset is their people. Considering this, businesses should be concerned that only 49 percent of North American employees are happy at work. According to WorldatWork, 89 percent of organizations report that they have some type of recognition system in place, but with these staggeringly low employee engagement rates, it’s clear that these programs are far from effective.

It’s not simply a matter of sending out thank-you cards; organizations need to ensure that their employee recognition program is planned and executed to deliver certain results. Here are some tips:

  1.       Start at the beginning

If you were renovating a house, you wouldn’t begin painting until you had finished drawing the floor plan, framing the walls, and hanging the drywall. It’s important to take the same approach with creating a meaningful employee recognition strategy. If you don’t start by creating an employee retention plan that will work at your company, all of the other employee engagement efforts will go to waste. Try administering a baseline employee engagement survey. This will give you insight into what’s working and what isn’t. Determine where your employee engagement levels stand today, and then create reasonable timelines and benchmarks for growth.

  1.       Ask, “What’s the point?”

Once you’ve determined where you currently stand, you can create goals. Why do you want to improve your employee recognition program? Do you want to improve employee retention, or align global employees with a common goal? Maybe you want to foster team spirit and collaboration. Whatever your goals are, they need to be defined so that you can build a program that centers on fulfilling these objectives.

  1.       Look at the big picture

In order for the program to run smoothly between departments and deliver the intended results, recognition needs to be tied in with compensation and benefits, performance management, rewards, career development, employee engagement and alignment, and retention and recruiting.

  1.       Go mobile

People are doing more and more on their mobile devices, and they expect to be able to use their phones and tablets for work. Your recognition program needs to be accessible to employees on the field, telecommuters, and even your global workforce. If you use a software platform to manage rewards and recognition, ensure that you have a cloud-based, mobile-friendly solution.

Whatever your needs are, it’s important to start with objectives and execute on a plan that’s sure to deliver results. A cohesive strategy for employee recognition will result in greater engagement, higher retention, better customer service, and a company-wide culture of recognition and success.

Want to know more about creating an employee recognition program? Download The Ultimate Guide to Employee Recognition.

Onboarding new employees

According to the 2012 Allied Workforce Mobility Survey, employers lose an average of 23 percent of all new hires within their first year. Among those who stay, one third of employees don’t meet expected levels of productivity.

These are alarming statistics. They indicate that new hires are not receiving the quality guidance and onboarding they need when starting a new position. It also means that you, the employer, are probably spending far more in hiring costs than you need to.

Onboarding new employees should be a priority initiative for your HR team, because it can have a dramatic impact on retention, productivity, and future hiring success. While there’s no single magic formula for successful programs, there are a couple of fundamental ways to get it wrong.

Unidirectional information

Experienced candidates might hit the ground running on their job’s technical aspects. However, they’ll still have plenty of basic questions they need answered: “Can I help myself to a stapler, or do I need to fill out a requisition form?” “Is this organization’s culture built around email communication, or should I speak to people face-to-face?” “Where’s the bathroom?”

Most onboarding programs are designed to give information that the organization prioritizes, like the company history, executive bios, and corporate mission statements. While this information is important, your programs should also incorporate the needs of the employee. If you want new hires to feel more welcome, make sure they have an “office buddy” — someone who can set up their workspace and show them the lay of land. The earlier you can integrate the new hire into your company’s culture, the more productive they’ll be.

Not setting clear goals and milestones

Believe it or not, only 39 percent of companies set clear goals and establish milestones for new hires. Yet without clear performance criteria, employees may end up with too much or too little work, or perform tasks in a way that upsets the apple cart. So take the time to show them how you do things, and be open to suggestions if they know how to make a process cheaper, faster, or better.

Preparing the team is critical in this process, especially if another team member was overlooked for promotion. Managers can smooth away lingering resentment by explaining why the new hire was selected for the job. It helps if you can establish a set of team goals and objectives to help the new hire — and the team as a whole — succeed.

Successful onboarding requires viewing your organization through the new hire’s eyes. Quickly integrating them into company culture, and preparing the troops for the new arrival, allows the team to gel — and that can lead to higher-level functioning, greater collaboration, and increased productivity.

How to run a meeting that engages employees

All too often, business meetings are unproductive, unfocused, and just plain boring. While meetings may have a bad reputation, that doesn’t mean your team can’t work together to create a positive experience for everyone involved. When employees feel engaged in a meeting, it can generate an environment where ideas flow, team collaboration improves, and social bonds are strengthened. Here are five tips for how to run a meeting that increases employee engagement:

  1. Stand up and get the blood flowing

While many people have anecdotal evidence that standing meetings improve attention and engagement, there’s now research to support this claim. The Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis found that people in their study had increased levels of engagement when they stood up during a meeting compared to a control group. If you feel that the level of participation isn’t as high as you would like, or if you’re losing your audience, have team members get out of their chairs.

  1. Be sure to get people involved

If you want people engaged, you have to be sure to include them. Think about implementing different strategies to get people sharing ideas, collaborating, and speaking with one another. To do this, try routinely hosting a round at different points in a meeting where participants can contribute, share opinions, and even voice complaints. Think about breaking people up into groups or partners, or even using “speed dating,” where everyone switches partners quickly to bounce ideas off one another. Also be sure to ask for feedback on meetings and query participants about how meetings can be improved in the future.

  1. Have clear goals and objectives

Meetings that go off on tangents or don’t have a clear goal can often leave attendees frustrated and disinterested. There should be a set framework in advance of your meetings, with key points outlined and a good idea of what the meeting needs to accomplish. This can help make brainstorming sessions more focused, help you stay on point, and keep your team going in the right creative direction.

  1. Get visual

Visuals are an excellent way to increase engagement in a meeting. But just adding some pie charts to a presentation isn’t going to cut it. Think about using a white board or pin boards, mixing up colorful markers, and distributing post-its throughout your meeting room. Encourage people to write their own ideas down, express themselves visually, and even vote on ideas by placing a sticker with their name next to the proposals they like best.

  1. Try to make a meeting special

People tend to like a bit of variety in life, and meetings are no different. Think about inviting leaders and educators to speak to meeting participants. Sometimes it doesn’t even have to be entirely related to the meeting topic or objective. As long as the speaker is innovative and challenges orthodoxy, there is an opportunity that he or she will educate and inspire meeting participants. You can also think about introducing a novel environment to help jump start creativity. It could be as simple as bringing people out to a park or hosting a meeting on a patio, but a change of scenery can go a long way to getting the engagement you want.