Recruiting and retaining talent has always been one of the major challenges faced by employers. Many companies think the answer is to spend more money through bonuses, salary increases or stock options, but there are findings that indicate these don’t work as effectively.

In fact, according to a study by Harvard Business School (HBS) Assistant Professor Ashley Whillans, over 80% of American employees say don’t not feel recognised or rewarded, even if United States companies spend more than 20% of their budgets on salaries.

So what do employees want? “Cash matters in people’s lives, but it’s not all that matters,” says Whillans. “What really matters in the workplace is helping employees feel appreciated.”

Why recognition is important

Whillans tells HBS publication Working Knowledge that recognition-focused rewards work because they satisfy several psychological needs of employees:

  • The freedom to choose how to do their work.
  • Employees want to appear competent, possessing the skills needed to perform.
  • They want to feel a sense of belonging by socially connecting with colleagues in a meaningful way.

When these needs are met, employees feel motivated, engaged and committed to their employer, says Whillans.

Here are some of the major effects of employee recognition:

1) It makes employees happy

A study by University of Warwick economists found that happy employees are 12% more productive, while unhappy ones are 10% less productive. Naturally, when workers produce more, their output adds directly to any company’s bottom line.

2) It’s the most important driver in employee engagement

A Cicero 2015 paper identified 9 important drivers of great work:

Employee Recognition - Why It Matters
Source: Cicero Group | Employee Performance: What Causes Great Work?

Notice the largest section of the pie? It’s employee recognition.

If that isn’t enough, the Boston Consulting Group undertook a global 2014 study of 200,000 employees from 189 countries and here’s what they found:

Globally, the most important single job element for all people is appreciation for their work.

3) Disengaged employees cost you money

Disengagement exacts a heavy price as well. Unhappy employees are more likely to:

  • Neglect their tasks. When employees procrastinate, your company’s productivity levels drop.

  • Miss work days. Unscheduled absenteeism costs about $3,600 annually for each hourly worker and $2,650 each year for salaried ones. Granted, these figures are for on-site workers, but absenteeism affects virtual teams nonetheless.

  • Look for another job. According to Gallup, disengaged workers are twice as likely as engaged workers to seek new jobs (73% vs 37% respectively).

Now consider the various costs of staff turnover:

  • The loss of productivity while other employees do their job plus the vacant role.
  • The time lost to in-house hiring processes.
  • Training and induction costs for new employees.
  • Termination administration costs.
  • Loss of productivity in the last stages of the employee’s time with the company.
  • The productivity loss in a new employee’s early months as they learn the job.

The 2013 State of the American Workplace Report estimated that employee disinterest and discontent also cost the US $450 billion to $550 billion per year.

4) Recognised employees stay

If you’ve managed to keep your remote virtual assistant employee happy with the recognition they deserve, you have a much higher likelihood of retaining them, which comes with several benefits including:

  • More experienced employees.
  • A positive workplace culture.
  • Prevention of high staff turnover.

Unfortunately, according to a Gallup analysis, only 1 in 3 US workers strongly agreed that they received recognition/praise for doing good work in the past 7 days. Thus, there’s certainly room for improvement.

Employee recognition for remote workers

While there are different approaches to rewarding employees, dealing with virtual assistant recruitment teams isn’t exactly the same, because at the very least, they’re not physically together. Thus, the approach should be different as well.

Here are several effective ways to recognise the achievements of remote workers:

1) Create a virtual bulletin board

Every office needs a bulletin board where people can post videos and photos of fun activities, announcements, commendations and other similar items. But because your virtual assistants in Philippines team works remotely, you’ll need to put up its virtual staff in Philippines equivalent.

Employee Recognition - Why It Matters
Bulletin boards help with employee engagement, virtual or otherwise.

Having this type of medium will enable your remote assistants to connect with each other and help them feel more involved with the organisation.

Tip: There are many apps out there that your team can use, such as Padlet (paid) or Google Keep (free).

2) Regularly give out awards and rewards

Using your virtual bulletin board, you can regularly hand out awards to acknowledge individual or team accomplishments. For instance, you can give monthly awards for:

  • Most Creative Workspace
  • Calmer of Clients
  • Perfect Attendance

You can then give e-certificates or physically send engraved trophies as proof of their achievements.

Tip: How about implementing a reward system where remote workers earn points for winning these awards? They can then exchange these points for gift certificates, memberships and other prizes.

3) Use employee recognition software

If you’re really serious about employee recognition, think about using software that would let you monitor the output of your remote workers, provide real-time feedback and publicly reward top performers.

Such features are usually integrated in performance management tools like SalesScreen or Engagedly.

4) Use offline recognition as well

While virtual bulletin boards and recognition software are useful, they won’t replace the personal touch provided by acknowledging your employees offline, through gestures like:

  • Thank-you cards
  • Handwritten notes
  • Birthday and anniversary cards

Of course, you’ll have to mail these tokens to your remote assistants. Doing so will go a long way in making your remote workers feel appreciated.

5) Follow the formula

Employee recognition doesn’t have to involve large budgets. All you need to do is follow a basic formula when acknowledging a remote worker for their successful effort:

  • Sincerely thank the person by name.
  • Specify what they did that’s being acknowledged.
  • Share how the achievement made you feel (e.g. respect, pride).
  • Identify how the achievement adds value to the team/company.
  • Thank the person again by name for their achievement.

Important: collectively speaking, the data doesn’t imply that money isn’t important to employees. The research is contingent on the idea that workers are paid competitive salaries.

Look at it this way: if your team worked long hours for a couple of months (let’s say it’s an urgent deadline), they won’t be pleased if you leave out the overtime pay and merely thanked them, even if you were genuine with your gratitude.

What’s critical here is that you try several types of rewards and look at which ones motivate your remote workers the most.

Got any questions on hiring a virtual assistant? Get in touch with us today. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.