Bill Alexander, CEO at Red Letter Days for Business, talked to Reward about why employee recognition programmes should never be overlooked


In today’s climate every business’ unique selling point can be copied. The only element that cannot be copied is your staff. Employees are the people who make a company successful. Yet, current research continues to show us businesses still have a way to go to creating an engaged workforce. So why are we not doing more to look after them?

I was taught about business from a very early age. My father created and launched the well-known crisp brand, Golden Wonder. This experience, and my career since graduating from Bristol University, has made me very passionate about employers’ looking after employees. Why? Because, I’ve seen firsthand for many years how an engaged, happy and motivated workforce improves the bottom line.

Customers are king. Without them a business would not survive. However, I often think we should re-word this phrase as our employees are king too. It is our employees who look after our customers. It is our employees who are likely to have the first point of contact with our customers. It is our employees who sell to our customers. Surely we should be doing more to look after our employees as they are the people looking after our customers.

Why do we continue to overlook employee campaigns? My theory is simple. Too many companies are taking a textbook approach to managing their workforce. We are releasing our own employee engagement report in a few weeks’ time. Initial results have shown us companies’ are doing well at the core human resources elements, for example staff understand the purpose of their job and how this sits within their company, clear goals are set for employees and standard benefit packages are offered. However, our research has revealed this is not enough to keep staff engaged anymore. The businesses that are succeeding are those looking outside of the textbook. They are adding colour to their employee campaigns. In fact, they are enriching their employees’ lives. They are making life better for their staff – inside and outside of work. “How?” you may ask. These businesses enable their workforce to master their professional and personal skills, give them the freedom to get on with their job, listen to their ideas and let them implement them, and finally recognise hard work with meaningful rewards that give them something they wouldn’t get to do everyday such as a weekend to Paris or a voucher to go on a shopping spree. I realise that businesses’ budgets are tight and not every company can offer frivolous reward and recognition packages to every member of staff. But interestingly, it’s not the employees who are receiving extravagant packages that are the most engaged. A reward can be as easy as a verbal thank you. This was rated very highly from engaged employees. With just 18% of people confirming they had received a thank you from their manager in the past 12 months, it shows that British businesses still have a way to go to measure up.

Finally, our research has thrown up the size of a company does not have an impact on engagement. Gone are the days when working for a blue chip company is enough credit to make people want to stay with that company. Business is changing and will continue to change. My advice to companies would be, look after your staff and they’ll look after everything else.

Bill Alexander will be talking about the three fundamental pillars to building a successful reward programme at Reward Live on Wednesday 13 May at 2.50pm