Training Workforce

Recognition And Reward Matter

EP Editorial Staff | April 5, 2020

Learn what brings your employees pride. Company reward and recognition programs keep workers happy and engaged in their jobs.

By Jon Sillerud, Uponor North America

When the economy is moving along and business is good, we have a skills gap that is an ongoing challenge. When events, such as a pandemic, intrude on daily manufacturing, normal activities are altered in unpredictable ways.

In either situation, keeping good employees engaged and retained is critical, especially when those employees must work at the plant every day to keep production moving. How do you manage this in a society where generations have shifted from company loyalty to personal loyalty? You give the stars their deserved star treatment.

This is not to say you shower mediocrity with lavish appreciation. Instead, you recognize and reward those who are most deserving to ensure your high-performing, quality workers continue to bring value to your workforce.

Recognition vs. reward

Many companies have recognition and reward programs to ensure employees are happy and stay engaged. However, it’s important to know the difference between the two programs and why you should incorporate both into your company’s employee-experience strategy.

Simply stated, reward is economical; recognition is emotional. Rewards are typically expected by employees and conditionally based on a set understanding of performing a task or fulfilling a role and, in return, receiving something tangible.

Recognition is not expected. It’s a spontaneous human connection that can flow from peer to peer, regardless of rank. It celebrates an individual and can last forever in memory.

Balancing programs

To keep quality workers, you need a balance of reward and recognition. While a reward should always come with recognition, a recognition does not necessarily need a reward. Having rewards for things such as milestone anniversaries and annual performance achievements is very important, but the key is finding a recognition that can be incorporated on a frequent basis to encourage employees’ continued engagement.

For example, on our manufacturing floor, we have more than a dozen continuous improvement (CI) boards to show the status of employees’ new ideas for improvements in such areas as engineering, manufacturing, maintenance, quality, safety, and training.

Each month, we draw winners from the pool of employees who submitted new ideas and recognize them on our CI boards, as well as in our town-hall meetings. While these employees don’t receive a tangible gift, the pride they get from their recognition is significant.

The success of this program is shown in the exponential increase in engagement, beginning with a few hundred ideas submitted in 2012 and 2013 to more than 4,500 the past two years.

Having a quality reward and recognition program in place is essential to keeping the now sometimes elusive quality worker from walking out your door. Learn what brings your employees pride and you will have another tactic in your arsenal for keeping your workforce strong. EP

Jon Sillerud is Vice President, Operations, for Uponor North America, Apple Valley, MN ( Reach him at

For more about workforce development strategies and techniques, watch our new webinar, presented by Jon Sillerud. You can view the presentation at



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