Good news for HR this week in the shape of research from Investors in People, which found that positive people practices had a significant impact on the bottom line.

The ‘Impact of Investing in People’ study found that changes to the way people are managed could make a huge difference to productivity and performance, resulting in a potential efficiency gain of £77bn to the UK economy.

At a sector-specific level, adopting best people management practices could net the professional and services sector a £29.9 billion boost in output, while the health and social care industry could stand to make a £2.4 billion productivity gain. With so much to gain, exactly what is it that high-performing companies are doing really well?

The report suggests the key to improving efficiency and performance lies in paying attention to six key factors:

  1. Strong and inspiring leaders
  2. Having a set of values
  3. Recognising and rewarding performance
  4. Structuring work
  5. Focusing on continuous improvement
  6. Sustainable practices

Interestingly, recognising and rewarding performance came out as probably the most significant factor in terms of improved efficiency. “Feeling rewarded at work is such a simple thing, but we found it mattered a huge amount,” said IIP Head of Marketing Thomas Bale, in an interview in HR magazine.
So how can you make sure staff in your business feel appreciated and are motivated to take their performance up a notch?

1. Get the groundwork right

People’s performance is often not as good as it could be because they are not clear what it is their managers want them to achieve. Faced with a heavy workload and conflicting priorities, they often do what’s easiest and respond to whoever shouts the loudest. Employees need clarity about their overall objectives, exactly what they are expected to achieve by when and how success will be measured. That way they will be safe in the knowledge they are doing the right thing and motivated to go the extra mile.

2. Give ongoing feedback

In an environment where business priorities are constantly changing, the formal, annual appraisal is simply not enough. People need just-in-time feedback so they can shift their approach, develop new skills and constantly find new and better ways of doing things. Most people are hungry for feedback. They actively want to do a good job, improve their skills and please their managers. The sad truth, however, is that many managers don’t know how to give feedback effectively – and in some cases are even frightened of doing so in case they upset people. Feedback that is ongoing and focused on what people are doing well and how they can do more of it, will make employees feel appreciated and set them on a path towards continuous improvement.

3. Provide recognition

Research has shown that the Generation Y employees who are starting to play a significant role in the workplace today are hungry for praise and recognition. They are used to sharing their achievements on social media and are less afraid to blow their own trumpet than previous generations. Publicly praising staff for their achievements – whether big or small – makes people feel appreciated and can provide a real boost. Try highlighting excellent performance in the internal newsletter, on the intranet, at departmental or team meetings, or even via professional and sector press if appropriate. ‘Employee of the month’ or ‘employee hero’ type award schemes have also been used to good effect in some industries and are worth considering.

4. Get creative about reward

What you pay people is of course important, but the reality is that in a competitive market, you are not always going to be able to match the bigger players when it comes to salaries. There will always be people who are only interested in chasing the biggest pay packet, but there are plenty of others who are equally motivated by non-monetary rewards. Review your wider benefits package and find out what staff would really value. Make sure it is flexible enough to meet the different needs of employees as they move across the age and career spectrum. Don’t overlook training and development opportunities – which are often hugely appreciated by staff. Try not to fall into the trap of thinking that all rewards have to be significant or expensive. Discount shopping and leisure voucher schemes, for example, are now within reach of most businesses. Even a simple team lunch or cakes on a Friday can help staff feel they are being rewarded for their efforts.

5. Say, “thank you”

Probably the two most important, and under-used, words at work. A simple thank you for staying late or doing a great job is often enough to make people feel appreciated and encourage them to push the bar another time. A bar of chocolate left with a thank you note on the desk will show an employee their efforts with a difficult customer have been noticed. Try and build a culture of appreciation across the business as well as just between managers and their teams. A simple email to say thank you for your help can make someone’s day, and people will work together much more willingly if they know that colleagues appreciate their efforts.

One action to take this week: Review your reward and recognition policy. Are you doing everything you can to make employees feel appreciated? See more information our performance management software feature.

Erika Lucas author image

Erika Lucas

Writer and Communications Consultant

Erika Lucas is a writer and communications consultant with a special interest in HR, leadership, management and personal development. Her career has spanned journalism and PR, with previous roles in regional press, BBC Radio, PR consultancy, charities and business schools.