The evolution of employee recognition

Posted by David Gould

Trying to get the best performance from your employees, while endeavouring to motivate and retain team members, isn’t a new phenomenon.

However, what started as protection and legal requirement has, over the years, evolved into something much more customisable to allow businesses to appeal to employees directly and reward them individually for their loyalty and hard work.

To help you learn more about the history of employee recognition, we’ve created an animated timeline to illustrate the change over time.

Early beginnings

From the introduction of the Trade Union Act in 1871, which legalised trade unions in Britain for the first time, UK working conditions began to improve. Unions supported employees in having better working environments and conditions. This began a gradual process of businesses improving what how they rewarded employees for their hard work.

Towards the end of the 19th Century, Cadbury’s created Bournville, a dedicated worker’s village. The Lever Brothers (Unilever) followed suit when they finished construction on Port Sunlight, another village for employees to live, work and relax. The idea behind these villages was that they were a place for loyal employees, allowing them to live and work in an environment that supported their wellbeing.

This was a substantial change in how businesses looked after their employees. And other businesses soon followed the example of providing for their workers.

Evolution and changing legal requirements

John Lewis didn’t provide a worker’s village but, in 1928 it established the John Lewis partnership. This allowed employees to have a say in how the company operated. It also provided them with a bonus, based on their share of the total profits.

From the 1930s to the 1970s, workers’ rights improved immensely as the government launched schemes designed to help maintain and support the UK’s workforce. Annual leave was granted, basic state pensions were launched, and the Equal Pay Act was introduced.

These schemes where then amended and changed over time. Annual leave increased from a week in 1998 when the government made four weeks mandatory. It also launched the 48-hour Working Time Directive, which controlled the maximum number of hours an employee should work each week.

The following year, the minimum wage was introduced, ensuring employees were paid fairly. The minimum wage amount has increased over time, much like the amount of annual leave to which employees are entitled.

These requirements created a backbone of employee benefits, or entitlements, meaning that businesses needed to do and offer more to prospective hires in order to attract talent.

The idea of personalised employee benefits is something that CR Worldwide believes could become much more prevalent going forward.

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The onset of specific benefits

In 1985, ‘flex schemes’ were introduced. They allowed workers to choose the specific benefits they wanted to receive – pensions, holidays and life assurance for example – allowing them to tailor benefits to suit them.

Businesses soon began offering specific benefits to entice employees. Following the introduction of childcare vouchers in 2005 to support families, Virgin expanded on this in 2015. The brand offered new fathers up to a year of paternity leave in response to the government’s launch of shared parental leave. This highlighted a company that was willing to go further with employee benefits, drawing attention to the idea that they were a prospective employer.

Brewery and pub chain BrewDog did something similar when it introduced ‘pawternity leave’ in 2017, allowing employees time off to look after a new puppy. This is a more unique benefit that not only fits within the brand through its name but is tailored to a specific personal need an employee might have.

The future of employee benefits

The idea of personalised employee benefits is something that CR Worldwide believes could become much more prevalent going forward.

By targeting employees’ specific interests, you can offer rewards and benefits that appeal to them directly. For example, you could offer tickets for a major sporting event to your team’s biggest sports fan. Or you could entice your resident foodie with some cookery classes at a high-end restaurant.

AI and machine learning could also be leveraged to help businesses generate these rewards and tailor what is offered to employees. If you want to learn more, read our blog about what the future of employee benefits holds.

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Stay at the forefront of employee motivation

The ways businesses reward and motivate their employees has shifted over time. Over the last decade, there have been many changes, improving conditions for workers. This trend has evolved to see businesses taking further steps to attract and retain the best talent.

Providing enhanced rewards is all relative to employees at a specific period in time and what they believe is important and desired there and then. But times change and organisations need to be adaptable. Staff are now looking for more than just their monthly pay packet and are searching for employers who can provide them with an all-encompassing benefits experience. Employees are looking to work for businesses who go the extra mile and show them their worth and appreciation to the company.

Finding the right rewards and incentives today can motivate your employees and ensure they continue to deliver consistently high performances for your business. Not only through the benefits you provide employees in general, but the extra steps you take to acknowledge and reward their performance.

At CR Worldwide, we can plan, organise and run effective employee recognition programmes that will help increase morale, performance and development across your business. Our employee recognition schemes are:

Easy to implement – Our recognition schemes can be quickly set up, and easily tailored to suit your employees, their needs and your business goals.

Easy to use – We provide simple methods to reward hard work and achievements. We do this in a way that makes employees feel valued, improves their performance and enhances their loyalty, while creating an instant emotional bond with your brand.

Easy to manage – Our programmes offer real-time reporting, allowing managers to easily keep track of employee achievements to instantly recognise and reward, and help them reach new goals. A range of exciting rewards can also be selected from a catalogue that we provide.

We’d love to help you engage, motivate and inspire your business’s customers with our innovative employee recognition services. To speak to a member of our award-winning team:

David joined CR Worldwide as CEO in 2014. Leading a team of performance improvement experts, building and managing engagement programs, he is responsible for developing and growing the business to support new and existing clients.