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August 29, 2018 - Facilities Management
By Cory Ampe
The national unemployment rate is under four percent for the first time in nearly 20 years yet wages are stagnant. At the same time, employee turnover, which costs U.S. companies $160 billion annually, is the highest its been in 10 years, Forbes recently reported. Facility management departments are not immune to the current economic climate. Challenges are worsened as facility management copes with an aging workforce. From hiring bonuses to compensated continuing education, facility managers are seeking creative solutions to attract and retain talent. One easy and proven option is employee recognition programs. They are cost-effective; you can spend as little as $25 to make a measurable impact. The investment return can be substantial as recognition programs boost team morale, inspire leadership, and enhance overall job satisfaction.
Employee recognition programs can be simple or complex. Regardless, the goal is to provide public acknowledgment of high-performing employees. Simple programs include employee-of-the-month celebrations or the nomination of an employee for an industry association-sponsored award. Examples of ambitious programs are team-performance competitions, crowdsourcing and election-based awards and collaborative recognitions bridging communities or facilities within a district, city or market.
Inspired by a compassionate and exceptional lobby guard, a group of professionals in Milwaukee recently established a recognition program called the Greeters, Guardians & Gatekeepers Awards. This program was implemented as a recognition and thank you to the city’s doorkeepers, concierges, and commercial facility gatekeepers. The program was not instituted as an employee recognition program per se, but as a model it demonstrates how creativity — more than money in some cases — can go a long way to instill pride and loyalty.
It goes without saying that most people like praise. However, recognition programs can go much further. Greeters, Guardians & Gatekeepers was designed to raise the profile of an underappreciated profession. The Milwaukee Downtown Business Improvement District (BID) led the effort. As a neutral third party, the organization’s independent clout provided an additional layer of prestige to the project.
When considering partners for collaborative recognition programs, facility managers should consider working with outside organizations. Business improvement districts and chambers of commerce have a vested interest in the care and proper maintenance of commercial buildings. As such, they can be a tremendous resource. Greeters, Guardians & Gatekeepers was a natural fit for the Milwaukee Downtown BID, which worked the awards program into its annual Downtown Employee Appreciation Week events. The BID also solicited sponsorship support from Roundy’s Metro Market, a local chain of gourmet grocery stores.
From the vantage point of the employee, praise from an employer is a big deal; praise from your employer plus a community or civic group raises an employee’s personal and professional profile, making the experience a memorable milestone worthy of inclusion on a resume.
The Greeters, Guardians & Gatekeepers call for nominations was issued and promoted via Facebook and LinkedIn. A press release was sent to local media. The BID also teamed up with the Milwaukee chapter of Building Owners and Managers Association International to raise awareness about the program. Nominations were judged by a committee that determined merit based on criteria including loyalty and longevity, brand ambassadorship, property stewardship, customer service delivery, safety and security, and an overall demonstration of excellence.
More than 30 nominations were submitted. The entries written by peers and colleagues were heartfelt and emotional. The five winners were notified at work by a delegation who — with flowers, gift cards, and custom-designed plaques — surprised the exemplary employees in front of their cheering managers, building tenants, colleagues, and friends. Tears were shed. Teams were united. The program not only uplifted the winners but the experience bonded employees across departments.
The cost was minimal, and the time and effort to plan and execute the program were nominal compared to the meaningful benefits and employee satisfaction that it generated.
The concept of managing for employee retention is nothing new. The Society of Human Resource Management defines it as, “(S)trategic actions to keep employees motivated and focused so they elect to remain employed and fully productive for the benefit of the organization.” Recognition programs not only benefit the facility, but more importantly, they benefit the deserving employee.
Even if your organization somehow isn’t faced with turnover issues and salary increases are healthy and frequent, employee recognition programs should be considered as an effective means to maintain morale, foster a workplace culture of respect, and incentivize employees to exceed expectations. The one in Milwaukee offers an interesting framework to inspire similar initiatives for facility managers to reward and keep valuable employees.
Cory Ampe is a marketing and advertising consultant in Milwaukee specializing in employer branding and content strategy. She formerly served as the project lead for Building Operating Management's FMXcellence Awards in her role as brand manager for its parent company.