July 17, 2020


How to Reward, Recognize and Reassure Employees During the Pandemic

As economic and health concerns continue, it is more important than ever to stay in touch with your employees and assess their state of mind. Employees worry about their family’s health, job security and whether they will continue to be able to pay their bills, and employers have the opportunity to respond in a way that can positively impact morale. 

Most importantly, management needs to be as transparent as possible about the possibility of layoffs, furloughs and salary cuts. According to a recent study by MetLife of more than 2,300 full-time employees, financial health is employees’ biggest wellness concern, followed by physical health (42%), mental health (44%) and social health (44%).  41% of employees concerned about finances stated that “the everyday cost of living” was the primary stressor, compared to stock market declines (34%), incurring debt (32%) and threats to job security 30%).

Providing recognition of employee achievements is also critical.  “We’re in a world that desperately needs kindness, recognition and empathy,” stated Debra Corey, a 20-year total rewards veteran speaking at a recent virtual WorldatWork Total Resilience Conference. The virus has changed how we work -- and for some employees, this has increased anxiety and loneliness.

Making financial counseling resources available to all through an Employee Assistance Program, asking your 401K provider to provide a seminar on investment options, and communicating regularly and honestly about employees’ employment concerns are three ways to allay anxiety. Another way to help is to express gratitude and appreciation for work well done. It may feel impersonal to recognize employees over Zoom meetings or via email, but acknowledgements like e-cards, emails, and sometimes calling out employees publicly for their hard work during team meetings go a long way, according to Corey. “Employers should recognize small wins.”

The most important thing to remember about rewards and recognition is to keep it real.  An underlying attitude of "great, you did your job; no big deal" still comes across even if you're smiling and saying, "amazing work."  It is hard to hide on a Zoom screen, and employees are watching the way in which the message is stated rather than listening to the message.  Now more than ever employees appreciate when someone fully sees the effort and skill it took to complete a particular task and takes the time to acknowledge it in a heart-felt way. 

Sources: How the Pandemic Is Changing Employee Recognition, Kathryn Mayer, HR Executive, July 16, 2020. 
Navigating Together: Supporting Employee Well-Being in Uncertain Times, MetLife’s 18 th Annual US Employee Benefit Trends Study 2020.


HR/AA consultants are available to work with you on a project and/or interim basis to assist you with understanding, implementing and administering best practices related to the current COVID-19 challenges we are facing.

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