Diamond Fiber Products Inc. knew it needed to take action when it read the results of an employee survey. It indicated that 65 percent of the workers felt that management did not treat them respectfully; 56 percent approached their work with pessimism; and 79 percent felt they weren't rewarded for a job well done. To counter these perceptions, the company developed a program called the 100 Club, which stresses attendance, punctuality, and safety for employees.

The 100 Club is an annual point program, in which employees earn 25 points for perfect attendance, 20 points for avoiding formal disciplinary actions, and 15 points for avoiding a lost-time injury. For each day or partial day of absence, the company deducts points. A worker also earns points for supplying a cost-saving idea, safety suggestion, or community service.

When an employee reaches 100 points, he or she gets a nylon jacket with the Diamond logo and the words “The 100 Club.” This might seem trivial, but it means a lot to the people who earn jackets. A teller at a local bank once described a woman who proudly modeled her baby blue 100 Club jacket for customers and employees. She said, “My employer gave me this for doing a good job. It's the first time in the 18 years I've been there they've recognized the things I do every day.”

During those years she had earned $230,000 in wages. The money was payment for services rendered, not recognition for her work, she says, but the 100 Club jacket was.

In the program's first year, the division saved $5.2 million and had a 14.5 percent increase in productivity. Quality-related mistakes declined by 40 percent. A recent survey indicated that 86 percent of employees thought the company and management considered them “important” or “very important”; 81 percent responded that they received “recognition by the company”; 73 percent said the company showed “concern for them as people.” On average, 79 percent said their attitude toward work quality was of much more concern.

All of this again shows that a thoughtful rewards program earns bigger motivational dividends than any number of more traditional rewards such as salary raises and benefits.

Bob Nelson, PhD, is president of Nelson Motivation Inc., San Diego, and author of the best-selling books, 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, 1001 Ways to Energize Employees, and 1001 Ways to Take Initiative at Work, as well as Bob Nelson's Rewarding Employees newsletter. For more information call (800) 575-5521, visit www.nelson-motivation.com or send e-mail to BobRewards@aol.com.

Take Out

Here are some lessons that can be learned from Diamond Fiber Products' 100 Club:

  1. Start with a motivation baseline. By comparing pre- and post-recognition program data, you can quantify the degree of change. It's always easier to show that you made a difference if you have the numbers to prove it!

  2. A point system covers multiple uses. A point system can be used to motivate a variety of desired behaviors and performance — prioritizing each against the others.

  3. Recognition proves more motivating than traditional rewards. The symbolism of a well-placed recognition program proves more valuable than more costly traditional rewards.