RAISING THE STAKES

Movie actor and director Woody Allen once said that 80 per-cent of life is just showing up.

Some workers at NTN Driveshaft Inc. recently discovered how valuable the act of “just showing up” is to their bosses.

Employees with at least one year of perfect attendance — depending on their shift — were treated to a four-star breakfast or dinner that included filet mignon, shrimp and eggs cooked to order.

In addition, each received a $200 gift in appreciation for each year of perfect attendance, said Barry Parkhurst, NTN vice president of administration.

The program began eight years ago, so an employee with eight years of perfect attendance received $1,600. That total goes up another $200 with another year of perfect attendance in year nine.

On top of that, NTN Driveshaft took out a full-page newspaper ad to recognize its valued workers.

“I just thought that was very amazing,” said Cindy Frey, Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce president.

The program at NTN is open to hourly employees, everyone from production line workers to maintenance personnel to office workers, Parkhurst said.

The company does offer five sick days to employees, but employees who qualify for the perfect attendance must use preplanned and approved vacation days that are awarded according to company policy, he said.

In the fiscal year ending in March, 182 of NTN’s 1,700 employees in Columbus had perfect attendance and qualified for the award, Parkhurst said.

The payout for the latest attendance awards exceeded $100,000, which Parkhurst said was money well spent.

“Attendance is the key to a manufacturing organization,” Parkhurst said. “We have promoted this as a reward for people who are here, day in, day out. These are among our most valuable employees. It’s been a very popular program.”

For several decades, companies have used a blend of incentives to motivate employees to encourage better performance and increase their job satisfaction.

Various wage plans and bonus schemes were introduced to motivate and stimulate employees. But many incentives were either scaled back or dropped during cost-reduction efforts associated with the 2008 recession, according to several corporate sources.

Due to falling or stagnant revenues, some companies turned to nonmonetary incentives, according to U.S. News and World Reports.

Others dealt with personnel problems with a threat of demotion or termination, which can produce short-term results but could eventually lead to sabotage and litigation, the magazine reported.

While economists agree that the economic recovery was historically slow for average workers, their condition began to noticeably improve in the spring of 2014, U.S. government reports state.

An improving economy means more aggressive job-recruiting and employee-retention efforts, which may be motivating companies to resume some form of monetary incentives, according to the Personnel Today website.

Besides NTN Driveshaft, other major employers in Columbus with a reputation for providing various forms of employee incentives include Toyota, Faurecia and Columbus Regional Health, Frey said.

A variety of annual events and programs are intended to give recognition to more than 2,000 CRH employees, hospital spokeswoman Kelsey DeClue said. They include:

Service Awards — a free catered dinner at The Commons that recognizes employee excellence.

All Workforce Event — a two-day team-building and inspirational event that includes prizes, an inspiration speaker and employee testimonials.

All-employee Picnic — Another team-building event held with a different theme each spring on the hospital campus. This year’s theme was “carnival” and included games, a disc jockey and photo booth.

In addition, employee-to-employee Care Grams are sent regularly to recognize exceptional service, she said.

Each submitted recognition is forwarded to a supervisor who shares it with the employee. One person a month who receives a Care Gram is chosen to receive a gift card similar to what is distributed to each employee every December, she said.

Finally, Columbus Regional Health CEO Jim Bickel provides quarterly updates to employees, where he recognizes high performers or heartwarming stories, DeClue said.

A number of businesses with employee-retention programs are not allowed to reveal them publicly, however. Among them is Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing, spokesman Steve Pride said.

Besides the fact that incentives might change from time to time, companies also have learned that keeping values of incentives somewhat of a mystery serves to further motivate some workers, Personnel Today said.

Frey said worker-incentive programs makes good business sense.

“We have a serious talent shortage, and recruiting workers is very expensive,” Frey said. “Keeping highly competent employees happy is critically important, so anything an employer can do to make them feel valued and appreciated is a good investment.”

Another incentive known to motivate workers is respect. When companies invite suggestions and recognize contributors, it instills a spirit of participation in the employees, Personnel Today stated.

Besides acknowledging the important role of the worker, these suggestions often lead to innovative suggestions that can be implemented to improve work methods, the website stated.

Job enrichment is another form of incentive that can be accomplished by increasing a person’s responsibilities, providing an important designation, and increasing the content and nature of the work, Personnel Today stated.

This way, efficient workers can get challenging jobs in which they can prove their worth — a motivation for them, the website stated.

Seven purposes of employee incentives
  • Increase productivity
  • Drive or arouse a stimulus to work
  • Enhance commitment in work performance
  • Psychologically satisfy a person, which leads to job satisfaction
  • Shape the behavior or outlook of subordinates toward work
  • Inculcate zeal and enthusiasm toward work
  • Maximize employee capabilities so they are fully utilized

Source: Personnel Today

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.