Recognizing Long Term Employees

Recognizing company employees on a regular basis has innumerable benefits.

Celebrating accomplishments and providing encouragement can boost morale, unify culture and increase retention. Employers can single out a particular employee or group for stellar performance revealed through mystery shopping results or customer satisfaction forms. How do you celebrate those employees who have been with your company for 10, 15, 20+ years? This topic was discussed at our recent Tuchman Advisory Group (TAG) meeting held at In the Bag Cleaners in Wichita, Kansas, and is the featured subject of this column.

During the TAG meeting, we learned of an employee – Merdessie Hadnott – who has worked for MW Cleaners in Houston, Texas for 50 years and has no intention of slowing down. “We call her Mrs. Dessie,” said Mike Nesbit, President of MW Cleaners and long time member of TAG. “Mrs. Dessie is a wonderful human being that I have had the privilege to learn and grow from over the years. Her charismatic, positive attitude is infectious and she brings that sweet spirit to work every day. At the young age of 83, she gets up each morning and performs the same job she has done for many years. Recently, she asked me if I was going to make her retire and my answer was an emphatic ‘No!’ I told her when she gets to the point where she can’t physically do her job I would get her a rocking chair. Yes, Mrs. Dessie can’t produce what she did in the past, but it is not the amount of shirts she can press, it is about the culture she brings to the organization.”

Mike added, “Let’s face it, what we do for our profession is hard, repetitive, hot work. I often wish we could pay our employees more for the challenging jobs they perform. Sadly, the market drives what we can charge and therefore what we can pay our employees, the real backbone of our business.” Mike asked himself a great question, “So, what can I give a person that has worked at the same place for 50 years?” He then proceeded to ask that same question to Mrs. Dessie. She responded, “I always dreamed of going to Las Vegas!” Mike told his TAG colleagues that, “it was our pleasure to make her dream come true.” He views himself and all employers as “merely the custodians of the profits that dedicated employees like Mrs. Dessie earn for our companies on a daily basis. In reality, Mrs. Dessie paid for her own trip by working hard and being a beloved member of the MW Cleaners team. My bet is on her and the many people like her that spend countless hours making our customers look good. Building a team that really works together is a critical part of our success.” Nesbit explains, “Each individual adds to our ability to ensure the best customer service. I’m sure all of you have a Mrs. Dessie in your company and wish you could do more on recognition, and we can! No doubt we are limited in what we can pay, but a person’s self-worth is not just about money. Our employees have the same human needs as we do and that is to be recognized and appreciated. I encourage you to take the time to make an effort to identify your Mrs. Dessies’ and let them know that without them we wouldn’t have a business!” Mike concluded, “Every month, MW Cleaners recognizes employees who have worked 5, 10, 15, 20+ years with a special gift. Those who have worked 15 years or more, receive a personal invitation to our annual President’s Dinner.”

Using the guidelines provided by Sid Tuchman, CEO of TAG, we continue to work to build on the vitally important task of team building and employee recognition. There are many actions that can be taken to implement these objectives. Rewards can include a night out at an upscale restaurant or taking the employee out for an informal lunch to get better acquainted on a personal basis outside of the office environment. Peter Bergmann, President of Bergmann Cleaners in Washington D.C. and veteran TAG member, offered the following suggestion. “Rena, our Laundry Manager of 40+ years, decided to retire. We invited Rena and her family along with our key management team including my father and me to a personal lunch at a top-notch restaurant. Included in this celebration we gave her a well-earned going away bonus. This type of deserved recognition to an outstanding long-time employee is part of building a good, positive business environment.”

Numerous good ideas can enhance your company’s morale and engender loyalty. Consider a contribution to the employee’s favorite organization or charity, an extra day off, a limousine for a day, or some other thoughtful gesture. Recognition at a company meeting is a great way to give a public thank you. On meaningful anniversaries or occasions, set aside time in the day or after work for a social gathering for the entire staff. Provide a cake and decorate with balloons to add to the upbeat theme of recognition. A letter or card signed by all of the employee’s co-workers makes a wonderful statement of individual value.

Ann Nash of Highland Cleaners in Louisville, Kentucky and valued TAG member told us that “Each year we review and give employee recognition awards for every 5 years of continual service. In the Fall, in conjunction with a company picnic or some company-sponsored event, we present these awards. We give a specific piece of Louisville; Kentucky manufactured M.A. Hadley American Pottery for each 5-year mark. It is specially designed with the employee’s name, years of service and a picture of our main branch on the item.”

It is always special when the company or a local public official can present a certificate of recognition. Ask local public officials, members of Congress and other public figures to generate a letter of congratulations. A day declared in honor of an employee by the Mayor, will be remembered and appreciated forever.

Take advantage of social media and technology opportunities. Post good news about the recognized employee on your company Facebook page to spread the news and offer deserved praise.

Many companies are now using employee recognition programs that focus on real time peer-to-peer feedback such as youearnedit.com and tapmyback.com. These platforms can enhance your company’s traditional employee review process. Our TAG members use everything from HR management software programs such as Paychex, Paycom, PeopleSoft, Sage Accpact and QuickBooks, to in-house Excel spreadsheets and on-line Yahoo or Google calendars. These applications make keeping track of employee dates of employment, birthdays, work anniversaries and other significant milestones easy. Todd Watkins of Martinizing Cleaners, in Detroit, Michigan and longtime TAG member tells us that he uses Paycor. “It is a very robust system and helps us with evaluations, raises, goals and certifications. Paycor also does things like keeping our employee handbook online and if there is a modification, for example, all employees sign off electronically. Although Paycor also tracks birthdays etc., we still put those on our Google calendar so they are more easily shared.”

It is prudent to institute effective and meaningful ways to let long-term employees know that they are valued and appreciated which goes a long way towards building a collaborative organization. By doing so, you can elevate team spirit, promote engagement and loyalty and make your organization a place where employees enjoy showing up for work each day.

About Ellen Tuchman Rothmann

Ellen Rothmann has 30 years of experience in sales and marketing and utilizes these skills to support and facilitate seminars for Tuchman Advisory Group (TAG). Prior to her role with TAG, she was VP of Operations for Richard Wolffer’s Auctions that specialized in sports and entertainment memorabilia. As an Account Manager for K101 – a San Francisco Bay Area radio station – she worked with small businesses to build unique and profitable advertising and promotional campaigns for her clients. Growing up in the dry cleaning business, Ellen worked in numerous capacities at Tuchman Cleaners. She also held sales positions at Apparelmaster and Tuchman Cleaner’s Home Carpet and Drapery businesses. Rothmann earned her B.A. in Marketing from Indiana University. She lives in San Francisco with her husband John, they have two sons For more information contact Ellen Tuchman Rothmann, President, Tuchman Advisory Group. e-mail: ellenrothmann@yahoo.com