Lately it seems all you hear about are lay-offs, raise freezes and demoralized employees. Just when managers need everybody to pull together most, the hard facts of a down economy can zap staff enthusiasm and productivity.

Yet one year after laying off a quarter of its workforce, one Michigan engineering firm is enjoying vastly improved productivity, decreased turnover, and strong employee loyalty. How?

Thinking proactively, the company launched a rewards program when it was forced to freeze wages. Employees participate in team competitions like: most sales calls, most new customers, etc. Participants win prizes such as a travel alarm clock, a set of binoculars, or an all season jacket. The concept may sound trivial but has introduced a sense of fun to the employees and helped raise spirits. The staff also seems to appreciate that management is making an effort to recognize them, regardless of dwindling profits.

Company execs all agree the program is working well beyond their expectations. The employees enjoy the competition, the neat gifts, and the camaraderie.
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