New England Spas president, Norm Coburn, presenting employees with an award: Rory, Girard, West and Rosalie.

Eye on the Prize

Why incentives are essential for employee happiness

Employee awards have been a long-standing tradition in the business world. However, they can be a tricky undertaking. Every spa dealer has their own take on recognizing employee excellence, but there are some common intentions behind them.

“Obviously, this should be done by any company wanting to keep employees feeling valued and appreciated,” says Don Riling, president of Olympic Hot Tub in Seattle. Riling says all employees want to be recognized for quality work.

Olympic Hot Tub offers extensive employee awards each year, many coming with an extra perk. Previously, each salesperson who hits 100 unit sales in a year would receive a monetary bonus, but the industry’s recent surge in demand pushed Riling to make a slight tweak to the coveted award: Each salesperson who hits 100 unit sales receives $1,000 — and at 150 unit sales, it’s another $1,000.

One of the big awards New England Spas in Natick, Massachusetts, gives out is named for a former employee, Randy Jones, who was beloved by co-workers and customers. The winner embodies the company’s mission statement and values, president Norm Coburn says. “They handle customer issues in a timely and professional manner, work with our vendors to provide solutions to challenges, regularly receive positive feedback from coworkers and customers alike and are considered team players in the company,” Coburn says.

The process begins with peer nominations, and the management team selects a winner, who enjoys a variety of perks: a donation to a charity of the recipient’s choice, a spot on the permanent award plaque in the company’s showrooms and operations center — and $500 cash.

The winner is announced at the annual company meeting and receives a giant check: “Think Publishers Clearing House,” Coburn says.

Jacuzzi Ontario, with seven showrooms in the Canadian region, has a Peak Performance program that rewards the first individual to hit $2 million in delivered annual revenue with the choice of a Mercedes or a $50,000 bonus. Everyone who hits $1 million in delivered revenue gets to go on a tropical company vacation; if they hit $1.5 million, their spouse gets to come along.

Rob Burns, director of retail operations for Jacuzzi Ontario, says the program is motivational. “Huge incentives really get people going and drive a lot of friendly competition,” he says. “It’s all about empowering people that do well to succeed.”

Neither Riling nor Coburn say they have seen animosity arise within their companies due to the generous award offerings. Both have their own views on why this might be the case.

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For Riling, a wide range of employee awards — and large employee gatherings to present them — goes a long way toward countering possible tension. Olympic Hot Tub covers a wide array of categories with its recognitions: top sellers in certain categories, exceptional team players, prize entries for reaching certain targets, peer-based awards and mystery prizes given at team celebrations.

Riling says that with such a range of opportunities, even newer hires have a chance. He also says presenting the awards at large staff gatherings is the way to go because “the public applause and recognition forces others to recognize it’s a good thing.”

In Coburn’s view, peer-nominated awards are key to mitigating tension among coworkers. “Soliciting input from the team ensures the winner is a true team player and is well respected by their colleagues,” Coburn says.

Both Riling and Coburn say employees want to be seen. “Awards are a way to recognize exceptional team members,” Coburn says. “Recognition can go a long way in making sure your employees feel their hard work and dedication is noticed and is appreciated.”

Happy employees mean happy customers, Burns says. Jacuzzi Ontario has heavily invested in customer service surveys over the last two years as well, and Burns says the fruits of these programs are obvious on the customer-service metrics.

“I see the customer experience and what we’ve achieved, and I’m really proud,” Burns says. “When you have a confident, happy salesperson, that is going to show through in the customer experience every time.”

Jacuzzi Ontario, team member accomplishments:

Melanie Fogolin is the top seller and Burlington store leader with $3,023,065 in sales for 2020. “She singlehandedly held Burlington together, including battling a flood, all the while outselling everyone in front-end sales,” Burns says.

Michael Boyle is the diamond award winner and London store leader as the first to have $2 million in delivered revenue for 2020. “He formed the backbone of our London team,” Burns says. “He’s always helping everyone and leading by example on the sales floor.”

Jennifer Gaetano is a Jacuzzi expert at the Vaughan Mills store (promoted to store leader). “She consistently went above and beyond for her customers, and kept our Vaughan and Barrie teams sane,” Burns says. “I was very proud Jenn was able to buy her first house this year.”