Be Creative When Rewarding Employees

bob's Blog Dr. Bob Nelson

When it comes to rewards, most managers feel that the only thing that their employees want is more money.  While money can be an important way of letting employees know their worth to the organization, it tends not to be a sustaining motivational factor to most individuals.  That is to say, salary raises are nice, but seldom are they what motivates people to do their best on the job.

Another limitation to money as a reward is that in most organizations performance reviews--and corresponding salary increases--occur only once a year.  To motivate employees, managers need to reward achievements and progress toward goals by employees much more frequently than once a year.  Indeed, rewarding performance needs to take place on almost a daily basis. 

More times than not, what is more important to workers are such intangibles as being appreciated for the work they've done, being kept informed about things that affect them, and having a sympathetic manager who takes time to listen to them.  None of these intangibles are very costly, but they all do take the time and thoughtfulness of a manager who cares.

How then can a manager provide rewards that are more frequent and personal?  The answer is simple:  be creative.  Take time to find out what specifically motivates and excites each of your employees and then see what you can do to make those things happen. 

When one of your employees has put in extra effort on a key project or achieved a goal you had mutually set, recognize the achievement fittingly in a unique, memorable way.  You will find that the more creative and unique you are with the reward, the more fun it will be for the employee, yourself and others in the organization.

Let me give you some examples.  You could write a letter to the employee's family telling them about the recent accomplishment of the employee and what it means to you and the company.  You could arrange for a top manager in your company to have a recognition lunch with the employee or have the president call the employee to personally thank him or her for a job well done.  You might find out what an employee's personal hobby is and purchase a small gift that relates to that hobby.  You could grant employees who have performed exceptionally a pass for a three-day weekend.  You could dedicate the parking space closest to the building entrance for the outstanding employee of the month.  You could wash an employee's car in the parking lot during lunch one day.  You could personally make lunch or dinner for a small group of high performers.  You could even arrange to use employees in your company commercials as does ATT and Ford, among other companies.

These ideas--and hundreds of others like them--are limited only by your imagination, time, and creativity.  Not only will such rewards uniquely single out exceptional employees, they will create a positive story that the employee will tell to others time and time again.  Friends, family and co-workers will get to hear about the individual's achievement and what the company did to celebrate it and the employee will get to relive the recognition many times. 

Rewarding employees for exceptional work they've done is critical to keeping them motivated to want to continue to do their best.  Although money is important, you can potentially get even more benefit from such personal, creative and fun forms of recognition as I've mentioned.  Try such rewards for yourself to see the pride, enthusiasm, fun--and motivation--that can be generated!

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