Few Beats Good Words, Pat On Back To Reward Employees

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER DOLLAR. Another year, another hurdle. A tough year is ending, a tougher one is beginning. Yes, we’re still alive despite the skyrocketing commodity prices. Yes, there are many firms that are surviving despite the tightening economic crunch. Thank heavens for the flexibility of the Filipinos who are able to adjust to the changing economic tides. Thank heavens for the employees who stand behind their beleaguered firms.

Employees have endured hardships in their companies this year. They are prepared to endure more next year, to help their companies cope with crisis. But, have they been thanked for a job well done and rewarded for good performances?

But how can one talk of rewards n times like these? On the other hand, rewards are precisely what are needed in times of trouble. A survey in the US shows that recognition for a good job is what firms need to meet challenges ahead.

How can one get out of this paradox? Fear not, Bob Nelson shows how in his book “1001 Ways to Reward Employees.

The book lists low cost ideas and proven strategies in rewarding employees. His maxim? He says that in rewarding employees “Money isn’t everything.

Know Employees

Nelson writes that the guidelines for effectively rewarding and recognizing employees are simple. For informal awards, the author suggests that the reward should be matched with the person. It pays to find out what are the individual’s tastes and preferences. What does he or she find rewarding? One way to find out what employees like is to ask them. This can be done through a survey or a person-to-person communication.

Nelson also recommends matching the reward with the achievement. What is the importance of the employee’s achievement? A long-term project may be rewarded differently from a one-time output.

Being timely and specific also makes the reward more effective. Nelson writes: “…rewards need to be given as soon as possible after the desired behavior or achievement. Rewards that come weeks or months later do little to motivate employees to repeat their actions. You should always say why the reward is being given that is to provide a context for the achievement.

For formal awards, the author cites the advice of Catherine Meek, a compensation consultant. Meek recommends that a formal reward and recognition program should reflect the company’s values and business strategy and encompass variety. She also advices that the program should be highly public, participated in by the employees and changed frequently. The author also quotes Audrey Daniel who recommends that “leaders be held accountable for effectively recognizing employees and that organizations avoid using blanket or ‘silver bullet’ approaches to motivation.” Daniel also said that “Jelly bean’ motivation not only does not inspire employees to excel, but it may actually damage performance as top achievers see no acknowledgement of the exceptional job they have done.

Be Creative

The book shares numerous creative ideas for rewards, both informal and formal, drawing form actual experiences of top-performing companies who have successfully used these reward schemes.

For companies with zero budget, the author suggests a list of no-cost rewards. He writes that: “A sincere word of thanks from the right person at the right time can man more to an employee than a raise, a formal award or a whole wall of certificate or plaques.

Pat on the Back

Part of the power of such rewards comes from the knowledge that someone took the time to notice the achievement, seek out that employee responsible and personally deliver praise in a timely manner. The author cites a survey to American workers where 63 percent of the respondents ranked “pat on the back” as a meaningful incentive. Aside from this, Nelson recommends sending innovative cards, thank you notes, naming a particular place or site in honor of top employees, ringing a bell in the office when someone achieves a target, displaying photos of outstanding performers on a bulletin board.

For companies with a little budget to spare, Nelson recommends the following low-cost rewards: flowers, T-shirts, movie tickets, their own parking slot for a month, magazine subscription, cake, free lunch, balloons, toys for kids. His list also includes recognition activities, time off, cash, gift certificates, merchandise, apparel, food, trophies, plaques, fun activities and celebrations.

For companies who can still afford to spend a lot on rewards, Nelson recommends a host of rewards ranging from awards for specific achievements and activities to formal rewards. These awards can be for outstanding employees, productivity/quality, employee suggestion, customer services ales goal, group/team performance, attendance/safety. Formal rewards can also include: multi-level reward programs, contests, field trips, travel, education, personal growth and self-development, advancement and responsibility, benefits and the epitome of all rewards, stock ownership.

Nelson also cites Michael LeBouef, author of “The Greatest Management Principle in the World” who wrote that the ten best ways to reward good work are: money, recognition, time-off, a piece of the action, favorite work, advancement, freedom, personal growth, fun and prices.

A Godsend

The books is as the jacket says, “a godsend.” It shows companies that recognizing employees can be so easy to do and can if cat be done everyday at very little cost, if they so wish. It destroys the myth that employees appreciate only rewards in the forms of raises and promotions. Nelson aptly puts it: “While money is important to employees, what tends to motivate them to perform- and to perform at higher levels- is the thoughtful, personal kind of recognition that signifies true appreciation for a job well done… (and) creates a story the employee can tell to family, friends and associates for years to come.

1001 Ways to Reward Employees
By Bob Nelson, Workman Publishing,
New York 1994, 275 pages

Author: Regina Galang Reyes. First published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer January 12, 1998.

Photo credit: www.sxc.hu

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