| | | |

Unlocking Employee Potential: How the Right Rewards Program Boosts Motivation & Engagement

Recently, I came across a book I haven’t opened in a long time. It’s called 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, by Bob Nelson. The book (which was updated in 2012 to 1501 Ways to Reward Employees) lists a variety of ways to use employee rewards as a way to recognize achievement. These include no cost ideas such as one-minute praises and bravo cards, to low cost ideas like bringing the person a bagged lunch for a week from a gourmet sandwich shop. It also lists ideas for more expensive rewards, such as trips, dinner for two, and various types of gift certificates. 

Woman with hand to her ear listening
Praise must be heartfelt

In my experience, how the employee rewards are delivered is critical. If the praise isn’t heartfelt and the recognition is done to fulfill the requirements of a weekly recognition program, the staff will not feel appreciated. It won’t feel authentic and they will grow to resent it.

So before you launch a recognition program, be sure to clearly define the scope of the program, and the types of behavior you want to recognize and why. Are you doing this just because you heard from others that employee recognition is important? Or are you doing this to try to shift behavior, create a new culture, and/or work towards a long term organizational goal?

Ken Blanchard has written a great deal about the subject of leadership and building high performing teams. Praise needs to be authentic and heartfelt. Don’t praise just to go through the motions. In his book, The One Minute Manager (recently updated), he talks about catching people off guard doing something right. Then giving them praise at that moment. Those are the “one-minute praises”.

I still recall a day when I was working for a geodemographic information systems company and the President dropped into the chair opposite my desk to ask my opinion about the recent event I had produced. I was surprised by his visit and even more appreciative that he genuinely wanted my feedback. He also praised me for a job well done. That was more than 20 years ago and it left a lasting impression on me to continue to exceed expectations in my work.

If you’re the manager, don’t wait until the staff gets together for a team meeting and then give the praise. It will come off as not authentic and something the boss is doing to prove what a great boss he or she is. The staff will resent it. I speak from experience here having worked in another environment where the staff shared with me that they felt the weekly recognition announcements were meaningless.

On the other hand, if it’s appropriate to give praise in a public setting such as a staff meeting, do so, but make sure you gave the individual a one-minute praise beforehand, even if it was days before. The public recognition will be an additional and more well-received reward; especially when the behavior being recognized fits within the scope of the rewards and recognition program you’ve established.

All that being said, here are some unique ideas I came across in the book, 1001 Ways to Reward Employees:

  • Close a few hours early one day and take everyone to a shopping mall. Give each person $25 to spend and tell them to gather together in one hour. Then share and compare what each person bought with their $25 and why they chose the items(s) they did. This could be instead of a holiday or sales bonus.
  • Hold occasional fun contests. These should be planned by the managers, not the staff. If staff members are assigned on a rotating basis, it becomes another chore or work-related task, not a fun event. Contests can include St. Patrick’s Day or Halloween costume contests, or themed pot luck dish competitions. Rewards can be cash and/or gift certificates for restaurants, movie theater tickets, sporting events, etc.
  • Celebrate a Day of Excellence once a year with fun learning activities for all employees. Or let each staff person choose a day during the year that is their “special day”. Managers then surprise that person with fun activities during lunch or late in the afternoon of that day. At one place I worked the managers celebrated the team once a month by organizing competitive games with prizes and bar-b-ques where they cooked for the staff.
  • Create a fun space for staff to relax and take a break such as meditation rooms and even a gym. The newspaper where I once worked added a workout gym complete with equipment where all employees could exercise before, during, or after work. Infusionsoft put a football field in the middle of their Chandler headquarters building and added a colorful kitchen area. 

je**@de*********.com" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Let us know your thoughts about employee rewards programs and any unique ideas you have implemented in your organization.

Similar Posts