Employee Rewards and Recognition – Boost Employee Engagement

The long-standing debate about how to best motivate others – which is better, the carrot or the stick? – is now over.

The jury is in.

And the evidence is overwhelming.

You get more flies with honey than with vinegar. And you get better performance, and over a longer period of time, with positive reinforcement rather than with any threat of punishment.

Now, with this understanding, we need to look at the best ways to boost employee engagement and motivate your team.

Some rewards and recognition strategies work better than others. And there are a few pitfalls to avoid along the way.

In this short article, we’ll take a look at a few core concepts that will help you devise the rewards and recognition plan that is best suited for your team and your specific needs.

The Objective

While giving rewards and recognizing the outstanding achievements of a company’s workers is the right thing to do, we don’t do it for solely this reason.

CEOs and upper management rarely do things merely out of the goodness of their heart.

There must be something they are gaining in return. Implementing a rewards and recognition strategy for employees is no different.

By rewarding and recognizing the achievements of your workers, you should obtain in exchange:

  • An increase in employee retention
  • This means that you are spending less time and money on recruiting, onboarding, and training.
  • An increase in productivity
  • A recent study finds that with a good rewards and recognition program in place, productivity can increase by as much as 11%

Key performance indicators, such as employee retention and productivity, should be relatively easy to track and quantify.

You will know if you have implemented a rewards and recognition program that is right for your time when you see an improvement in these categories.

The Underlying Philosophy

Link to the royalty-free image by NeONBRAND here

Treat your employees like you would want them to treat your customers.

If you buy in to this philosophy, then you should also be ready to accept its implications when the philosophy is extrapolated and employed on a large scale.

How you treat your employees will go a long way towards informing your employees on how they should treat your customers.

Employees receive a salary as compensation for their work.

But, if you want them to go above and beyond, it will take more than a salary.

It will take offering praise, recognition, and rewards.

Likewise, a customer receives a product or a service in exchange for their money.

But, if you want your customers to go above and beyond – repeat business, upselling, evangelizing for your company, leaving positive reviews, etc. – it will take more than offering a good product or service at a good price.

The Difference Between Rewards and Recognition

A reward is transactional. You get something in return for doing something – a finder’s fee for returning a lost pet to its owner; cash back in exchange for reaching a spending benchmark, etc.

Rewards are effective at incentivizing performance.

They are especially useful in punctual situations – in seasonal work when there is a dramatic increase in work that needs to be carried out; for a special promotion when more is asked of the team in order to maximize the promotion, etc.

Recognition is not transactional. There is an emotional element to it. Recognition is given on a more personal level.

You are recognized for who you are rather than for what you did.

This distinction is important as it helps reinforce how people equate a large part of their identity with their job.

People often define themselves by what they do.

When you meet someone new, one of the first questions that is often asked is “What do you do for a living?”

In this way, recognition is a good way to further enable employees to identify with their role in the company.

The closer someone’s identity is tied to what they do, the more attention and dedication they will spend on doing their job to the best of their abilities.

Popular Examples of Rewards

Since rewards are transactional, they should be either tangible items or items that can redeemed for tangible things.

  • Performance bonuses
  • Commissions
  • Gift cards
  • Gifts (merchandise, food & drink, restaurant tickets, etc.)

Popular Examples of Recognition

Another word for recognition, in this context, is ‘praise’.

  • Employee of the month award
  • Public thank you (in a speech made in front of the team)
  • Private thank you (in a thank you note or email)
  • Peer-to-peer recognition (similar to an award but is voted on by the team and not by upper management)
  • Celebrating employee birthdays
  • Featuring employees on the company website or on the company social media account

Potential Pitfalls to Avoid

As harmless as recognizing the achievements of members of your team may at first seem, this practice does add a dynamic that – if not handled correctly – could potentially disrupt team chemistry or worse.

Introducing rewards and recognition could add a competitive dynamic to the group.

Not all members of your team may feel comfortable competing with their colleagues.

Some team members may feel any number or any combination of the following:

  • Feelings of favoritism (that rewards or recognition are given out for personal and not professional reasons)
  • Feelings of failure or inadequacy (if a team member is continuously passed over when it comes to giving out rewards or recognition)
  • Suspicions of credit stealing and budding feelings of resentment

It is important to monitor the effects of a rewards and recognition strategy on the individuals on your team.

Rewards and recognition affect people on a personal and emotional level. Not everyone reacts the same way.

The Bottom Line

Rewards and recognition are an excellent way to boost employee morale, foster company loyalty, increase employee retention and productivity.

Rewards are transactional, while recognition is more personal and is equivalent to praise (either public or private).

Introducing rewards and recognition also introduces a competitive dynamic to the team.

And not all team members may feel comfortable with this dynamic, especially if they feel it is not being done in a fair and professional way.