Rewarding staff

Recognition is a powerful thing. We, as humans, crave it and there is no better feeling after working your socks off than to be told what an awesome job you’ve done. Whether it be a pat on the back (do people actually do this?) or a monetary bonus, rewarding staff is a sure-fire way of driving performance in your people, but only if administered correctly.

It is no secret that people who feel appreciated are more positive about their work and their ability to contribute. If an employee feels valued and can see that their efforts do not go unnoticed they are far more likely to excel in their role, buy into the culture of the company and go that ‘extra mile’ for their employer. Similarly, it’s probable that the high performing employee who never receives any thanks will be on their toes quicker than Usain Bolt after a Red Bull binge.

Rewarding deserving staff is a no-brainer, it’s deciding the best method for the people in your company that requires the use of a little of the grey matter. In this chapter we will look at several different ways of recognising excellent performance so that you can implement the right reward scheme for your business.

Bonuses – the dos & don’ts

Useful quotes

“There are two things people want more than sex and money – recognition and praise.”– Mary Kay Ash

Using reward to incentivise your staff sounds simple, and in essence it is, but there should be some kind of structure to our thinking if we are to encourage continued high performance from our staff. Throwing bonuses around like confetti every time that Clive from admin puts his shoes on the right feet is not a good long term strategy, nor is the regular ‘blanket bonus’ that many companies hand out to all employees every year, irrelevant of individual performance. If the goals you set out for your staff are too easy to reach and the bonuses too regular, your employees will come to expect consistent reward for little effort. This goes against everything that you’re trying to achieve and a badly designed bonus scheme is not only a pointless exercise, but one that can create far more problems than it solves.

So how do we go about creating a system of reward that will actually work for our business? Firstly we must decide what ACTUALLY drives our staff. Money is the obvious answer but not all small businesses have the budget available to allow them to provide financial rewards on a regular basis.

Top tip

Many employees will react just as positively to praise and recognition as they will to monetary reward (there are several alternatives to cash bonuses and we will discuss these in the following section). Communicate with your staff and try to understand what it is that makes them come to work every morning. Their answers may not be what you expected.

When you’ve established the kind of rewards you’ll be offering it’s time to think about how and when they will be issued. A common mistake that businesses make is that they leave recognition and reward to ‘manager’s discretion’. If you allow line managers to decide who receives a bonus and when, without any clear guidelines, it’s likely that your staff will view their issue as favouritism and this will have a hugely detrimental effect on morale. It’s for this reason that any system of reward should be structured so that ALL members of staff are included and everybody knows exactly what it is that they have to achieve if they are to receive the bonus on offer. Be as specific as you can and factor any goals and targets into performance reviews so that they quickly become part of the culture. Clarity and consistency are key if the reward scheme is to succeed long term. Recognition should occur as close to the desired actions as possible so that it reinforces the type of behaviour that you are trying to encourage from your employees.

Top tip

The work involved in designing an effective system for reward doesn’t end once it’s been launched. Be sure to monitor its effectiveness on an on-going basis and don’t be afraid to tweak certain elements if you feel improvements could be made.

Alternatives to cash bonuses

Not every company is in a position to offer financial recognition to their staff. Thankfully there are a whole host of other ways for you to tell your staff that you love them. Here are a few of our favourites:

Extra holiday – There isn’t a member of staff who wouldn’t thank you for an extra day out of the office to spend time with their family or to do the things that they enjoy the most. Offering an additional day’s holiday to those who excel in their role is a great incentive to offer without breaking the bank. For extra fun, issue this bonus in the form of a ‘free day pass’ that they can cash in whenever they wish.

Go public – If someone has really gone above and beyond in their role, let them know – in front of EVERYONE. It’s a great feeling to be recognised for your efforts and an even better one if it’s in front of your peers. A little ego massage can go a long way and by going public when someone performs well you are sending out a clear and positive message to all of your staff.

Bringing flexi back – Allow high performing staff a little extra flexibility with their hours. Flexible hours are The Holy Grail for many employees and can provide a real incentive for staff to go above and beyond for your business.

And the nominees are… – Holding an annual awards ceremony for your staff is a great way to encourage increased effort throughout the year. Make presentations for various categories across different departments and attach small rewards like vouchers, a bottle of champagne or cinema tickets to each.

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