Beyond the Bonus: Four Ways to Recognize and Reward with Little or No Money
Our research shows that the number of highly disengaged employees has increased from 1 out of 10 in 2007 to 1 out of 5 in 2009. This is bad news for companies because disengagement quickly leads to decreased performance. Many leaders are throwing up their arms saying “Tough times lead to unhappy employees — what can we do?” Tough times do lead to stress and uncertainty but it’s in your power, and is in fact your responsibility, to keep employees engaged and motivated no matter what the market is doing.
There has been much written about the limitations of salaries and bonuses to motivate people to work hard and produce results. If it isn’t all about money, what is it about? Most management experts emphasize appreciation, recognition and building a sense of pride over increasing monetary rewards. This is not only good practice but for most companies these days, it is also a necessity.
Some companies have started to rescind pay cuts made during the recession, however tight times for most companies are far from over. Here are four forms of low or no cost recognition you can use to bolster employee confidence and improve engagement.
1. Tokens of appreciation. It’s a sad fact of work life that most leaders don’t thank their employees enough. A simple thank you goes much farther than you think, especially if it is connected to a job well done and delivered authentically. Acknowledging employee accomplishments and good behavior through meaningful words or gestures can boost employee’s emotional commitment. Be specific about the accomplishment and describe what helped the employee succeed.
2. Public acknowledgment. Don’t just say thank you in your office. Find ways to acknowledge employees for a particular accomplishment in public forums, such as staff meetings, newsletters or intranet sites. Some leaders will send an email to their team, department or entire company spelling out what an individual has achieved and what it means to a company.
3. Development opportunities. Provide high performing employees with job-related opportunities such as taking on a high-profile assignment or attending a class or conference. This not only improves her skills but also impacts her commitment and intent to stay. You can also ask the employee you are recognizing to teach a skill to others in your department or company. Being asked to teach or mentor is often a great honor.
4. Perks. Many of the things that employees value most about their jobs are non-monetary perks such as flexible schedules, better work/life balance, and autonomy. All of these things cost nothing to the company and in fact have been shown to improve productivity. Flex time is especially valuable in a recession when employees may be looking to cut costs while affording employees the schedules they want. Before deciding what perks to offer your employees, ask them which benefits they would value most. Don’t assume that only working parents want flexible schedules; younger generations are looking for flexibility as well.
Read Part 2 – Choosing the Right Approach to Employee Recognition
Read Part 3 – Balancing “I” with “We”: Rewarding Teams and Teamwork