by Chris Banescu –
There are four guiding principles that leaders must consider when leading their employees. All rewards and recognition programs should be: personalized, noteworthy, meaningful, and motivating. This raises the bar on organizational performance, helps motivate employees, promotes and strengthens employee engagement, and nurtures healthy and constructive competition based on value-creation and operational excellence.
“The right total rewards system – a blend of monetary and nonmonetary rewards offered to employees – can generate valuable business results.” – Robert L. Heneman, Ph.D.
“[Think about] actions that are meaningful to [the employee] versus what’s meaningful to the giver.” … “We tend to give appreciation in ways that are meaningful to us, but if [the recipients] think it’s not authentic, it can create damage and make them think you’re trying to manipulate them.” – Paul E. White, Ph.D.
Four Key Characteristics of Rewards and Recognition Programs
Furthermore, regardless of what employee rewards and recognition program are designed to accomplish, in order to be effective and lasting, they should have four (4) core characteristics. These essential elements have been identified over and over again as critical success factors when managing and leading others. They should be integrated in any organization-wide employee rewards and recognition plans.
(1) Realistic (SMART) Goals
Clearly define what success looks like and how it will be measured. And make sure its possible for employees to achieve it. The SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) model provides the best guidance criteria to set specific objectives in employee performance management, project management, or individual personal development. The SMART approach is commonly attributed to Peter Drucker’s management by objectives (MBO) concept.
(2) Clear and Frequent Communication
Leaders must maintain open and clear lines of communication with the people they lead. They must be specific and honest in explaining to employees how they’ll be evaluated and rewarded, and what they can expect. Management has a responsibility to keep them updated on progress and regularly provide positive and constructive feedback.
(3) Objective and Fair Processes
Employees must trust that their performance and productivity will be objectively measured and fairly rewarded. They must be treated the same as their peers. Universal and objective application of employee rewards and recognition systems is absolutely required. Employees have to see that standards and policies apply to everyone, (especially management and executives) and I mean everyone, inside an organization. There should not be any “special” rules for “special employees” or exceptions to the policies based on the person’s status, relationships, tenure, or power in the enterprise. Anything less is not acceptable.
(4) Meaningful Rewards
Incentives given need to have value that’s personally meaningful for the individual receiving them. This requires that leaders take the time to know and understand the people they lead. Only then will management be able to thoughtfully choose rewards that are considered valuable and meaningful to the individuals receiving them.
Of all these essential elements, “meaningful rewards” is often the biggest stumbling block for management. Why? Because it’s tough to choose rewards that are universally appealing enough to motivate a diverse employee population of varied ages, cultural backgrounds, interests, and lifestyles.
However, management must invest the time and effort to devise meaningful rewards. It’s worth the effort to show their employees that their leaders are genuinely interested and invested in their team member’s engagement and success. When leaders devise the right incentives and recognition plans, they succeed at gaining the trust of their employees and creating a productive, healthy, and harmonious workplace. This in turn will always lead to a positive and healthy impact on a company’s bottom line and competitiveness in the marketplace.