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4 ways Effective Incentives Reward & Recognize

Welcome to week four of our Talent Optimization series. This week we discuss how incentives help you Reward and Recognize your people. In many organizations reward is planned solely in alignment to organizational goals. It makes sense short-term, but focusing only on dollars will cost eventually. Because circumventing employee development guarantees future high-ticket hires. That is why Rewards and Talent Management professionals must be in lock-step to keep top talent.

Formal Incentives are not enough

Incentive programs are often tied to traditional Performance Management processes. They are the foundation of total rewards. After all, formal annual bonuses are a universal rite of passage. But copmensation is no longer enough.

Because we expect to be paid inline with the quality, and quantity, of work we do. That is implicit to the agreement we make when we accept a job. But when that is out of alignment people become disengaged. So, what can you do?

In a survey of the US Workforce by the American Psychological AssociationONLY 51% of workers said they felt valued by their employer.MORE THAN 1/3 had not received any form of recognition in the last year.LESS THAN 1/2 felt recognition was provided fairly.

Informal Incentives are necessary

Informal incentives are a practical approach to the challenge. There are countless ways to show appreciation. But these types of reward should be highly individualized. They need not cost a lot, but when delivered sincerely can improve performance and morale. Some ideas:

  • Comp days for salaried employees
  • Say “thank you” [in person, in front of others, in email]
  • Say "thank you" via a public mention in a newsletter or professional social media like LinkedIn
  • Write letters of appreciation, copy the employee’s file and leader(s)
  • Lunch with a top department leader
  • Invites to “higher-level” meetings
  • Offer to be a mentor/find a mentor for the employee
  • More frequently assign responsibilities the employee enjoys
  • As possible, reassign work the employee does not enjoy
  • Give the person more autonomy in how the work is completed
  • Provide more resources for project development
  • Supply opportunities for advanced training or conferences
  • Allow virtual work and/or flexible work schedules
  • Give tickets to local events, restaurants, or send a token to their home

Incentives must be aligned with desired behaviors

Incentives must always be beneficial. This is because people will not perform tasks if they feel the desired behavior is somehow punishing. What does this mean? Imagine the following situation…

Your manager tells you he values nothing more than employees who go the extra mile to help each other. But whenever you take the time to help out co-workers, you fall behind on your own work. Then your manager yells at you. As a result, you stop helping teammates because even though your manager says it is desired, you feel punished for it. There is certainly no reward.

The next element of incentive alignment is to recognize that people will perform poorly if they obtain a reward for it. Continuing the earlier example...

You stop helping teammates, they stop interrupting your work. Now you can always get your work done on time. You can even take on more. In this case, if individual production is the only thing that elicits a reward from your manager, your choice is easy. Because you will NOT get a reward for being a team player.

The final element of alignment to consider - when people do the right thing, and do it well, are they recognized? Think about your company’s reward system. Does the anyone care about it? Is the system(s) in place enough and are you, and your colleagues, sufficiently using it?

Delivering Incentives effectively

Situation-Behavior-Impact is a model often used for delivering feedback. It is also very effective when delivering rewards. To demonstrate, to effectively RECOGNIZE someone you will:

  • Describe the Situation and exactly what was done well
    Last Thursday, in the xxx meeting, when we were discussing the new product road-map…
  • Describe the specific behavior
    …your insightful questions about the development process influenced the team to revise the beta testing. They will now include our team in redundancy reviews.
  • Describe how the Behavior helped the department, company, and/or customer
    Your behavior reinforced our intention to partner with IT across the development cycle. You deepened trust by showing understanding and engagement.

It is the same when delivering a Reward. Although you many find the acronym moved around a bit…

  • We are awarding you two comp days off. This is in appreciation for the significant extra effort you put in over the last month (behavior) to ensure we delivered our new product. You did an excellent job in spite of all of the last minute changes (situation) to get us to market on-time and under budget (impact).

These are some ideas to get you started when considering your Reward and Recognition programs. Get in touch and we would be happy to help you fully align them to your overall talent optimization. Then you will be in the best position to attract, hire, and keep top performers. Come back next week when we close this series with how Performance Management fits in to your best people strategy.

Lisa Crockett is a leader and professional development coach with more than 20 years of experience in Human Resources, Learning, and Performance. To learn more about her professional career visit her on LinkedIn.

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