Tips For Top Rewards

By Malcolm Fleschner

Motivating the workforce is an ongoing challenge facing every organization. After making a careful study of the subject, Bob Nelson, the bestselling author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees and 1001 Ways to Energize Employees, has come up with a variety of suggestions for getting the greatest effort out of the folks who work for you. The following are a few of his suggestions.

1. No stock answers
There are limitless solutions to the challenge of rewarding employees, and no one solution is always perfect. What motivates one person may do nothing for someone else, and vice versa. For example, a gold watch at retirement may seem passé, but if someone has his or her heart set on it, that can be a great reward option. The key is to understand that one size does not fit all.

2. Youth must be served
Members of the younger generation – twentysomethings and thirtysomethings – tend to be motivated by engaging their work with a passion. Give them the opportunity and flexibility to prove themselves, learn new skills and pursue new ideas. They likely will appreciate the challenge and the chance to be in control of a situation.

3. Get input
One classic incentive mistake is to unilaterally announce a reward, such as t-shirts with the company logo or a holiday turkey, without first getting input from the employees about what they want. Find out what your people value before deciding what you think is going to work as a reward.

4. New incentive blood
Just because an incentive program worked once, or even a few times, doesn’t mean that it should be run in perpetuity. Perennially running the same contest or program is a great way to drain enthusiasm and energy from your group. These contests frequently become a company joke – the exact opposite of what you want.

5. No equals
Sometimes, out of a misplaced sense of fairness, companies reward everyone equally, regardless of performance or output. This likely will alienate your top performers, who don’t appreciate being lumped in with the also-rans, and it simultaneously will reinforce the behavior of your average performers. In this case, the old adage might be changed to: You get what you reward.