Recognising great performance - without great rewards

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During a catch up with an old colleague, he told me that he’d had a promotion at work. Knowing that money had been a bit tight recently, I said I hoped it would help ease things a little. ‘Oh no’, he said, ‘No pay increase. This was a recognition promotion’.

The training company he works for, like so many, has had a freeze on pay reviews for the past 18 months. There are no golden handshakes. In short, his promotion equates to more responsibility and extra hours with no financial reward. And yet my colleague was positively beaming from ear to ear when he told me about his promotion. 

I’m sharing this story because so many managers ask me how they can keep performance high when they can’t offer the traditional rewards that were once commonplace. My friend may not be cashing a bigger pay cheque next month, but his motivation and drive couldn’t be higher. He was just delighted that his hard work and dedication had been noticed and appreciated by colleagues, customers and senior leadership. In his own words, he felt really good about himself.

When he arrived at work, he’d been met with a host of colleagues saying congratulations to him. It transpires that there had been a company-wide email of recognition sent personally from the CEO. In it he outlined what my friend had achieved and had included outstanding comments and observations from the organisation’s biggest, most strategically important customer. In a sector severely impacted by the recession, customer loyalty is king. No wonder good news travelled fast.

Surveys as far back as the 1950s show that although employers consider a good salary top of the agenda when it comes to keeping staff, employees actually place more importance of feeling appreciated and feeling included. The good news is - recognising great performance and expressing appreciation doesn’t have to be complex or costly. As long as it comes across as genuine and authentic, managers can help others feel appreciated with very simple gestures – a chance to leave the office early one afternoon, a bouquet of flowers or a heart-felt ‘thank you’.

If ever there was an example of just how powerful the right recognition and appreciation is for your staff, this story is it. 

Inspired? Try these tips to help build recognition into your culture as a way of boosting performance:

  • Empower manager to offer their own rewards, outside of formal recognition processes. At the training company above, managers have the autonomy to reward team members with a bottle of champagne or a selection of vouchers. 
  • Think outside the traditional rewards box. How about offering an employee a chance to gain work experience in a different area of the business or to identify a really supportive and inspirational mentor willing to help them?
  • Take rewards outside the business. Many companies offer family-centric events such as summer barbeques and cinema outings - simple gestures that recognise employees in their other important roles as partners and parents.
  • Spread good news. Employees need to hear how and why others are being recognised for great performance. This can be anything from a verbal thank you at the start of a team meeting to a note of thanks in the corporate newsletter.
  • Keep a note of employee achievements, behaviours or attitudes that impress you and why. It’s good to refer to specific examples and not generic comments. Encourage managers and leaders to do the same.
  • Make sure you – and your managers – are visible enough in the organisation so you can see and experience great performance around you and reward as appropriate.
  • Make appreciation a regular habit. Once in a blue moon gestures aren’t enough. 

More often than not, recognition IS happening all around you (most managers will want to demonstrate thanks and acknowledge performance because it reflects well on them too.) Challenge yourself today to think of one thing you could do to show someone you’ve definitely noticed how well they’re doing.


 

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