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- You know, it's true what they say, sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Case in point, using rewards for your employees. We all know that using types of recognition and rewards is a normal expected part of life at work. We also know that leaders don't often use these tools correctly. If you want rewards to have real impact, I want you to remember the three characteristics of a great reward. Let's start with the most important one, make them earn it. Recognition and rewards should be tied to the production of excellence, not mediocre, not meets standards, but really high achievement.
Make them earn it, when you do, rewards actually become motivating. The last two are not absolutely required, but they really add impact. First, make it unique, don't give everyone the same thing. You might have some award you give out on a regular basis once or twice a year, but you can still make it unique. You might change the inscription on the plaque, or the color of the trophy. Find a way to make the recipient feel like the only person in the world who has that particular award.
Next, make rewards timely. The very best time to reward great performance is immediately, on the fly. Waiting for a planned future ceremony is sometimes great, but ideally, you'll find an immediate, cheap, and simple way to say great job when it's deserved. Those three are important to keep in mind, but what I really want to focus on is creating a context that makes rewards work, which leads me to one aspect of using rewards that is often overlooked, when in fact, it might be the most important part of the discussion.
It's giving employees some control over the reward process. For some portion of your recognition and reward programs, the top leader should not be in control, and should not be handing out the awards. As much as people do appreciate recognition from above them, they also love recognition from their peers. I once watched the president of a company learn this lesson. He experienced a few awkward moments along the way, but ultimately he decided to combine a little self-deprecation with his new insight on using rewards, and the results were amazing.
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