Rewards That Motivate

One of the easiest – and most effective – ways to induce great employees to stay with your company is to offer them rewards that motivate them. Not only for superior performance, and not only with money. In fact, employers who are paying close attention to their people these days have figured out that money is often not a big motivator at all.

So what kinds of rewards motivate employees to do more, do it better and keep doing it for you? You might be surprised. If your retention rate is already good, you are probably doing most things right. Could you do even more to reward and encourage your team members? Consider the fact that some of your lackluster employees could morph into your top talent, if only you offered more meaningful reasons to do their best.

Let’s look at types of proven rewards that motivate.

Dr. Bob Nelson is a considered an expert on employee retention. He defines employee recognition as a subset of employee engagement, but says recognition is “the key driver of engagement.” He notes that 58% of employees say they don’t even get a “thank you” from their boss when they do a good job. Yet what could be simpler?

You can say thank you in a multitude of ways:

  • Just say it. Go the extra mile and smile. Shake their hand or pat them on the back. Better yet, say it in front of their colleagues.
  • Formalize recognition, with a “wall of honor” in your lobby. Seeing others be publicly recognized can motivate others to reach that level, too.  
  • Personalize recognition with a personal email or hand-written note. Better yet, thank superior effort with a day off, tickets to dinner or a sports event. (Hint: Getting to know your employees helps uncover what kind of rewards are motivating for them.)

Create a flexible workplace.  

People are more motivated when they can work their way. Enabling that shows you view employees as individuals and care about their personal needs and preferences. Give them:

  • A work from home option
  • Flexible hours
  • Paid time off

What’s your BYOD policy? This can be the proverbial can of worms for some types of employers, but most people prefer to use their own familiar devices rather than juggling two sets of computing/communications devices. Facilitating this rewards employees for wanting to be more efficient.

Help them grow.

Most people want to learn more so they can grow in their job and grow into the next job. Provide:

  • In-house training
  • External learning at workshops and conferences
  • Tuition assistance
  • Personal development such as speaking and leadership skills

Assign new projects or mentoring opportunities so they can put what they’re learning to work and share it with others.

Encourage collaboration.

Saying you have a “team” is one thing; enabling interaction among employees makes it so. An environment that rewards people for sharing and supporting one another is far more engaging than an “every man for himself” workplace. Promote this environment with:

  • Breakfast brainstorming meetings (first thing in the morning doesn’t interrupt daily schedules).
  • Encouraging hallway discussions.
  • An open door policy that allows anyone to make a suggestion or share a concern at any time
  • Set aside time for fun, or at least let it roll when it happens spontaneously. Laughter is not only the best medicine, it’s a great mental stimulant. When people are more relaxed, their creative juices flow more freely.

Give them the physical tools they need.

Office equipment and supplies may not seem like “rewards,” but the frustration that comes from dealing with outdated or inferior furniture or technology is definitely de-motivating. An adjustable chair, a stand-up desk, a comfortable lunch room or outdoor furniture improve the working environment. Offer to buy the paint if your top performers want to repaint a wall in their office or work area. Or get the whole gang together and get their ideas on making their workspace more livable as well as functional.  

Empower them.

Everything you do to recognize and reward employees is a form of empowerment. But giving people authority to think for themselves may be the highest form of recognition. That should come with an expectation of accountability, along with reassurance that failures are a part of the growing process.