Businesses should remember to reward, recognize employees

In fast-paced environments, important aspect of a successful workplace can sometimes fall to the wayside

Everyone loves to be rewarded, encouraged and acknowledged for a job well done. Yet, in fast-paced work environments, this important aspect of a successful workplace can sometimes fall to the wayside.

To solve this encouragement void leaders often offer an annual “big financial bonus” or host an annual recognition event where all the good thoughts about each other are squeezed into a two-hour session. There are problems with both of these approaches. Research tells us that the impact of big, flashy financial rewards are very short lived. In fact, as Nic Fleming writes in the Bonus Myth: “It may come as a shock to many to learn that a large and growing body of evidence suggests that in many circumstances, paying for results can actually make people perform badly, and that the more you pay, the worse they perform.”

Secondly, the once-a-year “recognition-palooza” does not meet the human need for consistent feedback. A once-a-year shout out can be taken as a shallow and empty gesture.

What can a business do to reward and recognize employees? More and more businesses are developing systems and processes that create micro-rewards and consistent recognition. Jurgen Appelo in Management 3.0 recommends six rules for rewards to support an ongoing environment of recognition.

Six Rules for Rewards

  • Don’t promise rewards in advance.
  • Keep anticipated rewards small.
  • Reward continuously, not just once.
  • Reward publicly, not privately.
  • Reward behaviors, not only outcomes.
  • Reward peers, not only subordinates.

Following these guidelines creates an encouragement-rich workplace environment. This encouraging environment can be created through various low-tech and/or high-tech alternatives.

First, some low-tech options. Here is an example in the simplest form: Create a Kudo box with cards where people can write nice things about each other or recognize a positive contribution or job well done. Put this box out in a common area such as a lunch room. Each week, pull out the Kudo cards from the previous week and place them on the Kudo wall for everyone to see. An extra level would be that everyone who gets a Kudo gets to pick from a list of rewards (movie tickets, coffee card, company flashlight) or entered into a drawing for other slightly bigger rewards. Simple, effective and fun.

Some high-tech options include various websites and apps that support the recognizing and rewarding of individuals. A few of these include Motivosity, Youearnedit, Wishlist Rewards and Kudos.

Whether it is a low-tech Kudo box or a more technical web-based reward system the key is consistency. Building a culture that recognizes high performance and encourages living out an organization’s values is a key role of leadership. It is essential to have a person or a small team who are committed to the creation, implementation and longevity of any recognition program.

As with all things, new programs and ideas can start with a bluster of energy and great momentum. Yet within six months the original energy has dissipated and no one engages in recognizing each other or uses the provided tools. The key to longevity is consistency and creativity. Creativity fuels both the level of enjoyment and engagement. Having passionate employees put their creative stamp and organizational spin is what will increase adoption and ensure longevity.

An important aspect to remember is that each individual holds incentive differently. Some people prefer to have their individual performance recognized and rewarded, while others are not so concerned with their own personal recognition but are more concerned about their team or group winning together. This subtle, yet important, distinction is important as we customize our organizational approaches in regards to recognition and rewards.

The key factor in making a micro-reward and recognition system is to just do something. Many organizations get stuck waiting for the perfect solution. Get started today. Find a small team of people who are excited about recognition and encouraging others. Be creative. Experiment with some new ideas.

In the end, recognition is about appreciating and valuing those we work with and a small way to say thank you. While a kind word or set of movie tickets may not seem like a monumental gesture, it builds a workplace culture of humanness and connection. Work needs more connection; start building yours today.

Kevin Hiebert is the principal and owner of Resonate Consulting. Hiebert, a certified Birkman trainer, works with business and organizations to implement the EOS system to grow and scale businesses and build organizational vision, traction and health. Find out more at

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