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Rewards with a Personal Touch

November 14, 2000
Related Topics: Recognition, Motivating Employees, Featured Article
Have you ever had the experience of openinga "special" gift for the holidays, only to discover that yourbig brother or kid sister had opened their present to reveal the exactsame gift? Suddenly you didn’t feel so special anymore. It was as ifyour grandparents had bought in bulk at Toys ‘R’ Us because theyreally hadn’t known what you wanted.

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Look ahead 30 years, and things haven’t changed all that much in theworkplace. Whether it’s holiday gift-giving, annual performanceappraisals, or conclusion of a team project, incentives lose their powerand motivational effects when given en masse. We all want to feel specialand know that what we do makes a difference. We’d like others to noticeour accomplishments and recognize us as individuals.

Today the one-shot bonus over the holidays isn’t enough to enhanceproductivity, particularly with the Generation X and Y workforces. The MTVgeneration of employees is used to receiving feedback from a computer gameevery 60 seconds. They need immediate and continuous feedback as anindication of how they’re doing, and to keep their interest.

Here are some general guidelines for managers wishing to recognize andenergize their workforces during the holidays and throughout the year.

Verbal Praise

  1. Be specific. Address the individual and his or heraccomplishment. Let that person know how they were effective and thatyou noticed – tell them you will continue to notice.

  2. Be genuine and sincere. The effect of verbal praise is weakenedwhen given as a general statement to a large group. "You all did agreat job" holds no meaning for individuals and raises a suspicionthat the manager doesn’t really know who did what. The same holds truefor certificates and bonuses just dropped into mailboxes, rather thanpresented with pomp and circumstance.

  3. Behavior rewarded is behavior repeated. It’s much more effectiveto change an employee’s behavior through positive reinforcement ratherthan through discipline. Find something they’re doing well and praisethem for it.

  4. Give praise often, and in person. E-mail, notes and memos throughsupervisors are great so long as they’re balanced with a personal touch.Praise should be given at least four times more often than discipline.

Incentives and Rewards Ideas

  1. Making a big deal out of the little things makes the little things abig deal. Let employees know that they make a difference by using"Pocket Praises" – award cards printed with such sayings as,"Your service left me breathless…I never inhaled!" or"Forget sheep, let’s clone you!" Other cards include "afree car wash by the boss," "lunch served at your desk,"or "Take an hour off work today."

  2. Customize rewards -- ask employees what incentives they prefer.The term "motivate" comes from the word "motive," andwe each have our own motives; we can’t know others’ motives unless weask. Have colleagues complete a survey of incentive suggestions, or host abrainstorming session to develop off-the-wall ideas. Productivity andenthusiasm soar when people have ownership of the outcomes.

  3. Go surfing for solutions on the Internet. There are always new Websites offering timely rewards and instant gratification. Timeliness is akey factor in determining the effectiveness of a reward. Studies show thatcash loses its incentive punch faster than does something an employeevalues. Some Web sites also offer access to hundreds of venues throughwhich an employee can use their gift certificates.

  4. Share incentive ideas with other professionals by joining theNationalAssociation for Employee Recognition, orparticipate in a bulletin board/chat room such as the funat work forum.

Remember, it’s okay to have Halloween parties, birthday bashes,Secret Santas and holiday hooplas; just make certain that you are treatingyour employees as the special individuals they are. If your organizationis large, delegate rewards to someone who should know more about thepersonal details of their colleagues.

Sample Employee Rewards Survey

The trick to a successful rewards program is discovering what youremployees want, and what their interests are. A great first step is toprovide a rewards survey. Your survey will depend greatly upon your budgetas well as other factors. Still, here’s a sample to get you started:

We know that every individual has different dreams and desires – wecouldn’t hazard to guess what you would like to receive as you reachyour goals. In order to make our incentives more meaningful and personalto you, we would like to know your top preferences in each of thefollowing categories:

Under $50:
  • restaurant coupons
  • phone cards
  • grocery coupons
  • gasoline cards
  • other: _________
  • theme park passes
  • theater/arts tickets
  • massages
  • gourmet dinners
  • other: __________
  • house cleaning
  • day spa visit
  • magazine subscriptions
  • flowers for a month
  • other: _________
  • catered party
  • champagne balloon ride
  • retail gift certificates
  • other: _________
  • association membership
  • ski weekend
  • 1-year tennis club membership
  • other: ___________
  • Caribbean cruise
  • limo/dinner/symphony evening
  • other: _________
  • box seats
  • golf or health club membership
  • other: _________
  • Porsche 911 year lease
  • Beach house summer lease
  • International adventure vacation
  • Trip to spa retreat
  • Other: ________
Advertising Sponsor

Giftcertificate awards by Hallmark

Unwrapthe Magic

SpiegelIncentives. The Power of Choice.

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