What’s the best form of employee rewards?

Employee rewards in modern day organizations has been evolving over the years – it has become more of an art than a science. Gone are those days where employees were happy receiving trophies and consumer durables.

Organizations have tried everything from trophies, company branded merchandize, durables, electronics, holiday packages, gift vouchers and even cash.  Many organizations have used training programs and conferences to motivate their high performing employees. A few of these methods have worked, most of them haven’t. What does it mean for organizations? Should they stop experimenting and continue with what they are doing? What is the best method of rewarding employees?

As you might have guessed by now, that there is no single right answer to this question! The answer is ‘it depends’. It depends on a whole host of factors ranging from the industry type to employee seniority level right down to individual employee preferences. Given the complexity of the situation, organizations are faced with the daunting task of choosing the type of reward to give their employees.

However, a couple of options seem to make sense more than others. Rather than deciding on what the employees would want, it would seem better to leave the choice to the employees themselves. Given this, cash, digital currency or popular gift vouchers would make the cut. Employees could use these rewards to purchase that they would want to rather than being locked down to the choices of the HR/ management team. These work out far better than the traditional company branded merchandize or consumer durables.

How do intangible rewards work out? It’s definitely a good idea given the overuse of the other kinds of rewards. Coffee with the CEO, Dinner with the Director, Conferences and Training programs are few of the ideas that be utilized by organizations that do not prefer monetary rewards.  In fact, we believe these types of rewards could actually get into mainstream going forward. Coupled the social recognition from colleagues, employees would find these rewards more meaningful than others.

 

Rewards and Recognition – the winner takes all! Is it fair?

Rewards and Recognition is an integral part of every organization’s HR policy. What started off as the management’s expression of appreciation of a job well done has evolved quite a bit and acquired the overall flavor of an organization culture of appreciation and recognition. However, it comes with its own set of challenges especially when implemented in a monetary form; more prominent for high value awards. Typically the employees who are likely to receive maximum recognition or the highest recognition are possibly the highest performing ones. It is not surprising that they are the ones who would get the highest salary increments and promotions!

Whether the winner takes all phenomenon is fair or not is question to be asked. It seems only logical that the highest performing employees would end up getting the maximum recognition and rewards. The caveat to this is that it might demotivate other employees who are possibly average performers or borderline cases. The bigger sin by managers or even entire organizations is to use a kind of quota system to ‘allocate’ rewards and recognition to employees. An employee who is an average performer might end up getting a reward to ‘compensate’ for the lack of a hefty increment or a promotion! Or vice-versa! Now this is a cardinal sin! This makes the whole practice of rewards and recognition a total sham!

A better approach would be to design rewards and recognition policies to appreciate small achievements and behaviors in everyday work that align with the company values such as customer orientation, innovation, integrity or initiative – anything small but significant from an organizational people road-map. It might not be directly linked to KRAs and hence unlikely to lead of other forms of ‘rewards’ like bonus, salary hike or promotion. This needs to be incorporated in the design of the policy rather than the implementation of it. Those employees who deserve recognition should get recognized in any case; however the employee should not be ‘rewarded’ or ‘recognized’ for the same achievement or behavior in multiple forms. Now, that might not be fair!

 

How important is recognition for employee engagement?

To answer this question, let’s pose another question! What is employee engagement in the first place?

Very broadly, employee engagement is the art and science of making employees feel good – about themselves, about the organization, about working in the organization and about working with each other. This ‘feel good factor’ can be achieved through tangible and intangible means.

In today’s day and age, social recognition plays an important role in what makes us feel good. People are thirsting for likes and comments on social media like Facebook, Instagram, etc. In a similar way, employees value social recognition of their achievements at the workplace. For confidentiality and data privacy reasons, the reach of these recognition platforms might be restricted to within the four walls of the organization.

Monetary rewards can play can be an additional factor on top of the social recognition.  Even non-monetary benefits like conferences, training programs and direct interactions with the top brass might do equally well if not better!  All adds up to the ‘feel good factor’ of employee engagement.

The most critical aspect of recognition is spontaneity, appreciation as something good happens. Could be a casual pat on the back or a round of applause at team meeting – it all makes a difference, provided it’s timely. Obviously, the quantum or the perceived value of the awards needs to be calibrated with the level of achievement for it to make sense.

All said and done, recognition plays an integral part of employee engagement not matter how it is executed. At the end of day, happy employee is what matters most whether is a pat on the back, a trophy, a shopping voucher or a trip to the Bahamas!

 

Can Rewards and Recognition drive a culture change in the organization?

The short and sweet answer to this question is an absolute yes! Provided the desired behaviors that should be a part of the organizational culture are mapped correctly and rewards and recognition is used to reinforce them.

Let’s take an example – as an organization if you want to create a culture of honesty and hard work, you might want to formally recognize employees who had the option of not being fully honest in the course of their work by taking the easy way out but decided to stay on the right path even if that meant putting in a lot more effort and maybe even a slight delay in achieving their goals.

Another example could be of an organization which wants to discourage employees from staying in office till late either because they are inefficient or they want to impress their superiors. If the organization recognizes employees who are genuinely efficient – they complete their work on time and leave office on time consistently. While it might be hard to rank and stack employees based on their efficiency, there could be a self-nomination process and the claims of the nominees could be easily validated based on feedback from their managers and the attendance system data.

In fact, our view is that rewards and recognition can play a pivotal role in initiating a change in the organization culture.  It is really basic human nature to gravitate towards behaviors than give them the maximum benefits.  Organizations should include behavior or value based recognition in their employee programs in addition to the general outcome based recognition – that’s our recommendation.