Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Reward Construction Kit

One of the odd little challenges you take on when you take on employees is the constant need to reward them. There are two sides to this story: What behavior do you reward? and What do you give as a reward?

Rewards don't always have to money. In fact, money gets boring for you and boring for your employees.

Some financial rewards make sense. For example, we give out profit-based bonuses based on the company's quarterly performance. And we give a $1/hour raise for every Microsoft exam passed.

But the rest of the time, we try to come up with something more original.
On the question of what to reward, here's a pretty simple exercise.
What do you value? What bahavior do you want to encourage?

If you value teamwork, reward teamwork.

If you value technical prowess, reward technical prowess.

If you value good client relations, reward good client relations.

The rewards don't have to be particularly big. The real reward is the recognition.

We recently decided to put LCD monitors on everyone's desk. But rather than just plop them on the desks, we decided to take the opportunity to do a little rewarding.

One of our never-ending battles is to get technicians to turn in their time cards on time. (Side note: Why do we have to motivate people to do the simple, most important thing that will put money in their pocket?) So the boxed LCDs sat on a pile. On Monday, each technician who had turned in his time card on time was given a monitor.

One technician took a month to turn in his timecard on time! It took so long that we actually ended up selling the monitor to a client and ordering a new one for the tech.

But it gave us a month to focus on the behavior and have a little fun.
Generally speaking, it's best to "catch" people doing the right thing and publicly recognize them as quickly as possible. This is better than a series of employee of the week/month/year awards. Plus, if you only have two or three or four employees, it's a bit absurd to cycle through employee of the month awards.

In fact, small companies like this are the best demonstration you'll find of the absurdity of employee of the month awards. You have to give out the award. You can't give it to the same employee every month. Or the same department. At some point you have to give it to the one person who deserves it the least, just so you can "be fair" and keep peace.

Here's an example from just this week in our own little company. All last week I found myself reviewing the month of December. Reviewing work done, work undone, effective use of time, billable hours, and so forth. One topic after another. Again and again I found myself saying "We're really lucky to have Thomas on board." Whereever we needed him, he was right on target.

So over the weekend I went and bought an electric dartboard for Thomas. I presented it at the company meeting on Monday. Perhaps a meaningless gift. But heartfelt, public, and intended to reward someone to let him know that we appreciate his contributions.

Rewarding employees is a never-ending task. The important thing is to make sure you focus on behavior that's important to the company and reward it.

Come up with fun, interesting, and stupid rewards.

No matter how small you are, sincere rewards will be appreciated.

2 comments:

  1. Hi Karl,

    Happy New Year!

    I was reading this post and I am always trying to think of ways to reward my guys. Sometimes I get to a point where I have to be careful not to reward them for something that they are already paid to do well. It’s a bit like tipping over here in the UK – how much to you tip a hairdresser for not taking a lump out of your head?

    One of the things we do here is emphasise our thanks to staff openly. It’s funny but a small piece of gratitude goes a long way. We also make sure that when we can we go out and socialise as a team. That way everyone is rewarded because in our business, our success is not down to one person but is usually because of the support from one or two other colleagues.

    I like this post and it focuses on people, who are far more important than technology (or at least should be!) in anyone’s book!

    Susanne

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  2. Great post, this is very timely information, seems like everyone is talking about employee retention, motivation, attraction, etc. etc. these days.

    What we've found is that the recognition actually means just as much as the reward, in most cases. This tool is a neat way to easily recognize your employees.

    The bottom line is that if your employees don't feel appreciated for the valuable contributions they make, they aren't going to be engaged.

    Employee engagement seems to be a strong theme for 2007...

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