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Rewarding and recognising staff – it’s not always about money!

Release Date

26 June 2012

Rewarding and recognising staff – it’s not always about money!


Written by Troy Quaife and Dr June Dunleavy

When budgets are tight, managers often need to be creative when it comes to rewarding and recognising staff. So how do we reward our staff when we have limited money to put towards rewards and recognition strategies?

As leaders and managers of our teams we need to be fully aware of what the vision for our group or business unit is. In addition, we need to know how all of the team members “fit” into the overall picture and how they can help achieve our business unit’s vision and goals.

From there, we can start to create rewards and recognition strategies that are meaningful to our team. After all, if the team can bring in an x% increase in productivity/work output or the achievement of specific KPIs or targets through an effective and meaningful rewards and recognition program, then as managers the least we can do is to work within our budgets to find some additional revenue to contribute towards the rewards and incentives proposed!

Within the sales arena, it is a much easier task to do this as remuneration strategies are typically tied to incentives and rewards for achievement of targets and KPIs.

One strategy to ensure that your rewards and recognition strategy is targeted at the “right” level is to ask staff to brainstorm ideas on what type of rewards and recognition strategies that they think would be suitable to offer to team members.

One approach is to set some parameters such as an unlimited budget, a $50 budget and a zero budget. In a recent exercise with frontline management supervisors, this question was posed.

On first thought, you would think that the easiest scenario would be having an unlimited budget. With a “no limit” budget the group felt that their team members would become blasé about the rewards and recognition on offer.

When offered $50 to spend, the group came up with $50 vouchers for department stores and movie tickets. The most interesting result came from when there was a limited to no budget. In this scenario, the group realised that they had to be creative.

They asked respective team members about things that were important to them. For many of the group, having some more time to spend with their families and friends came up as a priority, so too was being able to go home 2-3 hours early on a Friday.

Also taking time out and getting to know people through a “High Tea” was interesting given that the team members would provide all of the “ingredients” to contribute towards the “High Tea”. The attraction for this activity was to be given time away from their work and to get to know team members.

Another area one would think happens automatically, yet often, it appears to be overlooked, was publically acknowledging people when they did things that were over and above what was expected.

Maybe lunch with a senior manager to a high achiever, or even a longer lunch break every so often to the people who are doing “the right thing”, is enough.

Another area that seemed to create interest for team members was training programs that the employee thought would help their chances of promotion.

When researching this topic, it would appear that survey results indicate that many staff see training equally important as a pay rise. Although, you will need to ensure that it is a course that they feel will help them with their future employability skills.

Surprisingly, it seems that it isn’t just those who have been in positions for a lengthy period of time who feel this way…the Gen Y’s of the world will be amazingly loyal to an employer who spends money on their career development.

So, what does this tell us about what works for staff in relation to effective rewards and recognition strategies? Public recognition or an afternoon off can be a great investment!

When is the last time you reviewed your rewards and recognition strategies? Have they become what is expected? Are they stale and ineffective?

Perhaps it’s time to go back to basics and hold a brainstorming session similar to what was mentioned previously. Ask your staff what they would offer as suitable rewards and recognition if they had an unlimited budget, a $50 budget or no budget at all - you may be pleasantly surprised to find a wide range of ideas that you least expected!

Importantly, from there, try to get staff to take ownership of managing the overall rewards and recognition strategy in your team as it will become much easier to keep ideas fresh and relevant to what staff will respond well to. And lastly, don’t forget to network and tap into ideas that other organisations are using and have found to be effective. After all, why reinvent the wheel?

For further information, please contact Australian Business Consulting & Solutions on 1800 505 529 or via email.

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