Business is constantly evolving. Sometimes that evolution is gradual and at other times it is faster than we can wrap our heads around. The pandemic catapulted many businesses into a new era; it created new challenges and new opportunities. Some companies took the opportunity to reduce rent overhead and embrace a new hybrid or even fully remote workforce.
This “relocation” of people meant we lost the face-to-face, water cooler connection with both peers and leaders. As a result, we desperately needed to rethink how to recognize and reward employees. The last thing you want are shrugs and eye rolls when you hand over (or ship) that crystal paperweight.
Having to master the art of employee recognition, motivation, engagement, and ultimately retention is nothing new. We know that relating to your employees goes a long way in maintaining harmony and increasing productivity. Once you understand people, you can more successfully motivate them and improve the overall climate of their work environment, even at home. Being able to tap into the intrinsic motivators of your staff can be your greatest secret weapon as a manager.
In order to hire and keep the best, organizations offer different things to entice and continually engage their people. Benefits are often government-mandated; they are considered non-wage compensation, like health insurance and PTO. Incentives are used to entice action and results out of employees, like bonuses and sales contests. Rewards are used to show appreciation to an employee for doing great work, accomplishing a major goal or going out of their way to benefit the organization. In this blog, we’re talking about incentives and rewards.
Not too long ago, awards were standardized versus personal. An employee might get a coffee mug with the company’s logo from the swag closet whether or not they even drink coffee. Or, the dreaded paperweight… because papers blowing away in the wind is a big problem? We all want to be treated as individuals and to feel some form of personalization especially when we do something extraordinary. That’s not to say employees don’t like company swag, just that the key is to keep recognition strategies fresh and varied. Keep it surprising.
Let’s talk about some more contemporary ways to show appreciation to those who go above and beyond. First, think about the person and their role. For example, your support staff and customer service reps are naturally helpful and team-oriented. They can be outgoing or reserved, but their one commonality is likely their strong desire to be seen by upper management as effective, efficient contributors to their company's goals. Your sales staff are naturally assertive and focused on individual achievement. They can also be outgoing or reserved, but they all want to set themselves apart and work towards a win.
Of course, there are some motivators that appeal to everyone. Who doesn't want extra paid time off? You might consider offering a long weekend or an abbreviated workday to a top performer. However, an incentive like this might soon be seen as an entitlement. A half day off on Friday when they are going above and beyond could change to something that employees come to expect. Look for other ways to motivate that are more individualized and still much appreciated.
Consider motivators from any or all of these sources:
Rewards. Different people respond to different rewards. Most often, a person's dominant traits steer them toward one incentive or another. For example, independently-minded workers like leeway to make their own decisions or come and go as they please. They see freedom as a desirable reward for a stellar performance.
Risk takers may like the opportunity to earn commissions or bonuses tied to beating out others; they're competitive, assertive, and win-driven. They're often your future leaders. They might seem aggressive to less assertive peers, but they have a sense of determination, drive, and purpose that is impossible to ignore.
Conversely, your passive personalities may find performance-based pay more intimidating than motivating.
Gamify. If your staff is composed mainly of extroverted, bubbly individuals, they'll probably respond well to team games and fun social activities. These people want to enjoy their work! Gamify your service activities; team members can earn badges for achieving various service levels. Along with bragging rights, they can earn both individual and team awards for achieving new badges. Such as:
Organized games or events backed by the company can appeal to gregarious individuals. They enjoy working in exciting, upbeat environments and will appreciate a manager who finds ways to instill a sense of team in a social, light-hearted way. If your team is fully remote, consider Zoom happy hours or an afternoon “coffee break” where the team is encouraged to talk about anything except work.
Acknowledgment and appreciation. Everyone wants to be acknowledged and appreciated for their achievements, but only those who like being the center of attention will have any desire to be recognized in a public forum. Introverted employees might feel uncomfortable in large group settings, especially if they are—or might possibly be—the focus of attention. You'll notice these people sitting quietly at meetings, trying to avoid making eye contact with anyone who might call them out. Because they shun the limelight, these individuals need more subdued forms of acknowledgment to stay motivated.
Challenge. Some individuals are self-motivated and simply like to challenge themselves. These are people who enjoy learning new skills, looking for new opportunities, and climbing the next mountain. They are goal-oriented, like to stretch their limits, and explore previously untapped potential. It can be more difficult to motivate them, but here are a couple of suggestions:
When trying to determine the best ways to recognize your employees, it helps to know their personalities, interests and current life events so you can use that information to personalize recognition rewards.
Here are 8 modern ways to say thank you for a job well done while factoring in the individual:
There's more to it, of course. One of your goals as a manager is assembling a team that scores wins and brings about the desired results. Remember, though, that while there are distinct ways to increase a person's motivation, someone who is totally wrong for a job or totally wrong for an environment may never be happy enough to produce at the level you want. The desire to perform well starts from within.