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Few management concepts are as solidly founded as the idea that positive reinforcement- rewarding behavior you want repeated- works. In fact, in today's business climate, rewards and recognition have become more important than ever for several reasons:

* Managers have fewer ways to influence employees and shape their behavior. Coercion is no longer an option; managers increasingly must serve as coaches to indirectly influence rather than demand desired behavior.

* Employees are increasingly being asked to do more and to do it more autonomously. To support looser controls, managers need to create work environments that are both positive and reinforcing.

* Demographics predict that fewer workers will be available in the postbaby boom era and that those who do exist will likely have fewer skills than their predecessors. This new pool of employees have different values and expect work to be both purposeful and motivating.

* In tight financial times, rewards and recognition provide an effective low-cost way of encouraging higher levels of performance from employees. Studies indicate that employees find personal recognition more motivational than money. Yet, it is a rare manager who systematically makes the effort simply to thank employees for a job well done, let alone to do something more innovative to recognize accomplishments.

In thinking about this paradox, I concluded that a primary reason why most managers do not more frequently reward and recognize employees is that they lack the time and creativity to come up with ways to do it. A book of ways to recognize employees would thus be a fun and useful resource.

To my pleasant surprise, research uncovered hundreds of unique strategies that managers have used and are using today. The project thus became a vehicle for giving this data a wider audience. My hope is that you will use this book to experiment and learn the power of recognition and that, as a result, your workplace-and the employees in it- will become more positive, productive and enjoyable.

Bob Nelson
San Diego, California

Results of a recent survey by the Council of Communication Management confirm what almost every employee already knows: that recognition for a job well done is the top motivator of employee performance. Yet most managers do not understand or use the potential power of recognition and rewards. This is true even though 33 percent of managers themselves report that they would rather work in an organization where they could receive better recognition.

When a manager is apprised of the importance of this fundamental principle of human behavior, the typical reaction is to insist that employees would appreciate only rewards and forms of recognition that directly translate to their pocketbook-raises or promotions.

While money is important to employees, what tends to motivate them to perform- and to perform at higher levels-is the thoughtful, personal kind of recognition that signifies true appreciation for a job well done. Numerous studies have confirmed this. The motivation is all the stronger if the form recognition creates a story the employee can tell to family, friends and of associates for years to come.

This book deals with both informal and formal rewards and recognition. By "formal" I mean part of a predetermined program; "informal" here means more spontaneous. As for the distinction between rewards and recognition, Aubrey Daniels, a leading authority on performance management, explains it best: "You reinforce behaviors and reward results." Part I of this book, "Informal Rewards," focuses on manager-initiated, performance-based rewards. The guidelines for effectively rewarding and recognizing employees are simple:

1. Match the reward to the person. Start with the individual's personal preferences; reward him or her in ways he or she truly finds rewarding. Such rewards may be personal or official, informal or formal, public or private, and may take the shape of gifts or activities. Janis Allen, performance management consultant and author of I Saw What You Did and I Know Who You Are, advocates having people who work for you complete a "reinforcer survey" of things they like, and suggests that you do one for yourself as well. Since preferred reinforcers differ from person to person, composing such lists is the best way to make sure your actions are as effective as they can be. Having employees initial items they like in this book is another way of determining what motivates them.

2. Match the reward to the achievement. Effective reinforcement should be customized to take into account the significance of the achievement. An employee who completes a two-year project should be rewarded in a more substantial way than one who simply does a favor for you. The reward should be a function of the amount of time you have to plan and execute it and the money you have to spend.

3. Be timely and specific. To be effective, rewards need to be given as soon as possible after the desired behavior or achievement. Rewards that come weeks or months later do little to motivate employees to repeat their actions. You should always say why the reward is being given-that is, provide a context for the achievement. Once you have consistently rewarded desired performance, your pattern of recognition may become more intermittent as the desired behavior becomes habitual with employees.

Part II, "Awards for Specific Achievements and Activities," presents specific awards organizations have used to obtain specific results in productivity, customer service, sales and so forth.

Part III, "Formal Rewards," reviews the company-initiated programs most commonly used to maintain motivation throughout the organization. The most effective rewards ultimately link to formal programs of some type. A thank- you letter or public praise can be a significant way of acknowledging a person's efforts and achievements, but if that is the only form of recognition a manager uses, such rewards will soon lose their effectiveness.

Here is a good rule of thumb: For every four informal rewards (e.g., a thank-you), there should be a more formal acknowledgment (e.g., a day off from work), and for every four of those, there should be a still more formal reward (e.g., a plaque or formal praise at a company meeting), leading ultimately to such rewards as raises, promotions and special assignments. Catherine Meek, president of Meek and Associates, Los Angeles compensation consultants, offers guidelines to make reward and recognition programs effective:

-The programs should reflect the company's values and business strategy.

-Employees should participate in the development and execution of the programs.

-The programs can involve cash, noncash or both.

-Since what is meaningful to you may not be meaningful to someone else, the programs should encompass variety.

-The programs should be highly public.

- The programs have a short life span and must be changed frequently.

In addition, Aubrey Daniels recommends that leaders be held accountable for effectively recognizing employees and that organizations avoid using blanket or "silver bullet" approaches to motivation. "Jelly bean" motivation-giving the same reward to every member of the organization-not only does not inspire employees to excel, but it may actually damage performance as top achievers see no acknowledgment of the exceptional job they have done.

The Appendixes include lists of companies that can help you customize s reward and plan recognition activities.


Short Quote:

"... a primary reason why most managers do not more frequently reward and recognize employees is that they lack the time and creativity to come up with ways to do it." --Bob Nelson
Copyright 1996, 2000, HP Management Decisions Ltd., All Rights Reserved.

Author:Nelson, Bob
Title:1001 Ways to Reward Employees
Place (City):
Publication Date:3/96
Source Type:CompuServe
Quote Number:21