You would think rewarding employees is easy. Think again. Alfie Kohn in his controversial book, Punished by Rewards, quotes studies that demonstrate rewards actually inhibit things such as creativity, risk-taking, information sharing, quick problem-solving. In addition, rewards can encourage directive command and control type behavior from supervisors.
Observations about Rewarding Employees
- 1Dissatisfaction and reduced performance often result from reward programs. Here are a few examples:
- 2Rewards work best for short-term behavior changes. If you want lasting change, a rewards program won't work. As soon as the reward stops the behavior will likely cease as well.
- 3Rewards generally don't change people's values, attitudes, and feelings. You may get short-term behavior change, but not long term commitment.
- 4Reward programs don't get to the root cause of why people may be apathetic or performing at a mediocre level. Which means you will need to find more and more goodies to induce people to perform.
- 5Rewarding everyone equally can lead to conflict and resentment between team members, especially when some people are coasting.
- 6Rewarding some and not others can create competition, envy, hostility and distrust between groups and group members. For example, award nights can, in an instant, transform the vast majority of people there into losers.
- 7Rewarding employees for results over which they have limited control can lead to cynicism.
- 8They become an expectation rather than a reward. For example, say a weekly gift certificate is given for achieving a safety standard. It is no longer viewed as a reward. Instead it becomes expectation.
- 9What you reward is what you get. So, be very careful what you reward. For example, there is a huge difference in organizational results between rewarding people for gaining knowledge and rewarding people for sharing knowledge.
When Reward and Recognition Programs are Most Effective
Keep these guidelines in mind if you are going to put in place a reward and recognition program:
- 1The program is straightforward and easy to understand and with little emphasis given to it (i.e minimize the fuss!)
- 2People have confidence in the basis of the acknowledgement. In other words, they know exactly what it takes to receive acknowledgement
- 3Each person has a role in judging his/her own performance
- 4The individual is clear about the manner and techniques they used to achieve the reward. There is emphasis on the behaviors the leader/organization would like to see re-enacted in the future
- 5The person has input into the type of reward that s/he would most like to receive. Give the receiver the choice of reward that suits his/her specific circumstances
- 6Rewarding the employee follows close to the actual performance
Rewarding Employees Summary
Ultimately you need to decide: "Will the program we've decided upon, destroy or build our culture?"
Your rewards and recognition program needs to encourage more of the behavior, thinking and attitudes that allow your business to be successful.
To Successfully Reward Employees Ensure They:
1. Come away with an enhanced sense of self-determination and control over what they do
2. Are not being controlled or manipulated
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