Ask the Coach: What are the best ways to reward and recognize my employees?

October 12th, 2018

If you’ve done a good job of setting goals and keeping your team focused, you will have plenty of opportunity to recognize and reward progress. This is an important management skill because it helps to engage and acknowledge your team for progress and also highlight those who are exhibiting the behaviors you like and getting results. Too often employees complain that they only hear feedback when it’s a complaint, mistake or something bad. Recognizing them for doing things right goes a long way and often costs you nothing.

Here are some suggestions to make this part of your weekly management process:

1. Plan for reward and recognition. If you wait for the opportunity to ‘present’ itself or just happen, odds are you’ll miss it. Spend some time in the beginning of the week to determine what you’re looking for, who you’d like to acknowledge and when you’re going to proactively look for opportunities. You can look for opportunities by walking around and observing, asking for feedback from employees or customers and reviewing results.

2. Be specific about what you’re rewarding. Are you acknowledging behaviors that you like? Or results you are happy with? How about both? Acknowledging behavior helps drive more of that behavior and teach others what you’re looking for. Results are also worth acknowledging, however, results alone don’t teach others what they should be doing, or could be doing to reach their goals. “You did a great job” is not specific; “I was impressed by how you listened to that customers complaint and asked questions to help them feel heard and identify the real problem” is specific.

3. Team or individual recognition. Both go a long way. Recognizing someone in a team setting helps to acknowledge their success and also highlight and share what they are doing with others, creating an opportunity for others to learn or share their feedback. On an individual basis, that allows for deeper conversation and coaching with an individual, helping to build trust and communication.

4. Share the recognition. Too often, recognition is expected to be given by the manager. If you have a process of consistently recognizing employees, everyone can participate. Peers, coworkers, other managers are all incented to join in the process and compliment others. It becomes part of your culture.

5. Progress not perfection. Don’t wait until the result is achieved or things are fully completed to recognize progress. The journey is often where the most growth and learning happen – that’s what is deserving of recognition. Results are great, however, celebrating what we’ve learned, overcome or managed during the progress is often worth more than the actual end result. Celebrate the journey, including the ups and downs.

6. Don’t let your budget, or lack of, become an excuse. Sometimes the best rewards are those that cost nothing: heartfelt words, a handwritten note or an opportunity to highlight someone’s accomplishments in a meeting, email or newsletter. Employees are appreciative of heartfelt recognition whether it’s in the form of words or actions – it just has to be sincere.

The bottom line is that recognition goes a long way in creating a culture of engaged employees who celebrate hard work and achievement. And the good news is it’s something you, as the manager or leader, can start immediately. It just takes a little planning, thought and commitment.

For more career, sales, and leadership advice please contact our coaches
Joe Micallef – Sales Coach – email, or call (773) 329 0066
Donna Flynn – Career/Management Coach – email, or call (630) 624-4319