You might be old enough to remember a time when you played a game and there was only one trophy handed out. These days, it seems like “Everyone’s a winner!” whether they deserve it or not. Which begs the question, “How do you determine which employees warrant special recognition and/or reward…and for what types of behavior?”
When it comes to setting parameters for rewards and recognition, the first step is to identify what the norms are for your organization. For instance, if a 60-hour work week is standard for your corporate culture, it’s going to be pretty hard to reward everyone for putting in extra hours! But if you’re good with employees putting in a standard 40-hour week, those who put in extra, unpaid hours should be recognized informally with verbal thanks and formally at review time.
Next, decide what really constitutes “above and beyond” behavior. Back to our previous example, you might have an employee who consistently stays an extra hour or so every day. Before you pat this person on the back, find out why they’re staying late. Some people would rather sit at their desk than in traffic, so they wait for the roads to clear. That’s fine, but you don’t have to thank them! The key is to tie the extra time to extra productivity. You want to reward behavior that rewards you!
Finally, which behaviors do you want to recognize…and which to reward? Recognition is typically not tied to a financial reward, so you can set the bar a little lower and be more generous with your praise. Just don’t set it too low – arriving on time is definitely NOT a big deal. And if you’re too generous, your praise will eventually lose its meaning. Financial rewards – cash, gifts or paid time off – are best reserved for specific achievements like finishing major projects ahead of schedule or under budget, or blasting way beyond a sales goal.
Personally, I like a world where we’re not all winners – let’s keep striving for that trophy!