If you have ever had occasion to reward employees there is one question you must ask before you can begin to answer the question of how to reward talent. “What motivates the employee you’re looking to reward?”
Are you giving awards employees want?
Different things motivate different people
Is the person you’re rewarding an hourly employee? Salaried? Commission based? If it’s a money-motivated type, cash is typically king. Do you think that acknowledgement at a company wide function, newsletter, or some other public display (“talent on parade”) is enough, or even what they care about? Maybe it’s cash, paid time off, airline tickets and hotel to someplace they want to go, etc. Be creative.
What do THEY want?
You probably already have an idea of how much money you’re going to spend to reward the individual, so ask them what they want. How much you plan to spend does not need to be a secret.
If you want to reward someone, give something they desire. This not only makes them happy, but also will help you retain them because you’ve made the effort to make the reward about them.
Make employee rewards about YOU and suffer the consequences. What NOT to do.
I worked for a search firm for nine years. Every year there was a quota club trip for employees achieving at least 100% of quota. The two principals always decided where we would go. It was typically within a 3 – 4 hour flight from New York and it was five days and four nights. It was typically a beachside resort. The company paid for our flights, hotel room, and 1 company dinner. It was always a very expensive resort where the employees paid for each and every meal, except the one “company” dinner. This would usually add up to several hundred dollars in meals/drinks. It always irked me that they’d fly us to some expensive resort and expect us to pay for everything outside of our flight and hotel room. To me, this was no “reward”.
I did enough traveling on my own that I didn’t really care about these trips. I usually only joined the trip every other year because the locations were often to places I had no interest in visiting. Being an avid scuba diver I only had interest in going on a trip if there was excellent diving. If I went someplace I wasn’t interested in I’d just spend my time on the beach tanning and drinking, and I only have so much interest in that. The president of my company used to get so upset when I decided not to go. His opinion was that this was a gift and a bonding activity for the achievers. Did it ever occured to either of the two partners that some of their employees might not care about “bonding”? Did they care that those of us who wanted to have relationships with our work associates already did? These questions are rhetorical because they were really only concerned about what they wanted. They figured they were giving us a flight and hotel at a nice place and that was all they had to do.
The other thing that chapped my butt was that they would only pay for a guest if you were married or they determined, arbitrarily, if you were in a “significant” enough relationship. Really?! That set me sideways for the entire time I was with them and made club, which was all but the first two years. I mean, who were they to decide if my relationships were significant enough? In my world you either pay for every employees “date” or none of them.
Over the years the president would periodically ask me what would motivate me. I’d say, “money”. Give me money instead of a trip so I can use it how I want. Give me more than 50% of my bookings. He’d always answer that they didn’t do it that way, which was about him, not his employees.
I quit after nine years with them, 2-3 years later than I probably should have; but that’s water under the bridge. I didn’t think they were bringing me enough value to warrant them keeping 50% of my bookings, so I left and made 100%. I might have stayed had they brought me to 75 or 80%. After all, isn’t 25% of something better than 50% of nothing? Now all their employees have gone and they are pretty much out of business. It’s just the two partners trying to make a living for themselves with no help from employees.
Make a case
You may be thinking that your company does things in a particular way and you have no control over it. Do NOT be a victim of your circumstances. Do be a private eye and a consultant. Reach out to your performers on the QT if you have to. Ask them what motivates them. Ask them if the “right” reward would encourage them to stay with your company. Ask them what ever makes sense to you given the situation. Then go to your management and make a case. Use dollars and sense to make your case that a company that retains its performers makes more money.
Moral of the story
Make the reward about the employee, not the employer. You will find that this will be enough to keep some of your best people, which will keep your revenues up and your replacement expenses down.