Lame rewards do more harm than good

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The old adage ‘it’s the thought that counts’ may hold true with family and friends, but that same sentiment doesn’t hold true in employer-employee relationships. A disappointing gift or reward can in fact have a more damaging impact than not being rewarded at all, a leading workplace motivation expert has said.

One recent example occurred in the UK at Torbay Hospital in Torquay. To thank staff for helping the healthcare provider to become one of the most trusted in the country, 4,000 employees received a KitKat. Disgruntled employees complained they felt insulted by the token reward.

Employers should review and benchmark their reward and recognition policies at least every three years and ensure they're abreast of the current industry best practice, UK-based John Sylvester from P&MM Motivation said. “If there is an element of uncertainty about the cost, always err on the side of generosity, applying the simple but indefatigable test: ‘How would I react if given this?’” he said.

While the impressive rewards of the pre-GFC era may no longer be feasible, if an employer chooses to offer a token gesture of thanks it must make the employee feel valued, Sylvester said.

As an example, rewards such as vouchers, experiences, or pre-paid gift cards are cost-effective, yet also have the power to give everyone the choice of what they want and to leave an employee with a positive impression.

RedBalloon’s just-released 2012 Reward and Recognition survey, which studied more than 4,000 businesses, found that the most popular rewards were:
 

  1. 42% – Experiences - sharing with family/friends (25%) or Personal (17%)
  2. 31% – Cash/Visa Card
  3. 11% – Time off work

Next week HRM looks at reward programs like you've never seen, and what you can learn from them.

 

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