5 Ways To Turn Your Employees Into Rockstars Using a Rewards Program

Retaining and satisfying employees can be the most difficult part of any manager or supervisors’ job. We have all seen good talent lose their passion because of dispassionate coworkers, difficult customers and lack of incentive. But today, I am going to walk you through five tested ways to use rewards programs to help reduce turnover, and increase happiness among workers.

These rewards programs provide incentives for work that is above and beyond the call of duty, making employees more likely to do their job exceptionally well, improving the experience of everyone involved.

1. Make Sure Your Reward Is “Rewarding”

The most frequent mistake we see in business that employ rewards programs is lackluster or “punishment” rewards. I remember my first real job, at a national pharmacy chain, where our manager bought the employee of the month a bottle of soda and bag of chips, and if we were voted employee of the month two months in a year, we received an engraved plaque.

Together, this might have just cost maybe three dollars, plus another twenty-five if we got it twice, but it was much more impactful than my next job, where I was given a specific t-shirt I got the “privilege” of wearing (a punishment more than a reward) and having lunch with our manager (which the company paid for).

These are both “rewards” but one cost the company less and made us feel recognized, whereas the other cost more and was awful for all parties involved.

2. Make It Public, But Don’t Embarrass

This comes down to two main factors:

  • Know your audience, and
  • Know your awardee

A funeral home is not the place to hang a picture of your top employee. Your goal is to award the employee, not make them want to crawl into the nearest hole until everyone forgets about the time that their manager put mardi-gras beads with the company logo around their neck (Yes, I have watched this happen).

This may mean forgoing the public acknowledgement, and simply adding their name to a communal plaque, this might mean passing a person up for the ‘honor’ all together, but the reward should never be a surprise, always inform the person before you mention it to the rest of the employees.

Another free bonus tip (more of a don’t do this) – do NOT cyberstalk an employee for a communal award frame. The absolute creepiest thing one of my bosses ever did was find me on Facebook, print up my profile photo, and put it in the picture frame within our Quality Assurance Department without telling or asking me. DON’T do this.

3. Make Sure It Is Achievable

As nice as the standard employee of the month model is, it’s really outdated. Beyond that, it is rife with partiality and politics, generally involving voting. The best model for rewards is an empirically tracked goal; like the number of suggestive sales of a certain item, or customers interacted with. Your rewards program should be achievable, efficient, and not embarrassing to those who don’t achieve it.

4. Be Honest, Not Saccharine Sweet

Employees can smell disingenuous excitement like a dog smells meat. The worst kickoff for your employees is for you to come in hardly containing your excitement (even if it’s your program). In the modern world of work, this type of intro frequently results in a collective groan. If there are limits on the program, explain them, if it’s for a limited time, make sure to mention it. Being clear is the best thing you can do.

Also, NEVER dismiss a worker’s question about any new program. There is no such thing as a stupid question, and clearing a misunderstanding now can save you a world of pain in the future.

5. Never, Ever Underestimate the Power of Thank You & I’m Sorry

Thank you is an amazingly powerful phrase. Forbes reports that seventy percent of employees say that a simple “Thank You” would increase productivity.

At some point in your career, maybe even right now, you craved the recognition of a supervisor. The appreciation, and acknowledgement that you did something that helped them. Imagine being in the position to fulfill that with a few simple words. Sometimes, it can be the best reward of all.

On the opposite note, The California Bar Association’s journal reports that one of the best tools to fight lawsuits is the act of apologizing. Anyone who has ever felt wronged knows how effective this can be.

I have personally watched as an organization was offered the chance to apologize when they wronged their employee, who was ready to drop everything if they where told that someone was sorry. They didn’t, and instead of a two-minute conversation, it turned into a notice of intent to strike, and a huge amount of animosity between management and the employees.

Together, words of acknowledgement and words of apology can be used to recognize good behavior, and quash unfortunate actions, not to mention a lot of the time it is just the right thing to do.

To conclude, a rewards program can be one of the best decisions made by an organization. But, if you do your research, are properly prepared, and follow these tips and tricks – you are much more likely to be successful.


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