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What Non-Financial Rewards and Recognition Can I Use to Motivate my Employees?

The list below isn’t complete but it may give you some ideas about how to recognize your employees for outstanding performance:

Allow employees to take a long lunch or have a short workday.

Offer a round of applause from the team.

Distribute movie tickets.

Hold a celebration.

Offer interesting projects.

Bring in food for the department.

Give time off or extra vacation days.

Deliver a note or letter of appreciation from a member of senior management.

Provide dinner for two at a local restaurant.

Designate an employee-of-the-month parking place.

Print a photo and brief article about the stellar worker in the company newsletter.

Host a team lunch.

Write your own thank-you note.

Offer a personalized gift.

Hold a lunch in the employee’s honor.

Create a bulletin board that contains the photos of outstanding performers.

Give the performer challenging work.

Assign the person to a highly visible task force or team.

Look for opportunities for cross training.

Empower the employee, giving him or her the latitude to do the work as he or she sees fit.

Support the employee by working together to develop career goals and development plans to achieve them.

Which would work most effectively with your employees? Ask them. No one approach will work for everyone. You must build a unique package of motivational strategies for each of your employees. Should rewards be given? If so, what rewards? Should a job be redesigned? How? Should an employee be praised, challenged, or reassured? Ask each of your employees what he or she needs from work. Rather than imposing rewards of little value or appealing to unimportant needs, solicit his or her input. If you don’t want to give an employee options, observe the employee. What makes the person smile? What gives him or her pleasure? If you know someone is really interested in sports, you might recognize the person with two tickets to a sporting event. Certainly, don’t set in motion a ceremonial "roast," putting the person on the spot with a call for a speech, or asking the person to describe his or her accomplishments to upper management, before talking to the individual. Whatever you do to recognize an employee, be sure they know what the reward is for.

Tell Me More

The key to using recognition is in making it part of your daily routine. Good managers remember to recognize employees. Great managers do it every day. They maintain a "to do list" to which they add the names of the people who report to them who deserve recognition. They use voicemail not only to assign tasks but to leave employees messages praising them for a job well done. They keep a stack of note cards on their desk, where they can’t ignore them. At the end of the day, they take a minute to write thank-you notes to any employee who made a difference that day.

In each case, remember that the recognition must have been earned. Otherwise, it becomes perceived as worthless by those who receive it.

And onlookers lose respect for the judgment of the praise-giver.