5 Ways to Have an Effective Employee Rewards Program

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How do you make your small business the kind of place where everyone wants to work? One way is by ensuring that the people who already work for you are happy and feel valued and rewarded.

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Employee rewards can be tricky, though, as anyone who’s ever received a meaningless acrylic plaque can attest. How can you develop an effective rewards program? Here are some tips.

Don’t be so predictable.

Employees expect rewards at certain times, like holidays or year-end, and sort of see these rewards as their due. But you can make a bigger impact by also giving them rewards at random times. These don’t have to be big things—a random reward could be as small as a Starbucks gift card or a handwritten note thanking an employee for his or her hard work on a project. The key is to do it when it’s unexpected.

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Do it in public. When it comes to employees, a good rule of thumb is to criticize in private, but reward in public. When you reward employees in front of the whole team, it not only increases the value of the reward, but also inspires other employees to work harder so they can get a reward, too.

Be specific. Rather than giving vague, general praise, make sure employees know exactly why you’re rewarding them. Don’t just say “Good job on the Banks project, Steve,” but “Steve, I really liked how you handled a difficult client with many demands and not only kept him happy, but also got him to spend 20 percent more money with us.” Specificity tells the employee, as well as all the rest of the team, exactly what type of behavior you value and why.

Do reward everyone (at some point). While some employees may earn more rewards than others, it’s important to make sure everyone gets rewarded eventually. Make sure these rewards don’t feel like charity, though. If you look hard enough, you’ll surely be able to spot some improvement or effort on every worker’s part that deserves praise. (If not, maybe the person should not be working for you).

Personalize it. Rewards mean a lot more when they actually relate to an employee’s interests, and it will even reflect in your online employer brand. Conversely, you don’t want to make a gaffe like giving a sports fan tickets to the ballet or a recovering alcoholic a bottle of wine. Worse than getting no reward, this makes employees feel like the boss doesn’t care enough to pay attention to who they are. If you don’t know enough about an employee, ask co-workers or direct supervisors who work with the person every day if they can suggest ideas—or, at the very least, things to avoid giving.

Author:  Rieva Lesonsky

Small Business Maven

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