Remember To Tell People When and When Not To Give Rewards

Recognition programs coupled with the use of rewards can challenge managers and employees, especially when you just launch a new program. 

It seems managers and employees alike are like kids in a candy store. With a myriad of good intentions, they lavish out rewards on everyone. And the reasons are often spotty at best.

Which is why you must always handle your rewards with care. 

This matter has come up for a couple of clients in the last few months, so it seemed fitting to bring it up here as well.

When To Use Recognition and Rewards

When setting up your recognition and reward programs, you not only need to spell out the business rules for using both recognition and rewards, but specifically define what each is and when to use them. 

As a quick review, Recognition is mostly an intangible expression of acknowledgement and valuing of an individual or team, for their positive behaviours, their personal effort, or the contributions they have made on the job.

In contrast, Rewards are the tangible, monetary, or experiential items, that you give to a person or team, in return for achieving pre-set goals, reaching a significant achievement, or for a special service performed.

Here’s a simple way to remember when you should use recognition or rewards. You recognize behaviors and reward results.

Think about these definitions as your guide. Is it a single occurring behavior you’ve witnessed? Then this would mean you simply recognize the person for their positive behaviors. What if someone reached a specific performance milestone? This fits the reward definition. So, you would use the reward options of your programs to acknowledge and reward the measurable results they achieved. 

You must educate and communicate your expectations and purpose for your recognition modules and the reward modules of your recognition and reward programs.

Explain The Elements of Your Recognition Programs

Most vendors provide recognition programs that use a social recognition newsfeed for people to add positive comments and where peers can “like” what someone has said or acknowledged someone for. 

I have described before why It’s Important to Comment and Not Just Like Recognition.

Adding a comment to what other people say creates an exponentially stronger message of recognition and appreciation for the person. Take the time to add this kind of recognition expression every time you’re on the program.

Within this same recognition newsfeed, you’ll see graphic images of ecards displayed with accompanying messages. These ecards are searchable under various categories. You can send colleagues an ecard from dozens of wonderful images to choose from. 

If it is a birthday, anniversary, or other life event, search through the ecards and find the one that fits. Take the time to add a personal message to congratulate and celebrate your colleague. Speaking of career milestone anniversaries, I recently wrote about How To Write An Amazing Career Milestone Recognition Ecard, which I recommend you check out.

When someone has really helped you out, or you saw them clearly live one of the organization’s values, or perhaps they gave outstanding service to a served customer, then find the right ecard to thank them with, and recognize them for the amazing work they are doing.

Some organizations request that their recognition programs include recognition social badges to recognize their co-workers with. You can use these whenever you catch someone doing outstanding work, living an organizational value, or doing some strategic initiative. You can learn a lot more about social badges by reading Give People Social Badges To Increase Engagement. When you submit a recognition social badge to someone, they appear in the social recognition newsfeed where everyone can see them. People can add their comments and like them, too. 

Time To Use Your Reward Programs 

Employees who perform above and beyond the expectations of their day-to-day job duties deserve to be rewarded, or at least nominated to receive a reward

Follow the guidelines or rules of your reward program carefully. 

You only give rewards when a person has reached certain criteria. The actions or results achieved must have made a big difference. You never want to reward certain actions when you wanted something completely different. Spell out the performance criteria in clear, actionable terms. Make sure they have met the measures you set up to determine success. Then it is a matter of giving the right level of rewards commensurate with the results achieved.

We give rewards when a person has gone above and beyond what you expect of them and when the results achieved are spectacular.

Mistakes People Make With Rewards

Check out these typical mistakes I have seen with the use of rewards and what you can do in the future if you find them happening in your organization.

Find out if peers or immediate supervisors and managers are ever using rewards, like giving point rewards, under the following circumstances:  

  • Celebrating an employee’s work anniversary. Most organizations already have a length of service award program in place to celebrate employees on their milestone anniversaries. They set these career milestone award programs up to notify both the employee and their manager. Employees usually select an award gift from an online award catalog that is shipped to their manager to present to the employee at work, or they ship it to the employee’s home. Employees do not need to send any rewards like point rewards to a colleague. 

Show your staff how to select from the variety of ecards available on your program and write a special message acknowledging their colleague’s work anniversary. Teach them how to express their appreciation for the employee and share memories of all they have done over the milestone years being celebrated.  

  • When it is an employee’s birthday. It is never appropriate to use rewards from your organization’s recognition and reward programs to gift a peer on their birthday. The same applies to any other holiday or special occasion. 

Again, this is where you should encourage employees to use the fine array of online ecards provided and to send special greetings to their peers celebrating a birthday. You can suggest that if employees want to do anything special for their colleagues, they should set up a social committee to collect funds to buy gifts or take people out for lunch.

  • Using rewards programs as a means of compensation. Managers and supervisors should never use rewards as a substitute bonus or indirect payment. There have been cases where managers gave point rewards to employees for showing up on time for work or working overtime. It is inappropriate to use your reward programs to make up for the agreed upon compensation and pay structure.

Make sure that employees who work overtime have their hours submitted and receive the proper compensation. Never mix up a person’s pay with the rewards in your recognition and reward program. 

Always remember that when you give people recognition, you don’t have to give them a reward. But whenever you give people a reward, you must always accompany it with meaningful recognition.

Recognition Reflection: Have you clearly explained when to use recognition or rewards the right way in your programs?

Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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