How To Make Effort Rewarding
By: Jim Clemmer
Jim Clemmer is an international keynote speaker, workshop leader, author, and president of The CLEMMER Group, a North American network of organization, team, and personal improvement consultants based in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. His other bestsellers include Firing on All Cylinders: The Service/Quality System for High-Powered Corporate Performance, and his most recent book, Growing the Distance: Timeless Principles for Personal, Career, and Family Success. His web site is http://www.clemmer.net/
Rewarding and recognizing employees is a ticklish business. It can motivate
people to explore more effective ways to do their jobs - or it can utterly
discourage such efforts.
Here are a few tips and traps:
Suggestion systems work best in traditional "command and control"
or paternalistic organizations. Workers come up with ideas and managers
decide which ones get implemented. In a highly involved organization, teams
generate and test ideas as part of a bigger focus on improving their own
- Establish a clear link between what people are rewarded for and the organization's
priorities. Does everyone see and understand the relationship between their
improvements and financial rewards? Too many profit-sharing plans, for
example, are disconnected from daily work. The effect of cost control or
customer satisfaction efforts on the bottom line is so fuzzy that it's
- Be careful when offering money or recognition for employee suggestions.
This can lead to conflict rather than co-operation. Individuals and groups
often end up jealously protecting their ideas or arguing about the source
of ideas. Suggestion systems also separate idea generation from implementation.
Effectiveness is a function of how strongly ideas or strategies are accepted
and then implemented by the people who can make them work.
Involvement can be achieved through opinion surveys, focus groups, teams
that study and recommend, or teams that design and implement the rewards.
The best organizations always use combinations of these approaches.
- Involve team members, individuals or managers in developing their own incentive
and reward systems. A study of group incentive plans in 144 U.S. companies
by consultant Towers Perrin concludes that those plans with the highest
levels of effectiveness also had the highest levels of employee involvement
Reward systems and recognition practices speak volumes about your organization's
values. Are they designed and delivered to employees - or with them? Do
they reflect a management view of "we know what's best for you?"
Are they partial and piecemeal or part of a larger system and philosophy?
- Despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, many managers believe money
is more rewarding than recognition and appreciation. You should balance
your incentive plans and reward systems with generous amounts of "thanks
pay." And make sure managers have the skills to show recognition when
people are doing good work. They often find it awkward to express appreciation.
You should ask if financial incentives seek to penalize people and have
them "share the pain," or look for ways to make people feel like
winners. Are people given paternalistic pats on the head or treated as
Like customer service and quality, reward and recognition are highly subjective.
Just as they monitor the changing needs of customers, effective leaders
constantly try to understand the shifting perceptions and values of everyone
in their organization.