REWARDS AND RECOGNITION
by ArLyne Diamond, Ph.D.
"So, my pay is
predicated on how many people I supervise. Well, thanks for that piece of
information. Surely it means that I need to work hard to convince you that I
need more and more staff to complete the tasks you assign me. I think I'll build
"Tenure, you say.
What a relief. I need security. Now that I've achieved it I can rest on my
laurels and coast along, no longer having to prove myself to your school
"Oh, you are
planning to pay me an hourly wage for doing this technical writing for you.
Thanks. It is really quite complicated and will take me a very long time to
outstanding achievement! Wow, if I steal my subordinate's ideas and present them
as my own perhaps I can earn a good bonus this year."
If any of these quotes
hits you in your corporate pocketbook, you might want to consider re-visiting
the manner in which you compensate people for their services. Many companies are
looking at variable pay structures which allow them the flexibility to pay
people a base salary plus compensation incentives for performance. These
incentives can be part of the salary, or fall outside of the salary structure
per se and be considered as part of rewards and recognitions. In this article,
we will consider these additions to base salary as part of rewards and
Some clients are
interested in developing long term strategies that make rewards and recognitions
consistent with the values being taught in the company. For example, companies
switching from the standard hierarchical structure to work teams want to reward
team cooperation. Those that are looking at this issue are asking for programs
that can be implemented by all levels of management consistently.
Among the common goals
to reward: productivity, quality, creativity, cooperation, profitability,
positive work ethics and attitudes, and allegiance to the corporate mission and
In many companies
assumptions, rather than knowledge, guide the manner in which rewards and
recognitions programs are developed. The most common assumption made is that all
people are motivated by money. Another common - and often erroneous - assumption
is that everyone likes to have the spotlight shine on them.
The measurements used
to determine "outstanding performance or attitude or ----" are also
not clearly determined. In addition, often there is both a lack of consistency
and a lack of flexibility so that individual supervisors and managers have
difficulty handling the freedom of variable rewards and recognitions.
Too, the changing
workforce brings with it changing values and beliefs about what is worth
rewarding as well as what IS a reward and/or recognition. What might be a
compliment to one person could be a humiliating experience for another. Not only
are we dealing with people at different levels of professional growth, we are
dealing with people from many cultures and backgrounds, at different times in
their personal as well as professional lives.
Thus, what might have
been a reward at one time, might not be at the present time or in the future.
Sometimes people suffer reverses and what they thought they outgrew (job
security) they might now need again. When studying this issue, we need to
remember that we are dealing with individual differences, cultural differences,
gender differences, age, education, socio-economic status, and a host of other
differences - including what other rewards have recently been given.
In addition to the
differences of the individual - there are differences in managers' styles and
beliefs about rewards and recognition. One question that needs to be addressed
at the corporate level is the degree of autonomy or conformity to allow each
manager in making these decisions. While we don't want to take away from the
ability of an individual manager to make immediate and personal decisions, we do
want those decisions to be consistent with corporate policy and principles.
There are a number of
issues each manager must consider before offering an "attaboy". Among
them are his/her own personal assumptions about joking, teasing, or potentially
embarrassing the person being rewarded. What might be fun to the manager, might
be excruciatingly embarrassing to the recipient. Other issues that must be
considered are those of privacy v. public recognition; expected v. extraordinary
behavior; patronizing v. appreciating; and comparisons with others receiving
rewards and recognitions.
M&M's work well
with little children for a short period of time...however, offering a trivial
reward for work well done is insulting. Also insulting is patting someone on the
head for tying their shoe laces when they've been doing it successfully for
years. On the other hand, failure to acknowledge consistently good quality
causes loss of morale and motivation.
All rewards and
recognitions should have more than one purpose. At the very least they should
have the dual purpose of making the recipient feel better and of furthering the
values and goals of the corporation. It also helps if they act as a motivator
for future behavior of both the recipient and his/her colleagues.
reinforced positively or negatively, consistently or intermittently. Each of
these methods of reinforcement produces different results. The optimal forms of
reinforcement are those which are positive, intermittent, predictable, and
The most obvious
rewards in business are money and promotions. Modern management is learning that
money as a reward is only successful some of the time, with some of the people -
unless it is a huge amount of money, and therefore not cost-effective for
Promotions have many
problems inherent in them, not the least of which is The Peter Principle
("In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of
incompetence." Laurence J. Peter.) For years now successful technical
competence has been rewarded by making technicians/engineers managers of people.
It has not worked effectively because it often amounts to fitting square pegs
into round holes. Both the person being promoted and the people being managed
have difficulty when technical brilliance is confused with people management
management is seeking new solutions to motivate individuals, teams and
departments to further the corporate mission.
If you want to take
this issue seriously, you really need to thoughtfully look at what you re trying
to accomplish, what's changed, what's worked in the past, what the current and
future needs and wants are of your people and how to measure the success of your
newly developed program. Remember, the old military style doesn't work well
anymore - whips (or promises not to be whipped), stripes on the sleeves, and
promotion after promotion are not necessarily the steps to motivating your
professional staff to fulfill their destiny and the corporate mission.
Some Basic Questions to
Ask Regarding Rewards and Recognitions:
||What do you want to
reward? If achievements, how do you define them? Do you want to reward
participation in the team, or acts of heroism? What about the values of your
organization, performance goals, money savings, or other avenues of success?|
||Who are your people
and what are their needs and wants? Do you have entry level people needing
money and security? Are there those in your organization primarily concerned
with social and status needs or needs for self-esteem? What about
creativity, time off and some of the more obvious perks? Remember too, some
people need to be rewarded publicly and others privately.|
||Is the plan
equitable, flexible, consistent, and, not only is it, is it perceived to be
fair by all concerned?|
||How do you maintain
corporate consistency, stay in compliance with the organization's business
legal, union, financial and human resources requirements, while at the same
time allowing your individual managers a great deal of autonomy and the
||Now, look at what
exists and determine what works with these goals and what doesn't.|
||How should the plan
be funded? Self-funded from the profitability of the group or project? From
general funds? A special rewards and recognition fund?|
||How are you going to
communicate both the concept and the specifics in order to get buy-in and
||Finally, how are you
going to measure success, make plans for modification, and consistently
improve the quality of the plan?|