From Beyond the Bonus: Four Ways to Recognize and Reward with Little or No Money:
“There has been much written about the limitations of salaries and bonuses to motivate people to work hard and produce results. If it isn’t all about money, what is it about? Most management experts emphasize appreciation, recognition and building a sense of pride over increasing monetary rewards. This is not only good practice but for most companies these days, it is also a necessity.In Choosing the Right Approach to Employee Recognition, the CEB gives much the same advice we’ve been preaching for years:
“It’s a sad fact of work life that most leaders don’t thank their employees enough. A simple thank you goes much farther than you think, especially if it is connected to a job well done and delivered authentically. Acknowledging employee accomplishments and good behavior through meaningful words or gestures can boost employee’s emotional commitment. Be specific about the accomplishment and describe what helped the employee succeed.”
“Even employers who are committed to recognizing and rewarding their employees have a hard time doing it right. Deciding what to reward and how is not easy, and that difficulty leads many employers to rely solely on financial compensation to motivate their people. … Here are five requirements for effective recognition and questions to help you evaluate your approach: connected to business goals and values, sincere, meaningful and adaptable, relevant, timely.”
In this post, CEB also points out the deviant behavior that can result from recognition done wrong. This is where the “strategic” component of recognition becomes critical. You must positively reinforce employees only for those actions that reflect the company values while achieving the strategic objectives. This approach ensures employees who, for example, increase productivity but do so by harming the environment will not be rewarded for their efforts. Values-based recognition is the key to ensuring employees display the right behaviors in achieving the company goals.
From Balancing “I” with “We”: Rewarding Teams and Teamwork:
“In a team-oriented environment, employers must pair individual employee awards with collective team recognition in order to effectively motivate teams. … Recognize team behavior and accomplishments. It’s one thing to recognize a team for achieving a particularly difficult goal. It’s another to hold them up for the way in which they achieved that goal. … Encourage employees to recognize peers. Recognition from superiors isn’t the only form of recognition that matters, or motivates. Knowing that your team thinks you’re doing a good job is important to keeping people engaged.”
There’s another aspect here as well. I was recently asked in another forum how to appropriately recognize in a situation involving a very long, complex project in which a team member had completed their portion of the work in its entirety long before the entire project came to fruition. My answer: recognize the individual in the moment for his great work and delivery that helped the team project stay on track. Then when the project is complete, recognize the entire team.