Employee Retention 802- Rewards & Recognition revisited

Shawnee Love   •  
May 25, 2010

I attended a function for women in business recently where the speaker asked the mostly female audience what makes us happier:

  • When our partners participate in the little everyday chores, like doing dishes, getting the kids ready, etc., or
  • When our partners do the big chores, like clean the gutters, paint the house, etc.

That question was a no-brainer for me. I am happier I get help with the small stuff, day after day, week after week. In answering that question, I also realized that I may not say thanks for all the little things, yet I often wax poetic about the larger projects.

This was an “A-HA” moment for me because I am always talking to managers about saying thanks for the small stuff- to their employees, their colleagues and even their bosses. (Yes, bosses like to be recognized too!) Yet here I was not walking the talk, which I know is a fatal flaw for a leader (even a leader in a household).

One takeaway for me of that seminar was that rewards and recognition are just as important in our personal lives as at work. And arguably, it is within a  household where we see the amazing power and value of recognition (since we rarely pay our spouses for helping raise our children and run our household).

At work we have a few more options in the forms of rewards, and as such, we are often less creative with our recognition and rely more on bonuses and monetary incentives to say thanks. However, I am increasingly seeing research come across my desk indicating that monetary rewards aren’t as great as we might have been led to believe.

It has been my experience that one of the surest ways to encourage an employee to succeed in the future is to help them succeed now. Success is addictive. It is why people jump on the bandwagon of a sports team that is on fire and want to transfer to the sales team that scores the key contracts. People want to be associated with winners. They want to “soar with the eagles” (rather than be grounded with a bunch of turkeys).

So as a manager, how can you give your employees the powerful reward of success? I encourage managers to enable their employees to succeed by:

  • setting clear expectations,
  • removing obstacles like red tape, and
  • providing adequate resources including tools, guidance, support, etc.

Managers can also reward employees by recognizing learning experiences which I offer up as the opposite to criticizing for mistakes. I am reminded of the business legend of Tom Watson, President of IBM who is quoted as saying “Recently, I was asked if I was going to fire an employee who made a mistake that cost the company $600,000. No, I replied. I just spent $600,000 training him. Why would I want somebody to hire his experience?”