Employees deserve rewards for jobs well done, and one of the most popular rewards is a promotion. However, how do you know when an employee could benefit from a promotion, and when he or she might benefit more from another type of reward? Promotions sound nice, but sometimes they aren’t what a hard-working employee really wants or needs.

What Employees Want

Listening to your employees is a common-sense way to boost morale, but it also helps you increase productivity for the long-term benefit of both the company and employees. Did you know your performance review process can play an important role in understanding what your employees want?

Employees who aren’t satisfied with their work or the work environment may not perform as well as they could. They may feel unchallenged, ill equipped to excel in a certain position, or unhappy with something as simple as their office or cubicle location. Performance reviews have historically been the place to hear that you are close to the chopping block or that you have earned a promotion, but they also serve another purpose. Since the information is typically comprehensive, management can see which performers are on their way up, who needs a little help, and who may not pan out over the long term.

During the performance review, companies can and should highlight the two-way nature of the review. Managers are providing feedback for areas needing improvement and for jobs well done, but they can also serve as an important venue for discussing employee needs. Promotions are one way to find out the perks and incentives that mean the most to each employee.

Signs You Should Promote an Employee

Some companies incrementally promote employees based on length of service and work accomplishments, while other companies choose a more competitive promotional structure based on work accomplishments alone. However, companies can get into trouble if they promote one person and not another of equal capability. Rewards such as promotions need to stand on hard data that management has collected over time.

The performance review serves as the basis for identifying those signals and choosing whom to promote. Encourage supervisors and managers to keep employee performance logs. These logs will serve as baseline information for the performance review. Choose a performance review template that will include all the hard and soft skills needed for a current job and highlight the skills that benefit an employee if he or she earns a promotion.

Demonstrations of leadership skills are particularly important soft skills for those who are promoted. Client or customer feedback may also provide a wealth of information on the people management should look at in the near future. Other traits to watch for, and log, about potential promotion candidates include that:

  • They work well independently and as part of the team: Sharing knowledge and working for the benefit of the enterprise is a signal an employee is not merely worried about making himself or herself look good but is trying to accomplish a task for the benefit of the group.
  • They make small sacrifices to find solutions to problems: A good employee will work until it’s time to go home. A great employee will stay before or after, not to impress management, but to help find a solution to a pressing problem. Just because someone is physically in the office during break or after hours doesn’t mean he or she is contributing something meaningful. Look for those who make small sacrifices to help the department and company reach goals.
  • They understand their own weaknesses: Understanding your weaknesses is powerful. It means someone can take action to remedy those weaknesses or delegate tasks in those areas to someone who does them well. A great leader/performer understands his or her own strengths and weaknesses and how to use them.

Group Incentives

Performance reviews help management see promotable employees and help employees know where they stand. They can also help management identify patterns in departments. In many teams, the success of one member is possible only because of the hard work of many. If you notice patterns of teamwork, group learning, and individuals reaching out to uplift one another, then use the performance review process as a way to incentivize the group.

While not every employee deserves a promotion, they all may have earned a group outing once every other month or an extra perk. And many of these cost-effective incentives also act as team-building experiences.

The Power of Diverse Incentives

When someone isn’t quite ready for a promotion and a small financial incentive isn’t justified, there are other ways to offer rewards for exceptional performance. These smaller incentives let employee know you were listening to them and may appeal to alternative desires. Incentives may include:

  • Time off: In today’s world, many employees work themselves to the point of burnout before taking any vacation time. If your company has a strict paid time off policy, offering some extra time off for performance can go a long way. Encourage employees to unplug completely when they take time off, and delegate their workload to other team members as much as possible. This will minimize the back-to-work pile of to-dos and gives employees an opportunity to take real time off.
  • Benefits: Other than time off, consider giving an employee a more flexible schedule when needed, purchasing a new desk chair, or taking an employee who has shown significant improvement out to a celebratory lunch or dinner. Provide free parking or ask the employee what he or she really needs to continue performing at a high level. If you can’t provide something, keep the conversation open until you come to an agreement.
  • Public recognition: For smaller accomplishments, providing company-wide recognition often serves as an overlooked, but meaningful way to celebrate an employee’s accomplishments. Always acknowledge when an employee has done something particularly well.

Every company’s incentive program looks slightly different, but incorporating some better measurement processes and diversifying incentives allows management to improve motivation and morale, while rewarding a job well done. Start today with a professional performance review template.