Letting your employees know when they’re performing well is just as important as getting them assistance if they’re performing poorly. When employees are underperforming, tell them immediately so they can correct their mistakes as soon as possible. If your employees are performing well, it’s time for recognition and rewards.

The Difference Between Recognition and Reward

Recognition is imperative because it lets employees know they’re valued personally, and the sentiment can be delivered as soon as you notice an action. A proverbial pat on the back is a fantastic way to show an employee he or she is headed in the right direction. But major improvements warrant a larger reward. These often require a greater expenditure of time and money. Thus, they can’t be delivered immediately.

Although recognition is important, it may not be proportionate in certain situations. Acknowledging an employee’s hard work is good, but if all you give is recognition, there’s less incentive to perform well. This usually happens when recognition is given for performance that actually warrants some form of reward.

For example, companies looking to save cash may issue “rewards” that actually function as recognition, such as a certificate rather than a bonus. The intent is to let the employee know his or her work is appreciated. However, the message the individual gets is that he or she is personally valued, but not his or her work. This is particularly evident when the “job well done” is significant.

In the case of our hypothetical company that issues certificates, they’re valueless. From the perspective of an employee, the worker has done something that will allow the company to survive or even thrive. Therefore, it seems natural that some of the benefits the company gets should be given to him or her. It’s important from a managerial perspective to identify when an employee should be given praise or when he or she should be rewarded. It may be helpful to develop a system or strategy to define the difference between the two.

The Benefits of Giving Tangible Rewards

Rewards are common in the business world. From performance bonuses to gift cards, there are innumerable examples of how rewards function in a corporation. They’re popular because they allow the employee to share in the benefits he or she has earned for the company. Rewards show an employee what type of performance is truly beneficial.

From the employees’ perspective, some of the benefits the company reaps from their work belong to them. Therefore, giving them bonuses for what they’ve contributed is only fair – at least from this point of view. If the employees’ expectation of a reward is fair but not met, they may lose the motivation to reach company goals in the future. And those who didn’t perform well may feel they haven’t missed out on anything.

How to Reward Employees Appropriately

Rewards don’t have to be huge, but they require something of monetary value – even if it’s as small as a gift basket. When you give the employee a reward, you’re assigning a concrete value to his or her work. Be sure the reward is proportionate to the worker’s achievement.

Common Pitfalls When Rewarding an Employee

The first danger of rewards is that you might not individualize them enough. While bonuses are always a form of thank you, never forget the recognition factor, as well. Tell the individual what actions he or she took to earn the reward, and recognize his or her effort. Both the individual and the work are valued, which will make your employee a lot happier than acknowledging only one of these aspects.

  • To mitigate this danger, ask your employees what they find rewarding. This is particularly important with small rewards, where the recognition is just as significant. When you appreciate your employees’ input, give them something they want in return. That is part of the reason why money is such a popular form of reward.

The second problem that arises from choosing prizes improperly is giving rewards that don’t fit your corporate image. For instance, a company whose image depends on temperance and reliability shouldn’t be sending employees to Las Vegas.

  • Take care to send only the messages you mean to send, and consider what people will think before choosing a reward. This is as much to protect your workforce as it is to preserve the company’s image. Employees who work for a business that sends mixed messages can suffer backlash from public opinion.

Choosing a reward is particularly important because they’re designed to be non-negotiable. If the employee performs at a certain standard, he or she receives the reward. There can be different offerings for the same performance, but if the company gives a reward with defined levels, there should be no negotiations. The worker simply chooses which of the offerings he or she prefers.

How to Offer Rewards Properly

The term “rewards ceremony” is a bit of a misnomer. Often, the actual rewards aren’t distributed at these events. Instead, what people receive recognition at these ceremonies. The entire company is informed of the actions the honoree took that earned the recognition and the reward that will be dispersed later.

With this approach, your employees can enjoy more than the recognition of their superiors; it allows them to be recognized by their peers, as well. Recognition might be valued more coming from a superior than a coworker, but getting it from someone on the same level can still make a positive difference.

Maintaining Fairness With Incentives

Any employee who performs well should receive recognition, and for a reward to truly function properly, it needs to be given to everyone who meets the qualifications. Not bestowing a reward or recognition when appropriate sends the message that the employee isn’t valuable or valued. Arbitrariness hurts the company because you can lose good workers to dissatisfaction. Even if a professional remains with the company, his or her work quality will probably slip because you haven’t demonstrated that you value it.

Giving rewards is a form of investment. You’re investing money into an employee’s future, hoping he or she will stay with the company and continue to perform good work. Never send contradictory messages by not giving a reward when it’s warranted; your investments may not see any return. For help crafting the best assessment process, sign up for our performance review creation tool.