Rewarding Employees

As times change, so do the expectations of employees in the workplace (Robb, 2007). They want to be appreciated for their contributions, and employers need to be creative in ways of doing so.

Here are a few reasons why providing recognition in the workplace is a must--especially during tough times. So come on, managers, it’s time for some reward lessons!

Recognition Is FREE!

One of the most effective, yet powerful ways to reward and recognize employees is also the cheapest. A simple “great job” or “thank you” in a spontaneous and timely manner can mean a lot to anyone. Don’t forget to mention the task, project or behavior being recognized, and be sincere.

This simple recognition makes employees feel better about themselves, their work and the company (Cadrain, 2003). It also can motivate them to achieve higher levels of performance in hopes of receiving additional compliments.

Doing this in front of peers and fellow employees will have an even bigger impact--it will motivate other employees to start thinking about how they can receive similar recognition. However, repetition can be predictable, so have a variety of praises prepared for employees.

According to a Gallup poll, the increase among workers who are completely satisfied with the amount of recognition they receive went from 47 to 48 percent in a three-year period. The increase is not much different than in 2002, when 46 percent were completely satisfied (Saad, 2010). With only half of the American workforce satisfied with the amount of recognition, there is much room for improvement!

The following are some tips to provide more recognition:

1. Be specific.

It is highly rewarding for employees to have a clear idea of how they are doing, and where improvement may be needed. Aside from the actual performance appraisal, employers have the opportunity to show a genuine interest in employees and their careers, and this is one of the greatest rewards they can provide.

When recognition is on the table, feel free to provide more autonomy, control and decision-making responsibilities! Not only does this help improve employee performance, but it also signifies that employees can be trusted to handle more. But remember--job enrichment is earned by those whose performance is consistently strong, and should be received as a reward for excellence.

2. Reward those whose performances have improved.

Not all employees are stars; some may find themselves struggling more than others in achieving predetermined goals. A manager’s role is to make sure the non-stars are receiving coaching, guidance and support.

With some luck, a lot of determination and hard work, those who struggle may surprise you. Recognition at this point is positive reinforcement that will encourage employees who struggle with their job to continue their successful behavior. Even if these are not the Most Valuable Players (MVPs) on the team, they can be recognized as the most-improved players! Like MVPs, employees who improve should be singled out in front of the group and praised for their performances.

3. Good publicity can work miracles.

After identifying the MVPs and the most-improved players, provide some type of publicity to increase the positive impact of the rewards. Designate a wall for employee recognition. Fast-food chains, recreation centers and large corporations have them, so why don’t you?

This “Wall of Fame” should contain rewards, recognition and appreciation, such as employees’ photos, announcements and commendations. The wall should be in a high-traffic area where employees will stop to look without blocking entrances or exits. Not only do employees feel good every time they see themselves, but the recognition will continue when colleagues comment that they saw him or her on “the Wall.”

4. Spend time with employees.

Show interest in employees beyond work accomplishments. Inaccessible or generally invisible managers make employees feel they are not valued by the higher-ups or the company. Spending time in employees’ work areas is rewarding to employees, essentially telling them that, although there are other issues that need attention, the team is also important.

Do not pay visits only when a problem needs to be addressed; meet with employees to see how things are going and ask a few questions, but be willing and open to answer even more. In contrast to physical rewards, these ongoing psychological rewards build employees’ sense of self-worth and competence.

5. Promote from within.

This is considered to be one of the best ways to recognize and reward those who consistently demonstrate excellent work. Usually seen as the ultimate reward, it fulfills the successful employees’ needs for recognition, achievement, responsibility and personal growth.

For those who are promoted, be sure there is also a tangible reward, like a raise, a better office or workstation, a better parking spot or maybe an extra day or two off. Such acts typically motivate others to work harder to receive a similar reward.

To make an even better impression, formally announce the recognition, and send the recipients a personal note. And don’t forget--employees remember every promotion. So, put up your brightest smile and harness the power of recognition.

Works cited:

Cadrain, D. (2003). “Cash vs. Non-cash rewards.” HR Magazine 48(4), 81-87.

Robb, D. (2007). “A total view of employee rewards.” HR Magazine 52(8), 93-95.

Saad, L. (2010). “On-the-job stress in U.S. workers’ biggest complaint.” Retrieved from

Tatiana Chalkidou is currently a doctoral student at Oklahoma State University. She holds an MBA from the University of Leicester as well as a Bachelor of Science from the University of Athens in Greece. She has worked for the Athens 2004 Organization Committee during the 2004 Olympics. She can be reached via e-mail at

Bryan BuchkoComment