As a manager, you know you have it good. Your team members work hard and make customers happy. They come through for you even when things get tough. You want to encourage them to keep up the great work and to stick with your business for the long haul instead of looking for another job. So what kinds of rewards and recognitions can you give them that will help accomplish these goals?

Grant Bonuses Carefully

When answering the above question, a lot of managers might think first of pay bonuses. Money should indeed be part of your rewards and recognition toolkit, but the keyword here is “part.”

If you can’t afford to hand out the cash rewards you would like to right now, you can still celebrate and motivate your hard-working employees with the other ideas in the article.

But if you are in a position to award bonuses, do some careful planning before you start cutting checks. Inc. warns that bonus programs, if executed badly, can actually end up discouraging employees. To make sure your bonus plan drives excellence and engagement, Inc. advises following these guidelines:

  • Make clear what employees need to do earn the bonus.
  • Set realistic group targets and help employees see the link between the target and their individual contributions.
  • Keep the rules consistent. Don’t change them midstream.
  • Pay bonuses promptly so that employees connect the behavior and the reward.

Use Flexibility as a Reward

Cash isn’t the only form of reward or recognition that’s valuable to employees. In a 2014 survey, 43% of employees said they would choose a more flexible schedule over a pay raise. And almost one third of the people surveyed said they would change jobs to get more flexibility in when they work.

It’s easy to see from those responses how much employees would value a flexible schedule as a reward for good work. As a manager, though, you might be concerned that offering more flexibility means you’ll have to spend extra time figuring out everyone’s work schedules. That’s where employee scheduling software like Planday can be a lifesaver. Planday both speeds up the scheduling process for you and gives employees more autonomy.

Motivate With Praise

One of workers’ top complaints about their jobs is that their employers don’t appreciate them enough. Meanwhile, other research has found that employees who receive recognition are three times more engaged and are much less likely to quit their jobs.

From those facts, we can see that expressing gratitude and praise is another effective way to reward employees and to encourage them to keep delivering great results for your business.

Remember, though, that different employees prefer different kinds of praise and recognition, according to Harvard Business Review.  One employee might be delighted if you compliment her lavishly in front of everyone at your next staff meeting. But the same approach might make a more self-conscious employee feel uncomfortable. He might prefer a handwritten thank-you note from you that he can save and reread. American Express’ OPEN Forum has a huge list of creative ways to say thank-you to your outstanding employees. You’re sure to find ideas here that suit all the different personalities on your team.

Harvard Business Review offers some more advice for making positive feedback more powerful:

  • Make a list of team members’ contributions you’ve been taking for granted and start working from that list.
  • Try to catch team members “in the act” of doing something good and praising them for it in that moment.
  • Be specific. In other words, instead of just saying “nice job!” identify what the employee is doing that’s working so well.

Remember the Deeper Rewards of Work

All the ideas we’ve talked about so far — bonuses, flexibility, praise — should go over well with just about all of your employees. But there’s also another kind of reward that helps workers stay engaged and productive.

Researchers have identified what they call intrinsic rewards. Intrinsic rewards help us feel that our work has a meaningful purpose or goal, that we’re making progress toward that goal, that we have choices on how to reach the goal and that we’re good at what we do.

We’re pretty good at recognizing at how we ourselves are driven by intrinsic rewards. But, researchers say, we tend to forget that others, like our employees, are also driven by intrinsic rewards and not solely by money or self-interest.

Ivey Business Journal provides a thorough guide to bolstering intrinsic rewards for your employees. Some of the ideas include:

  • Giving employees the chance to use their passions at work.
  • Granting them more decision-making authority in how they do their jobs.
  • Assigning projects that show your high degree of trust in them.
  • Giving them access to training or other ways to build their skills.
  • Holding celebrations to mark milestones.

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