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Whether you are in the beginning stages of planning a new employee rewards program or are years deep in your program, rewards systems require regular adjustment. Just as business objectives and industries change, rewards systems must be altered to fit your changing business in order for them to be successful at continually motivating your employees.

FREE GUIDE: How to Set Up an Employee Rewards and Recognition Program

We don’t see these bumps in the road as roadblocks, but rather as opportunities to reevaluate our systems, make adjustments and proceed ahead with a clear goal.

Key Factors Needed for Rewards to Work

In the Ivey Business Journal, employee engagement expert, Kenneth Thomas, lists the key factors needed for intrinsic rewards to effectively motivate employees in his article, The Four Intrinsic Rewards that Drive Employee Engagement.

  1. Company Value. Encourage employees to care deeply for the organization. Continually share a clear picture of what can be achieved through dedication and hard work. Always connect the work to the overall vision.
  2. Engaged Employees. Encourage employees to take responsibility within their teams and for their individual work. Actively show your confidence in your employees’ self management and decision-making. Support them through providing clear direction, facts and resources. Encourage employees to work past mistakes and learn from them rather than punishing errors.
  3. Stimulating Environment. Respect employees’ competence, challenge them and provide constructive, positive feedback regularly. Always give employees credit for their successes. Share insights from your education and experience, never from emotion or favoritism.
  4. Progress and Involvement. Keep a forward thinking vision with all employees and actively encourage teamwork. Show clear progress towards goals and milestones and take the time to celebrate them as a team. Share customer satisfaction insights and encourage interaction between employees and customers.

You’re Not Alone! Common Problems with Rewards Programs

Problems in your employee rewards programs may arise from a number of sources, effectively undermining the whole process and even decreasing employee trust. These issues rarely occur intentionally, but rather from a lack of attention during busy months, or a general assumption that everything is fine.

Regardless, know you are not alone! We all experience minor bumps in the road when trying something new, especially when that something new is shaping behavior.

The good news is: We have a whole list of tips for troubleshooting those testy issues below. Keep reading!

Problem #1: Program is Unclear

The number one problem with rewards programs is they are not communicated clearly and often enough. Keep in mind that not all employees sit at their computers all day and some may never see your signs in the break room.

Communicate your program clearly in multiple formats (email, posters, verbally in meetings, on schedules, etc.) and make steps easy to remember and follow. You may also find it useful to check in with employees at meetings to ensure everyone understands how to work towards the rewards.

Problem #2: Timing is Off

Rewards must be varied often and given in a timely manner. If you happen to run low on reward inventory or your employees begin to expect a certain reward, you may not see the increase in productivity you were expecting. Implement a system that can help you vary rewards to retain interest and always deliver rewards on time.

Problem #3: Poor Motivators

You may think your reward is great, but if your employees don’t agree, you’re not going to get anywhere. Include your employees in determining motivators to understand what they would respond best to. Vary reward value and the reason for the reward to keep employees interested.

Problem #4: Data is Not Objective

When designing rewards programs, it is common to let emotion and ego turn an objective system into a means for controlling people. Be sure rewards are seen as rewards by all employees and not just by a select few.

Never use rewards as a means for correcting the undesirable behavior of a few employees. Objective data and analytics will help your team avoid any favoritism or mistakenly glossing over quiet employees.

Problem #5: High Performers Slack

While rewards programs help keep employees on task and encourage low performers to step up their game, they may discourage top performers and risk takers.

For salespeople who regularly hit above target, pay close attention and perhaps, offer them higher targets with larger rewards to keep them engaged. To encourage creativity and innovation, offer sporadic rewards for risks and out-of-the-box thinking.

Troubleshooting for Successful Employee Rewards Systems

The Connection Between Company Goals and Rewards Must Be Strong and Reinforced Often.

Strengthen these connections in ongoing conversations with employees and by clearly defining individual goals and their contribution to the bigger picture.

Include Employees in Development and Planning of Your New Reward Program and in Any Revisions Over Time.

Shauna Geraghty of Talldesk recommends inviting employee input to ensure rewards are strong and means for acquiring them attainable. Including employees will also make them feel more valued within your organization.

Ensure Your Program is Clearly Communicated to All Employees.

Goals should be clearly defined and the steps to receive a reward should be very easy to understand and follow. The best way to make sure this is working is to ask your employees directly. You get a lot more information from conversations and interviews than you do surveys.

When Giving a Reward, Always Specify Exactly What Behavior or Milestone Earned the Reward.

This is why it is best to reward in the moment. Employee to employee reward systems are effective in rewarding things you, as a manager, may miss.

Vary Rewards Often to Keep Employees Interested.

Rewards should be both large and small and be for use both inside and outside the office. A combination of extrinsic, monetary-type rewards and intrinsic motivators is best. Give unexpected rewards in addition to progress-based rewards to reward creative thinking and employees who go above and beyond. Often it is the intention of the reward that carries more value than the object that symbolizes the reward.

Reward Teamwork and Cooperation in Addition to Personal Achievement.

Combining competitive and non-competitive reward programs work best for encouraging employees with different motivational drives.

Reward Only What Employees Can Control.

Unfortunately, no one employee can control your Q2 profits and they should not be expected to. Instead, Jeff Haden of Inc. Magazine recommends rewarding employees for hitting productivity targets, and celebrate larger company milestones reached as a team.

Always base rewards on objective performance data and allow employees to see their progress towards goals.

Rewards Must Be Attainable, Delivered in a Timely Manner, and Sincere.

If they aren’t, you may destroy trust between management and employees. Our system can help you manage this.

Management Must Be Actively Involved.

It does no good to launch a program if the management team is not constantly engaged, offering useful feedback and support to employees. Ensure managers understand the program by including them in the planning and by encouraging them to reward each other as well as employees.

Dow Scott of Loyola University recommends additional metrics for measuring “the extent to which supervisors or managers encourage engagement among their subordinates” and rewarding of managers who are effective in “developing employee engagement.”

Track Results and Make Changes.

What worked last year may not work this year. Your rewards may carry less value as tangible gifts become dated and employee interests change.

Moreover, your company goals may change, requiring individual targets to shift. Our dashboards make it easy to track reward program effectiveness and make tweaks, as needed.

Each employee rewards system is unique to an organization. Don’t assume a one-size-fits-all approach and always be willing to experiment until you find the right fit. It may take time to plan, but it all becomes worthwhile when you see your big picture numbers steadily increase.


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