20 Low Cost Rewards That Fuel Performance
I know pathetic managers who are so poor at noticing performance that their team simply tolerates them. In some cases these managers are threatened by the success of others. They are de-motivators.
Successful managers build morale, motivation and enthusiasm, by using low or no cost rewards that highlight performance.
Rewards let us know what we do matters.
Honoring high performance reinforces high performance.
Within limits, you get more of what you reward. In a world of tight budgets here’s how to reward performance without breaking the bank.
20 Low or no cost rewards:
- Lunch with the boss.
- Public recognition.
- Bring them coffee.
- Say, “Thank-you.” Look into their eyes and say the words.
- Personal, positive feedback. Remember the 4 to 1 rule – at least four positives for every negative.
- A gift. The local Lion’s club gave me a bronzed Lion for speaking at their meeting. It sat on my desk for years. Give a pen set, brief case, clock, or other item for their office.
- Write a personal thank-you.
- Pizza party for the team.
- Send flowers to their spouse.
- A day off. Let them know if the high priority project is completed by Thursday they get Friday off.
- Tickets to a local event.
- Unusual awards. Hewlett-Packard gives engineers that solve tricky problems the Golden Banana Award. It’s a great honor to receive it.
- Power to choose their next project.
- First choice on scheduling vacations.
- A new office chair, computer, or electronic device.
- Applause, a handshake, and a pat on the back.
- Meet the CEO.
- Cook lunch for the team and serve them.
- Flex time.
Warning: Don’t let your drive to achieve cause you to overlook progress.
What low or no cost rewards that fuel performance can you suggest?
This is an excellent reward idea list. But, don’t forget about the other important components of effective recognition . . . it must be specific to given performance, timely (managers often mess up on this one), and sincere.
Excellent post Dan – all great ideas and a good reminder for all of us, that if we don’t appreciate our teammates they’ll depreciate.
Thanks for the insight, reminder, and ideas!
This is a topic that I often discuss with the leadership of organizations and have spent much time researching. Your list is a nice starting point for newly appointed managers or for leadership that has never consistently acknowledged performance, save the yearly bonus.
I like your ideas of time off for meeting a deadline (number 10). It acknowledges the employee put forth significant effort to propel the company forward. A comparable reward is to give the employee time to rejuvenate and spend it doing something that will propel their own interests.
Power to choose their next project (14) is fabulous! What a great way to recognize an employees’ efforts while empowering them to have a say in their future. Bravo!
However, several ideas on your list are behaviors that should occur, not as a reward but just because it’s how a decent organization operates.
For example, positive reinforcement (5). If a leader is not incorporating this most basic of behaviors, they will quickly learn that they will be forced to over-manage and under-coach. Their employees will do just enough to get by, and either leave the department or stay there as an under-performer for years.
Where you enjoy the item received from the Lion’s Club (6), the average employee does not want another company logo item any where near them. It’s less of a reward, and more of a sign of a lack of creativity.
Meeting the CEO (18) is not a reward. It’s a signal that the company has glorified a position. Meeting the CEO should be a matter of course within the first 90 days of employment, as the employee meets others within the organization.
Rewards and recognition can be a tricky (and touchy) subject for both employees and leaders. The way I encourage a leader to build a rewards and recognition program is with this statement: “Get to know your employees.” You cannot motivate someone, but you can create a motivating atmosphere. And you cannot create a motivating atmosphere if you don’t take the time to know your employees and personalize your rewards to meet their expectations.
For the start-ups out there that have little tangible to offer, check your business credit card reward points. Surely you have accumulated enough to get a gift card to your super employee’s favorite store, restaurant or coffee house.
Great list, Dan. #9, a gift or note to the spouse is my favorite. Another good one is praising performance to YOUR boss. Always best when the person being praised is present, but you can cc them if it’s done via email. Best, Kevin
Making sure your top performers have all of the tools they need to do their job.
I would merge the lunch w/ boss to be near the anniversary date of joining the organization. (Certainly could do the lunch thing more than once a year) The anniversary lunch is a natural celebration and can serve as both a reflective time of achievements (also makes sure the boss knows all of the achievements) and a projective time of what future goals might be on the horizon that the individual is interested in. It also is a dedicated, special time which is quite powerful.
I love this list, and used many of them with great success when I led organizations and departments.
Now as a career coach, I have so many clients who have demotivating bosses – micromanagement and criticism being the two biggest offenses. Talking to one client today, I wondered yet again why there is such a huge disconnect between leadership theory and the actual behavior of many “leaders” (I use quotes because I don’t actually think of them as leaders, they are bosses).
What you and other leadership folks show is that you get great results and performance from people when you pay attention to how you interact with them – that the HOW is more important than the WHAT or end result. My experience is that when I pay attention to the quality of my relationships with staff and colleagues, we get amazing things done. Any thoughts about why so few bosses seem to understand that?
Relationships are difficult and messy, and they demand tending. Some people aren’t very good at relationship building/improving/maintaining. Can they get better with attention and work? Sure. The key is in helping them to see what an important priority it is.
This is a great list.
I particularly want to draw attention to thanking people for their work. I absolutely believe this needs to be done. And I believe it needs to be done with absolute integrity.
My last boss was very good at saying words of appreciation, writing them on the card with our Christmas gifts, telling us in staff meetings how grateful he was for our work.
He was also good at avoiding constructive criticism until there was a whole pile of it and it no longer felt constructive. He was good at avoiding conflict and messiness until there was so much it could no longer be ignored. He was a great guy (still is, as far as I know), but I began to be unable to trust him as a boss.
When he thanked and appreciated the whole team, my experiences with him led my own saboteurs to say “Yeah, except for you. He doesn’t really appreciate you, but he can’t single you out and say, ‘Well, I mean I appreciate all of you except Jane.'”
He also lied about things, but that’s a tale for a different time.
I guess my point is this: Thank people often. Be authentic always.
Sorry about posting anonymously. I don’t care to be too revealing about specifics under my real name.
I like your list Dan. #s 12 & 19 are particular favorites of mine. Those $99 training days away from work do wonders to rejuvenate the brain—the just right guy with a fresh approach is always attending right along side your guy.
I also made it a habit for the 25+ years I spent in management positions in manufacturing to bake the birthday cake for those reporting to me(and those others that requested it); sometimes as many as three a week. I should own stock in Duncan Hines.
Very little cost for great reward.
As Jen said there are some novel ideas here and some essential standards.
The biggest challenge for most managers is separating out recognition FROM rewards.
Recognition can be defined as the tangible or intangible expression of acknowledgement for an individual’s contribution, achievements or observed behaviors. It is so much more personal in nature and has positive relationships between giver and receiver.
Rewards on the other hand are something given or done in return for meeting pre-determined goal(s), merit, service or achievement and may be monetary. They’re more impersonal in nature and mostly transactional between giver and receiver.
What is great though is that for any of the rewards you list, along with others, you can give a “Recognition Uplift” to by HOW you give it, execute it, add words to (spoken or written) in deliverying the reward.
There is no doubt that the simple “thank you” expressed specifically for the action or behaviors demonstrated, with meaning shared for the contribution made, with sincere and authentic words, will always mean far more than anything else you can give.
Love the discussion on this Dan.
Keep leading us!
What a great conversation, Dan, Jen and Roy. Thanks for triggering it Dan, for critiquing it Jen and for so skillfully discerning between reward and recognition, Roy. There is a third idea of which reward and recognition may both be subsets: appreciation. Reward and recognition are often strategies. Appreciation is a character trait. Appreciation comes from the heart, reward and recognition could come from the head!
It is interesting that in classical Hebrew, the word for appreciation and confession or admission, is the same. “Thank you” means: “I confess that I am undeserving of the generosity/kindness/gesture/help you just showed me. I REALLY appreciate it, it means so much to me.” That does something for the other, doesn’t it? At least it creates certainty in the other’s mind that I will not take them for granted or abuse their generosity.
In Lead By Greatness I argue, that the fear of exploitation is in most people’s cases, the only inhibitor of almost unlimited generosity. We are wired to help. Exploitation shorts the generosity circuit.
Author: Lead By Greatness
For innovative ideas that were implemented, we gave guys in the mill a ball cap with a light bulb stitched into it. Most of the guys wore ball caps anyway and these become much coveted!
I like reading what you have to say, and find many things good advice, and would have come in handy for me when I was working for a large corporation, back then…
What things can be said for those of us who work alone, but need to network with others in order to bring in business? Buying coffee works, but not sending something to a spouse…
Recognition is really important and the cost of not doing it is really high.
And as you said simple low cost things usually make the biggest impact.
The main goal is to show that you care and for that you need to take time to know the people and found what will really make their day, everyone is different.
The #1 thing a leader can do (and it doesn’t cost much) is respect the fact that as a parent, I need just a bit of flexibility – to make the class play, to eat the occasional lunch with my child (when the kids were in elementary school this was a BIG deal). Give me that latitude and I’ll go to extraordinary lengths to pay you back in dedication.
I have “Waffle Wednesday” occasionally. I bring in the supplies with all the trimmings and cook waffles one morning. It’s just for fun, not for any special time but my staff likes it.