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Rewarding your Employees – A Modern Introduction

It might surprise you to find out that an average of 60% of all employees never receive a simple ‘Thank you’ or any other form of acknowledgement or appreciation from their managers.

And Managers & various ‘Bosses’ always complain that employees are never motivated enough or that they have no company- spirit.

How can any organization (NGOs included) afford not to acknowledge, appreciate and reward the employees (or even volunteers) who really push themselves (and even their teammates – directly or indirectly) to achieve the organizations’ goals/ mission?

Employee (whether paid or volunteer) recognition is not just something cute or nice for your employees – it is possibly the best way to incentivise all the ones who want to perform greatly and possibly inspire others. An effective employee recognition should be a simple, direct, clear- to- understand and powerfully motivating process. It should send out a clear signal that your organization does recognize and acknowledge the hard work and commitment of its employees.

A little bit about Rewarding Employees

According to the OED (Oxford English Dictionary),

A Reward is something given in recognition of service, effort, or achievement. It should be given as a stimulus for good/ desired behaviour or as an acknowledgement for such desired behaviour having taken place. Actually, Recognition is the appreciation or acclaim for an achievement, service, or ability.  People tend to use interchangeably Reward and Recognition.

Any Reward & Recognition programs that you put in place in your company/ organization, they must affect the ‘desired’ behaviour in a measurable manner (remember SMART– John Whitmore’s Model? If not, google it please) and clearly improve results of a specific process.Your program should offer awards that everyone in your organization can earn.  Such a program needs both a budget (even non-monetary rewards cost money) and planning.

It is a common mistake to tie Rewards Programs to the Employees’ Annual Performance Review. Sure, they should be part of it, but not restricted by it. It can be project-based or even a simple reward for an employee’s performance during a complex task

What does constitute a good Reward?

  1. It should be clearly communicated and easily understood by all employees, so everyone knows how to ‘get’ that reward.
  2. It should be simple; a 20-step program that needs 2 years to complete, is far away from any motivational arena.
  3. The Employees should like what they receive.; otherwise, there is no motivation to get an undesirable Reward. In reality, this is all about employee happiness, engagement, job satisfaction and employer- loyalty
  4. Your organization should clearly and measurably benefit from the relevant positive behaviour. Think of it as ROI or ROR (Return On Reward). It’s all about productivity.
  5. When possible, the Reward should improve team/ company spirit and contribute to a more positive workforce. We are all familiar with negative rewards of this type- e.g. a student does something wrong and the whole class gets punished. Let’s make an effort to concentrate on positive Group Rewards when possible!
  6. Avoid award should have some uniqueness and relevancy. An employee- of- the- month might sounds nice in a place workers come and go, otherwise, eventually everybody one time or another is employee of the month. Also coupon for a free cool unique racing activity in a city 3 hrs drive from your current location, might be not so appealing or of any value to a pregnant woman in your organization.

How do to Setup an Employee Reward Program & Ideas.

The internet is full of such things- there is no value for me to repeat them here. But why you are busy with setting up a program, how hard is to:

  • Just say ‘Thank You’ to an employee and teach your Managers to do the same?
  • Write a simple 1-liner ‘Thank you’- note? When is the last time that you did that?
  • Endorse a relevant LinkedIn skill or even better, give them a specific, nice & honest LinkedIn recommendation?
  • Praise them in public?
  • Take them out for a drink or a simple meal? Even if there is no budget for it, you as a manager will benefit in the long term with a promotion if you have an outperforming team.
  • Ask the company to send them for a specific training or even to pay their transportation expenses (in case your company doesn’t)?
  • Send the home earlier one day? Remember how fun was during school days to be send home early? It’s a magic feeling even for adults.
  • …..

The Case for Non-Monetary Rewards.

We ALL like cash, but that does not imply that we get more enjoyment out of how we spend it. Non-Monetary Awards differentiate the Award from another addition in the pay-check; so it gives it a unique value. Monetary awards have not been proven to be as effective as non-cash awards (2004 Research on Reward and Productivity by Prof. Scott Jeffrey at the University of Chicago). A Monetary award is soon forgotten; the Special/ sort of Trophy Award staying a lot longer in anyone’s (awardee and teammates) memory. A non-Monetary award, can obviously be personalized; that usually leads to employee- loyalty. The Perceived Value (e.g. Pride) of a simple non-Monetary award has no cash- equivalent.  Think of when you received a public acknowledgement of your good results by your manager and/or his/her manager?

Should you reward Bad Employees? 

Simply put, if you see the Reward as a Motivational Incentive, the answer is YES!
Remember, Rewards should be related to a measurable (SMART) outcome.

Unless you hired the wrong person for a given role, that person can have a full variety of reasons as to why s/he is underperforming; it can be job dissatisfaction, bad mentoring or managerial guidance, lack of morale/ loss of interest for the job, etc. Your HR possibly has several ways of addressed and resolving this issues. But still, you might want to incentivise those underperformers by utilizing an inclusive rewards strategy/ policy.  In such a case, the only way to succeed, is not just by having a way to control progress towards the reward achievement, but also by providing support to help those underperforming employees do better/ achieve more.

Some plain Facts

According to a 2010-2011 poll by Maritz Research ( ), employees who are recognized on the job are: 

  • 5 times more likely to feel valued
  • 7 times more likely to stay with the company
  • 6 times more likely to invest in the company
  • 11 times more likely to feel completely committed to the company


  • 80 % of employees surveyed feel rewards and recognition programs strengthen their relationship with a company
  • More than two of five (42%) respondents consider reward and recognition program opportunities when seeking employment
  • The more reward and recognition opportunities, the more employees feel their company is a great place to work (69 % of the respondents with at least one program said their company was a great place to work; 84 % of participants with at least three programs said their company was a great place to work)
  • 59 % of Survey participants said more apt to remember group and individual travel rewards more than cash
  • Employees are less likely to talk about earning cash rewards with their coworkers, compared to other types of rewards
  • Two of five survey respondents used cash rewards to spend on bills and other life necessities, such as gas and groceries

‘My own’ ROR Equation

This is my own formula/ ‘equation’ but – please- feel welcome to modify it.

Right Regards +to the Right People +for the Right Reasons/ Results= Productivity Increase + Improved Moral = Employee Engagement + Loyalty + Job Satisfaction.

In Conclusion

Not all awards should be part of an established and well- managed Corporate Reward program…  Use a bit magic and you will be amazed with the power of a simple ‘Thank you’ or ‘please’ or Job well- done’. And, it’s the Confident Manager/ Leader who is not afraid to Thank his/her employees

By the way, have you ever considered / experimented with how extraproductive an employee is when you provide him/her with a mifi and a 5-10 GB monthly credit?

Thank you and Good Luck with your ROR results!


About the Author: Irene Gloria Addison is the owner of HIREghana [Human Intelligence Recruitment], a Leader Ghanaian Recruitment Agency and also a HRM & Organizational Development Consultancy, based in Accra. Irene welcomes your feedback/ comments/ remarks/ suggestions via your email message to HIREghana can be reached at +233 50 228 5155 or +233 266 555 907

Our website is

© 2017 Irene Gloria Addison and © 2017 Human Intelligence Recruitment


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