The Right Way to Reward Employees

GOOD-JOB-PHOTOWe all know that employee recognition is important. Not only do we naturally want to acknowledge the high-functioning teams we lead for their hard work, but we want to be recognized for our own contributions to the organization’s success. Recently, IBM’s Smarter Workforce Institute published a white paper with great data on the importance of rewarding employees. Here are a few key findings from their survey of 19,000 workers:

  • Employees who receive recognition are more likely to be engaged at work. The engagement level of employs who receive recognition is almost three times higher than the engagement level of those who do not.
  • Workers who receive recognition are less likely to quit. Without recognition, about half (51%) of surveyed employees say they intend to leave, but with recognition just one quarter (25%) say they intend to leave their organizations.

So, what is the right way to recognize employees to ensure engagement and reduce turnover? Some experts will tell you that each generation prefers to be recognized in a different way. According to those generational researchers, Boomers want to know their work and loyalty are valued and in exchange they expect security. Gen X is more intrinsically motivated, so they want a challenge and promotions. Gen Y wants instant gratification through bonuses or flexible time.
All of these generational differences make it difficult to design a single consistent employee rewards program across the entire organization. Where flex time or creative side projects might be attractive for some, others just want the cold hard cash of a bonus.
IBM’s Smarter Workforce Institute white paper reinforces the idea that there’s no one right way to reward all of your employees. Their data found that employees whose organizations use multiple communication channels for recognition are more likely to feel appreciated and show a higher level of employee engagement. The more channels used for recognition, the higher the employee engagement level.
As you recognize your employees, consider doing so through multiple channels including face-to-face, email, corporate social network, etc., in order to boost engagement. And when in doubt, ask the employee what rewards motivate them the most. No two employees are exactly the same, and their needs will change as their careers progress. In the end, the best reward is the one that means the most to that particular employee at that specific point in time.