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Reserve Rewards for Top-Notch Performance

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Performance Reviews

by Bruce Tulgan

Imagine if your organization’s managers could stop paying people and start buying their results, one by one. What do you think would happen if every manager had the discretion, the ability, the skill and the gumption to start negotiating with employees as if they were outside vendors?

What if they could tie every single reward and detriment solely to measurable instances of employee performance—one person at a time, one day at a time?

How can they do that? Give every person the chance to meet the basic expectations of his or her job and then the chance to go above and beyond—and to be rewarded accordingly.

Create trust and confidence through open communication and transparency so every employee knows exactly what to do to earn rewards—no matter how great or small those rewards might be.

Monitor, measure and document the process every step of the way. When employees deliver on their commitments, their managers must deliver on promised rewards. If employees fail to meet commitments, their managers have to call them on that failure immediately and withhold the reward.

Cash bonuses tied to specific performance benchmarks and spot bonuses for extra-mile performances are good places to start. The more rewards your organization’s managers have in their repertoire to use at their discretion, the more effective they will be as managers.

What workers care about: 6 carrots

Help your organization’s managers look at the discretionary resources that already are at their disposal. Based on research conducted by Rainmaker Thinking, employees really care about six key reward elements that usually are within the manager’s discretion, so they can be used as bargaining chips to drive performance:

  1. Money and benefits. How much is contingent on clear performance benchmarks tied directly to concrete actions the individual employee can control?
  2. Schedule. What are the levers for achieving more or less scheduling flexibility?
  3. Relationships. What determines whom the employee has a chance to work with (or avoid)?
  4. Tasks. How can employees earn opportunities to work on more choice projects?
  5. Learning opportunities. What do employees have to do to gain access to learning opportunities?
  6. Location. Why are some employees allowed to telework, while others aren’t? Make it clear that it’s an earned benefit, not an entitlement.

Customize these accommodations as rewards for stellar performances rather than as routine benefits that anybody can tap. Managers can help their employees earn these rewards by telling them explicitly what they need to do for each one.

The key is to let employees know that custom deals are not to be taken for granted; they must be earned every step of the way, and always remain contingent on the manager’s discretion.

Bruce Tulgan is the founder of the management training firm Rainmaker Thinking and author of It’s Okay to be the Boss (HarperCollins, 2007), Managing Generation X and Winning the Talent Wars. Contact him at brucet@rainmakerthinking.com. 

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