That sounds simple, but managers often blunder by devising overcomplicated incentive programs with pages and pages of rules, provisions and exceptions. If employees must read through a dense document that resembles an insurance policy in order to assess their chance to earn rewards, you’re already doomed.
Motivating people by offering the right rewards begins after you hire them. Conclude orientation sessions by asking, “How would you like to be rewarded?” Have them e-mail you with their answer.
Ideally, employees will pinpoint the type of bonus they want (such as paid time off, extra cash, a nicer office). If they don’t propose specific rewards, provide some choices. Just make sure you offer the same range of choice to everyone so that you’re consistent.
Don’t assume money conquers all. Some people value special gifts, flex schedules or other perks over extra cash.
Their replies not only help you understand how they perceive themselves and their abilities but also enable you to craft the most enticing incentives to spur them to excellence. What’s more, your interest will in itself prove motivating. They will appreciate your willingness to customize rewards for them.
Once you establish what works best for each employee, recognize strong effort even from your less stellar performers. Beware of lavishing prizes only on those individuals who outshine their peers—and neglecting the rest.