"Companies have to break the bad habit," writes author and consultant Bob Nelson in a recent issue of Workforcemagazine, "of recognizing employees only by occasionally giving them stuff. They must realize that, for most employees most of the time, how they're treated on a daily basis matters more."
Nelson says that the traditional "stuff" — achievement awards, gifts, and perks — rank near the bottom in his surveys of how employees want their good performance to be recognized. What should you offer instead? Here's what he says:
- Good old-fashioned praise. In a recent survey Nelson conducted, "of the Top 10 recognition factors that employees indicated were important … four were types of praise — personal, written, electronic, and public." How that praise happens usually makes the difference between frustration and motivation, Nelson notes. Employees value praise that's "generated by those individuals they hold in high esteem at work, given in a timely, sincere, and specific manner."
- Other top motivators. The rest of the Top 10 in Nelson's survey included "support and involvement" — providing the information that employees need; involving employees in decision-making; soliciting employee ideas; and supporting them when they make mistakes.
Also ranking high, Nelson says, was "autonomy and authority" — giving workers choices of assignments, letting them decide how to best accomplish those tasks, and helping them pursue ideas for improvement. Additional motivators included flexible working hours, learning opportunities, and — importantly — "the availability and time of their manager."