February 2008 Issue --> Business Article
Rewarding Employees Without a Reward Program
By: Ruth Haag



Have you noticed that the "Employee of the Month" parking places at many department stores are remaining empty? I can only assume that this particular reward program has been disbanded, but no one thought to remove the sign.

Many reward programs are started with great excitement, and then fizzle out. The goal of reward programs is to create a gift that the employee will want so badly that they will work harder to obtain it. A secondary, unspoken, goal is for the supervisor to have an easy program to institute so that they will not have to think too deeply about their employees. These programs normally do not work in the long run. One of the reasons is that there are only a finite number of employees at any company. Eventually, all will have been awarded the "Employee of the Month" title. Of course the other problem is that employees do not work harder for rewards. They work harder only if they want to work harder because they feel that they are making an appreciated contribution.

What really makes employees happy?

I train groups of people from all walks of life. When I stand in front of a group and ask, "What makes you happy at work?" nearly all the time they reply "Recognition for a job well done." When I ask, "Do you mean that you would like an Employee of the Month certificate?" These people clearly explain to me, "I want my supervisor to notice the work that I do, and tell me that I have done a good job." We then go on to discuss how they want to be told, and it is pretty simple. They just want their supervisor to see what they are doing, and to say, with sincerity, "Good job," when it is a good job. No one else has to hear, they just want to know that they are appreciated.

The second most important thing to make them happy at work, according to the groups that I work with, is to feel that they are "in" on things. This means that they want to know what is going on with the entire company, and how their work fits in.

The easy reward program

If supervisors made sure, in their weekly or daily meetings, to tell their staff what is happening with the company, and then made sure to walk around and notice their employees while they are working, sincerely complimenting them for good work, they would notice a dramatic increase in dedication from their employees, and would see more work accomplished.

Supervisors need to care about employees

Employees are not usually asking for gifts and extra money. Employees are usually asking that their supervisor care about them, and appreciate the work that they do.

About the author:

Ruth Haag (www.RuthHaag.com) helps managers and employees understand the dynamics of the work environment, and how to function smoothly within it. She is the President/CEO of Haag Environmental Company. She has written a four-book business series: Taming Your Inner Supervisor, Day-to-Day Supervising, Hiring and Firing, and Why Projects Fail. Her enjoyable, easy-to-read books provide a look at life the way it is, rather than the way that you might think it should be.
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