The Best Way to Thank Employees is to Make it Personal

I’m working with a client now where the one of the company’s core values is relationships.   The value they place on relationships, with their employees and their customers, leads to a competitive advantage for the company. But I don’t think they do it because it creates a competitive advantage. They do it because it is just the right thing to do.

One thing I’ve learned from them is how this value actually plays out in the way that they recognize and reward employees.

As an outsider looking in they:

  1. Get to know their people as people, not just as workers
  2. Set clear expectations for everyone in the company
  3. Reward people in a personal way when expectations are met. They are able to do this because they did step number one.

Because they reward people in a personal way, their employees are more loyal, work harder and continue to met and exceed the clear expectations that are set.

For example, they have a high performing engineer. The guy loves anything to do with planes and flying. He did a great job last year. His bonus was flying lessons (and in case you didn’t know, flying lessons are not cheap).

I have a book sitting on my shelf in my office that is titled 1501 Ways To Reward Employees by Bob Nelson. It is a good little book to get you thinking. It lists things like “provide a free makeover, give a full-day pass to a spa, give passes for bungee jumping, skydiving, hot-air balloon ride, whitewater rafting, provide lessons: golf, scuba, flying, rafting, tennis, horseback riding, cooking, painting…” and so on and so forth.

All these things are cool, but if you give someone who is scared of heights skydiving lessons, that isn’t rewarding, that is scary to them.   I’d love a pass to the spa, but would my husband? Nope. And if you gave him a pass to the spa thanking him for a job well done, I think his first thought would be, you don’t even know me at all do you? Taking the time to know people on a personal level communicates to them that they matter and you care.

If you are going to reward people, make sure what you are doing is actually rewarding. This means that giving the same reward to everyone company wide, is oftentimes not rewarding to most.   A ham at Christmas is nice, but do all your employees like ham?

And before you go saying, well money is rewarding to everyone, just give everyone money as bonus, stop and think about that for a minute. I just had a conversation with someone that is willing to take a pay cut for more flexibility at her job. Money isn’t rewarding to her, the flexibility is.   She will work harder for the boss that gives her more flexibility in getting her work done than she will the boss that pays her more.

How do you personalize your rewards? When you do, what results do you see?

Mary Ila Ward

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