Smart Leaders: Don’t Forget the Carrots

Managers need to put more effort into rewarding employees

Rewarding employees for their hard work and wonderful contributions is one of the most important things for any company or organization. It not only makes employees feel more appreciated and motivated, but also helps create a positive vibe throughout the workplace.

Sometimes, however, it’s challenging to find the best ways to reward employees. They’re not all the same, and often need to be recognized in different ways. In their book, The 24-Carrot Manager, Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton address this topic by focusing on ways leaders can provide “carrots” to unleash their employees’ potential.

The authors have plenty of experience to back up their viewpoints. Both work for O.C. Tanner, the world’s largest employee recognition firm. Gostick is director of marketing and corporate communications and Elton is vice president of performance recognition. Their book is divided into chapters, including the following, all of which provide valuable insights and practical, easy-to-implement suggestions.

-No Pain, No Gain: Employees need constant recognition and appreciation from their immediate manager. Since recognition is very important to most employees, this puts pressure on the manager to know how to appropriately handle situations. If managers don’t give well-deserved recognition, morale sinks and the company as a whole is affected. The authors end the chapter by stating, “Give employees the recognition they want—and they’ll produce the results you need.” Aptly said.

-Carrots Improve Your Eyesight: By rewarding workers, astute managers find themselves needing to pay greater attention to everyone’s contributions. This enables managers to sharpen their own focus, and should carry over into better understanding of every employee and how they like to be rewarded. A 2000 survey by American Express Incentive Services showed that 63 percent of North American employees said their loyalty would improve if their employer offered an incentive program that allowed them to choose rewards that are personally relevant. This helps you avoid awarding a dinner for two at a steakhouse to a vegetarian and a hot-air balloon ride to someone with a fear of heights.

-Pick Your Carrots Wisely: Gostick and Elton write that in 1949, researcher Lawrence Lindahl asked employees to rank the rewards of their jobs. Then he requested managers to rank what they thought employees want. Managers were certain that employees would place good wages and job security at the top of the list, but actually, what employees ranked first was feeling appreciated and No. 2 was feeling “in on” things. Interestingly, when the survey was repeated in the 1990s, the results were the same. Not that employees don’t value good wages and job security—particularly now—but the survey points out how important recognition and involvement are to them.

-It’s All in the Presentation: Dumping a present off on someone’s desk or having an associate pass it along generally don’t sit well with most employees. The presentation can be even more important than the gift if it’s sincere and heartfelt, and accompanied by a personal, handwritten note. This can also help to boost your own relationship with the employee, which can pay dividends in the everyday workplace. There are certain keys for giving effective praise: Be timely, specific, sincere and prepared.

-Keep Your Eye on the Harvest: If managers direct their recognition toward achievement of certain goals, it makes employees more efficient and work groups more productive. Statistical evaluations can be valuable, but don’t rely too heavily on them; rather, treat employees as distinct individuals whose contributions can’t always be statistically measured. Keep the big picture in mind: The important thing is what each employee brings to the greater harvest.

-Make Formal Milestones Worth Remembering: The greater the achievement, the greater the reward. This applies not only to single accomplishments, but also to career and other long-term achievements, which call for something special. Think formal or some other type of special recognition.

-Keep on Growing: By recognizing employees for their efforts, thanking them often and rewarding their achievements, you’ll create a domino effect. They’ll awaken from their apathy and anger and fall in love with their jobs again. And your company will prosper.

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