Giving awards for exceptional work might seem like a cheap and effective way to motivate employees, and it is — in some cases. When you hand out awards, you are drawing on your employees’ extrinsic motivation, encouraging them to work harder and produce better results so they can earn a salary bonus, a prize or something else. Unlike intrinsic motivation, which springs from a worker’s own passions or ambitions, extrinsic motivation comes from outside sources, and over time, it can become less effective.
Thus, you can and should use awards to motivate your workforce, but you need to be smart about when and how you hand the awards out. Here are some dos and don’ts to help you give out awards in the smartest, safest way for your business.
Don’t Make Rankings Matter
It might seem like everyone loves a friendly competition, but competitions become much less friendly when they occur in the workplace, where livelihoods seem to be at stake. Ideally, your business shouldn’t rank employees in any way, shape or form; doing so breeds hostility amongst staff, which impedes cooperation and productivity and leads to an unpleasant work environment that chases away top talent. However, if you do create small competitions now and then, you shouldn’t allow the rankings to affect an employee’s standing within the company. Any rewards for winning should not be tied to salary or title; there should be a clear line between participation in such friendly competitions and participation in the organization.
Do Make Award Criteria Clear
If you are going to host competitions or give awards based on a formal program, you need to make the requirements explicitly clear. It might be wise to form a committee of business leaders and subordinates to develop the regulations to ensure that the program is reasonable and fair. No employees should be excluded from participation in the program, and all employees should be equally educated on the criteria and benefits. You should continue to monitor the program to ensure that participants are happy and that it does not cause undue strife within your organization.
Don’t Make Awards a Regular Event
Even when you have an ongoing program, you shouldn’t be handing out awards every week. Doing so dulls the impact of the award; it makes employees less keen to pursue the reward and thus makes the program effectively meaningless. To understand this phenomenon, you should look deeper into the differences between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Over time, motivation that comes from outside sources becomes less valuable, and employees won’t work as hard. This isn’t to say that you should avoid using extrinsic motivators entirely, but you should be sparing with your award-giving to ensure it carries a meaningful punch.
Do Celebrate Significant Accomplishments
Your employees should be working hard even if they aren’t motivated by competitions or programs, and you should celebrate their efforts on a regular basis. Studies show that workplace morale receives a significant boost during celebrations, when employees feel noticed and appreciated. You can up the impact of celebrations by hosting them for the completion of major projects as opposed to birthdays or holidays which are unconnected to employee toil. When an accomplishment has a positive effect on the business, you might offer a plaque award to everyone involved to drive home your gratitude and support.
Do Respect Workers Needs and Wants
Every workplace is different, so you can’t expect to read a blog and suddenly have the perfect solution for treating your workforce right. While these are excellent guidelines, you should perfect them for your business by talking to your employees and learning exactly what they need and want from their employer. For example, you might find that some of your workers prefer not to be recognized publicly but instead are motivated by small gestures of appreciation, like an email, a handshake or a discreet gift. By going against their wishes and making a public declaration, you could reduce their efforts in the future, harming their career and your business.
As simple as gifts and awards might seem, in the already competitive and stressful environment of the workplace, gifts and awards can be extremely dangerous. Instead of using rewards to whip your staff into a frenzy, you should be careful with how you dole out awards. Then, workers will understand their profound meaning and appreciate them all the more.