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How can reward and recognition assist a team to be innovative?

Cast your mind back 20 years. Imagine a world of dial up internet, mobile phones just making phone calls, no plethora of online platforms to communicate both personally and professionally? It's mind blowing to see the pace of innovation and development in such a short period time, and it's only getting quicker and quicker. Facebook only launched in 2004, and now there are 2.41 billion active users a month. YouTube had its first video loaded in 2005, and now there are millions of videos on everything and anything. Google has 228 million searches per hour... the list is endless. Innovation is at the forefront of all businesses, both small and large. In order to survive in today's ever changing era, companies are needing to stay on the ball and re-invent and re-discover their offerings on a regular basis in order to survive the competition. 

Traditional innovation
Traditionally many organisations set up R&D specific teams and departments which were the sole incubators for innovation and development. Their core purpose was to create and re-create, leap frogging the business forward. However, as crucial as these teams may be, it can limit the breadth of innovative perspective it could gain from other departments and its diverse employees. Often innovation can stem from conversations at the coffee machine or a drink at the pub. In order to foster this culture of innovation, more and more companies are embedding this as a corporate value and are identifying this as a key metric when rewarding.

Rewarding innovation
There are so many ways in which companies can reward and recognise innovation, no matter how big or small the contribution may be. So, can organisations reward innovation with responsibility? Simply put, if one of your employees has an innovative idea, as a business leader or manager, you should be fluid enough and give them the autonomy and freedom they need to take it forward, without making them feel like it could harm or jeopardise their current role. So, start by creating an accepting and conducive environment where your employees feel they can challenge the status quo, where they comfortable to ask questions and are free to do some big thinking, ideas out of the box. Another key factor when it comes to innovation, is to let the person who came up with the idea execute it. There's nothing worse than having the brain wave and it gets taken away from you for execution, especially if it's poorly executed. The innovation pioneer should be at the forefront of moving it forward, with the necessary help they require. This creates a lot of employee empowerment and harnesses opportunities for future developments.

Rewarding the efforts of your employees is also crucial to innovation and future innovation. There are some ideas which are automatic successes, and from the get go will gain momentum. But what about your teammates who have ideas which haven't come to fruition yet? If you ignore their efforts, this may cause them to stagnate and steer away from any innovative efforts in the future. Rewarding the efforts in some way is leaving the door open, so it is a win-win all round.

Rewarding and recognising innovation needs to be done consistently in order to keep the innovative momentum high. There's nothing more demotivating than working so hard, diversifying (especially if it goes beyond an employee's realm) and there's no acknowledgment or recognition. 

Reward and recognition programmes
Another way to reward your employees is through formal and / or informal reward and recognition programmes. An informal programme can start with informal thank yous, a team meeting to acknowledge an innovative milestone or even a bottle of champagne for the team to cheers a specific achievement. Frequent informal recognition can have an accumulative effect, where if an employee feels first and foremost noticed, then cared for and valued, they will act positively again. This domino effect can spread like wildlife, but the opposite is also true. Disgruntled, unhappy employees can spread misery, pull the mood down and bring others down too.

A more formal reward and recognition programme is an investment without a doubt. These programmes can be tailored and aligned with your organisation’s values and behaviours and can be a great motivator to encourage and motivate employees. These can include winners walls where nominated employees can be viewed by all for a specific reason. These nominations can be peer to peer where team members can nominate and give e-cards to each other or it can be a top down programme where management award their teams. Rewards and awards can be both financial and non-financial. A financial reward could be as simple as £x for x task and £y value for y task. It could be given as a bonus or a 13th cheque, the ways are endless. Non-financial rewards can include experiences, days out, time off work, shopping vouchers, physical gifts and more.

Bespoke reward and recognition
Rewarding innovation can be done in tiers. If you hit benchmark x, you are awarded for example with a bronze award. If you hit benchmark y, you're rewarded with a silver reward and so forth. Alternatively it can be more flexible and at the discretion of the business management. Each project can have different requirements and constraints, there's no one-size fits all. 

Employees are a company’s biggest asset, so taking the necessary time and effort to nurture and maintain company-employee relationships and what they can bring to the business are critical. It's so easy for companies to get bogged down in the ebbs and flows of day-to-day working, but taking time out to recognise, appreciate and say thank you to the team can go a long way.

Employee recognition can help create a healthy company culture which encourages innovation. Download our free e-book to find out more about how to build an effective recognition strategy.

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