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The 10 biggest mistakes in reward and recognition

Team members giving each other high five and recognising great work.

The merits of reward and recognition within a workplace are numerous and well-documented. Similarly, the risks associated with neglecting reward and recognition practises are becoming increasingly apparent. A recent Xexec survey of 1,000 employees across UK businesses employing more than 500 people found that one third of employees feel undervalued – and yet over a third of employers don’t have a recognition scheme in place. With so much at stake, it seems dangerous to assume that these stats are a coincidence rather than showing a correlation.

Of course, convincing businesses of the merits of reward and recognition programmes are just part of the story. It isn’t enough to simply understand that rewarding staff is a good thing and assume that however you go about it will have a positive outcome. There are many ways in which getting reward and recognition wrong can actually be as harmful as not doing it at all.

Here are some common pitfalls to avoid if you are to get the most value from your reward and recognition scheme:

1. Don’t be generic
Imagine you receive a £10 Amazon voucher for good performance. Nice, right? But then Brian in Accounts gets one too when he gets engaged; and Maria in IT is given the same when she successfully implements a large software upgrade; and then your whole team gets £10 Amazon vouchers when you meet your targets early. Suddenly your particular achievement or milestone doesn’t feel that special at all. If people are to really feel recognised, it’s important to tailor the gesture appropriately.

2. Money isn’t everything
It’s undoubtedly important, but money isn’t always the best way to show your appreciation to your workers. Their salary is responsible for ensuring they are appropriately financially recompensed for their time and skills. Offering something different – such as use of a company car or prized parking spot, or an additional day off – can have more impact than a monetary bonus. Again, personalisation is key – consider what is likely to be most valuable for the individual.

3. Cultural fit
Your workforce is likely made up of a diverse range of people with different cultural backgrounds. Make sure that your reward scheme is equally diverse and reflects these cultural differences. It is common for schemes to be designed with the business leaders’ cultural norms in mind, which can leave many people feeling excluded.

4. Consider accessibility
It doesn’t matter how good your scheme is if people can’t easily access it. Technology can play a key role here, and online portals and apps can be a great way to offer employees access to reward and recognition programmes. But remember that not everyone is tech-savvy and training may need to be offered if you do go down this route.

5. It doesn’t need to cost the earth
A common misconception is that reward and recognition schemes are expensive to run. The truth is, small gestures can have the same impact as wildly extravagant ones. The point is to show staff that you’ve noticed and value what you do. Simply saying thank you can achieve this goal.

6. It doesn’t need to cost the earth (part 2)
Taking this phrase more literally, awareness of the damage we are doing to our planet has never been higher, and it’s important that your scheme is environmentally ethical. Small things can make a big difference. If you introduce team drinks in the office on a Friday evening to thank people for their efforts during the week, avoid using disposable, single-use plastic cups. A one-off reward of a weekend away may be a fantastic way to show gratitude for exceptional performance, but consider a trip that doesn’t involve a flight, mitigating the damage  we know is being caused by an increase in air travel.

7. Reflect company values
Your scheme is an opportunity to reinforce your company’s culture, goals and values, and if you are to fully exploit this opportunity you need to consider how rewards can be linked to these factors. This is likely to mean moving away from solely performance-based rewards and including recognition for values such as integrity, kindness or teamwork.

8. Ensure buy-in
Instilling a culture of reward and recognition requires buy-in from the whole firm. The scheme will inevitably struggle to have a real impact if it is not supported by business leaders, HR teams and everyone in a managerial position. Ensure you effectively communicate its introduction and give people the opportunity to have their say.

9. Factor in peer recognition
Whilst it is important that your staff feel recognised by people in senior positions – especially in large businesses where day-to-day contact with business leaders is rare – it should not stop here. Encourage peer recognition and allow team members to nominate each other for rewards - it can be a great way to build a culture of recognition from the ground up, as well as from the top down.

10. Ask an expert
A good scheme can be incredibly valuable, however there are many ways to get it wrong. If your scheme is to truly pay dividends, and achieve what it is designed to do, it makes sense to ask an expert to guide you through the process. An experienced reward professional will be able to tailor your scheme to your business and offer helpful advice on how to avoid the common mistakes that can limit its success.

Sound good? Download your free exclusive e-Book on how to implement a successful Global Reward and Recognition Programme.

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