Sustainable recognition and reward
Earlier this week, we presented the results of a recent ICC Cultural Analysis to one of our clients. These meetings always prompt passionate and engaging discussions on cultural topics, particularly the question of how to maintain a high-performing environment.
In response to one question posed in the cultural diagnostic, ‘Do you feel like a valued member of your team?’ an employee responded with “Yes, but formal recognition (like a promotion) is not forthcoming”.
How often do we encounter this in the workplace, employees maintaining the belief that good performance goes hand-in-hand with a promotion, or perhaps a pay-rise? In an ideal world this could be possible but, for most organisations, this is simply not a sustainable solution. There are likely not enough roles available to promote all our high-performers, and market pressures dictate that regular pay-rises are generally not commercially viable.
At ICC, we also fundamentally believe (and advise) that promotions and pay-rises sit squarely in the short-term motivator camp. Studies show that these forms of reward and recognition are unlikely to engender any sustainable performance development or productivity increase in our workforce.
So, the question often posed is “How else can we recognise and reward our high-performing employees? How do we demonstrate that their work is important, their opinions matter, and they are doing a great job…..in a sustainable way that promotes a performance and productivity increase?”
Here are a few ideas:
- Encourage peer-to-peer recognition: praise doesn’t always need to be handed out by those more senior to us. And shouldn’t be. Why not create a scheme whereby any employee can nominate a colleague for doing a fantastic job? Peer-to-peer recognition is a fundamental component of a high-performing culture.
- Praise in public: team meetings and/or conferences and events provide great opportunities but are not always regular enough. Publicly thanking and providing praise is hugely validating and inspires individuals to look for opportunities to earn it again. No need for a Rocky montage, shiny awards, or jazz hands – choose the vehicle (virtual or in-person) then highlight the context, the skill or behaviour demonstrated, and the value it has brought to the team or the business.
- Provide development: collectively agree areas that high-performers would like to develop e.g. a new skill set; preparing them for a future or broader role; or supporting them with a personal interest. Investing in the continuous development of our teams offers huge individual and organisational value.
- Introduce stretch: high-performers don’t enjoy boredom. Realign job content and responsibilities to allow for and include higher-level responsibilities to stretch skills. Reassign responsibilities that they have grown tired of or find routine.
- Create a mentorship platform for high-performers to gain access to subject matter experts from within or outside of their operational domain.
- Encourage autonomy: create more authority for a high-performer to self-manage and make decisions.
- Invite contribution: provide the space for high-performers to provide input on decision-making and planning; create opportunity for them to participate in the process of establishing goals, priorities, and metrics.
- Foster development from within: establish a development culture where high-performers assist in training and developing others. This helps to support the process of embedding the characteristics that we admire in our top people into the operational fabric of the wider team.
- Create a feedback culture: keep communication channels open for regular and constructive feedback around performance, attitudes, and behaviours. Difficult conversations rarely get easier if left. Confident, constructive conversation improves trust, encourages honesty, and ensures everyone is clear on objectives and outcomes.
- Write a thank you: revisit the power of the written word, especially handwritten and personalised. Most of our interactions sit on a digital platform, taking time and effort to deliver handwritten gratitude sends a powerful and lasting message.
- Speak to ICC about creating an affordable and sustainable coaching offering. Regular performance coaching on agreed and valuable topics supports shifts in mindsets, greater clarity, and performance uplifts.
What have you experienced that has been most beneficial for you?