Incentivizing, Rewarding, and Celebrating Accomplishments

Research says 80% of organizations think rewarding employees is important. However, the number one difficulty in doing so comes down to money. And not in the way you might think. More challenging than the seemingly short supply of financial resources to compensate employees is actually assigning a price or value to an employee’s work or production. In short, it is a real struggle to quantify in dollars a compensation that truly represents actual employee value.



When it comes to rewarding performance, there are three key factors: money, priority, and culture.

  1. Money… as we all know, it can be quickly spent and any short-term motivating effects forgotten.
  2. Other rewards or incentives… whether an organization is working with volunteers or paid employees, these are typically low organizational priorities.
  3. Culture… many organizations believe that people are simply expected to do their jobs and do them well.

A performance reward system that leads to strife and division is not a good system. What are the best practices for incentivizing and rewarding employees and volunteers? According to the research, use of non-monetary incentives has lasting power and the highest impact. Consider, for example, the non-monetary tangible variety (such as gift cards) or the non-monetary intangible variety (such as volunteer of the month with a special parking spot by the door).

Where might you start? One of the first things you can do is identify what sorts of behaviors, practices and performance you want to reinforce. Then, focus on learning what motivates people in your organization. Maybe collaborating with others on a project or achieving a lofty goal are the behaviors you want to reinforce. Or perhaps, you want to encourage long-term volunteer service?  Each of these are recognized and celebrated in different ways. Whatever method is ultimately chosen, consistency and fairness are the keys to a successful and results-driven reward.

How can you get creative in reinforcing the most desirable behaviors and performance in your organization?

For further reading:  Systematic Inventive Thinking, April 2013. How Companies Incentivize Innovation

Cindy Bond is an Assistant Professor and County Extension Educator (Guernsey County & Crossroads EERA).

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