Recognition vs. Reward: The Right Balance for Employee Advocacy

Recognition vs. Reward – The Right Balance for Employee Advocacy

By Jim Larrison

November 19, 2013

Regardless of your company’s size, you want to motivate and inspire your employees so they’ll want to perform well and be productive members of your organization. This means providing recognition and rewards for doing a good job. Even if your company is very small and your budget is limited, you can still bolster your employee advocacy efforts. The key is finding a balance between both recognition and rewards. It’s not an “either or” situation.

Everyone Benefits from Recognition

whiskeyA lot of companies are put off by the concept of rewards, especially if there are budgetary concerns. But you don’t have to wine and dine your employees to empower them to be effective advocates. You just need to create a supportive environment. Company lunches and Whiskey Fridays a la Dropbox are great, but if you can’t afford that, don’t sweat it: recognition can be just as good, if not better, than swag.

For starters, recognizing your employees is 100% free. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t personally give a proverbial pat on the back to the employees who most actively engage in amplifying your brand through social sharing. Plus, a recent study indicated that recognition is a better motivator than money! That should be ample motivation for you to get on board with the idea of providing genuine recognition, not just outrageous perks.

Recognition can take many different forms, including:

* Company memos/announcements recognizing specific employees for specific achievements
* Congratulating employees during meetings or impromptu work gatherings
* Acknowledging an employee’s good work, even when providing constructive criticism
* Providing support, flexibility, and understanding when work-life conflicts arise

Basically recognizing that your employees are human – and treating them as such – goes a long way toward fostering a positive work environment that builds highly motivated and effective employee advocates.

When Good Rewards Go Bad

Sometimes, managers’ best intentions for recognizing employees can actually result in demotivating them. A really good example comes from an article by Louis Efron for Forbes. In it, he describes an employee engagement meeting he ran in Johannesburg, South Africa where the team did poorly, even though the manager regularly recognized his employees by congratulating them in front of everyone. Unfortunately, the employees hated this kind of recognition and were embarrassed by it.

Long story short? Learn what makes your employees tick. Find out what motivates them. Find out what kind of recognition or rewards they’d like best. To put it even more simply: a reward isn’t a reward if the employee doesn’t want it.

Similarly, if the recognition isn’t personalized, it’s not going to have much of a positive effect, especially over the long-term. If it feels forced, fake, or insincere, it could have the opposite effect you’ve intended. For example, a mass, company-wide email thanking a general group of people in a bunch of departments probably won’t get much traction since it feels impersonal and generic. Recognition will only be truly appreciated if it’s specific toward a person or team for a specific job well done.

Frequency is Important

It’s not enough to just recognize employees at quarterly or annual reviews. When recognition is deserved, let that employee know in a way that is best suited to that specific employee. And if it just so happens that they deserve praise every week for achieving something great, then go for it. Recognition isn’t about sticking to a calendar – it’s about being authentic, appropriate, and encouraging. But just remember, doling out compliments just for the sake of trying to motivate employees is not effective and will most likely backfire – don’t forget to keep it real.

Forget the Cost/Benefit Analysis

As with rewards, if you’re thinking about how you can benefit from giving your employees recognition, you’re going about this in the wrong way. It’s vital that you be genuinely interested and invested in your employees’ well-being and happiness, not just go through the motions of acting like a supportive boss. Yes, your employees must be legitimately happy in the workplace if you want to get the best out of them. But this means recognizing their efforts and giving credit where/when credit is due. trophy

And you know what happens when you create an environment like this? Your employees will naturally support one another as well. Leading by example will build a structure that supports peer recognition and collaboration. A job well done shouldn’t just be acknowledged by managers or execs. Peer recognition can be just as rewarding and satisfying as receiving that proverbial pat on the back from a C-level executive. Knowing your coworkers value you and your work is a feeling that can’t be duplicated by any amount of company swag.

You’ve probably gathered by now that the biggest takeaway here is this: to provide authentic recognition and rewards for your employee advocates, you need to get to know them first. Understand and apply what they value, appreciate, and like. By investing the time it takes to know your employees, you ensure the rewards and recognition you dole out are appropriate and genuinely appreciated. Your employees will be happier and more engaged, productivity will rise, and everybody wins.

If you’d like to learn more about employee advocacy, click here.

Post Author

Jim Larrison

Jim Larrison is the Co-Founder & General Manager at Dynamic Signal. He is responsible for overseeing the company’s direction, product innovation, and market strategy to become a global provider of SaaS based advocate and social marketing enterprise solutions for leading Global 2K brands. Jim lives in the Chicago area with his wife and two sons. Jim is an influential movie fanatic, local politico, blogger, and photographer. On weekends, you can catch him on the sidelines of his sons' football or lacrosse games with a few Nikon cameras around his neck.