The 6 Different Types Of Reward Preferences

November 22nd, 2016 by

While most employees would never turn down a cash bonus, not all of them find money the most fulfilling reward. Some employees, for example, place the highest value on having their work publicly recognized. The differences suggest that “one size does not fit all” in employee recognition programs, according to recent research.

Maritz Inc., a St. Louis-based firm, studied employees’ preferences to assist companies to better understand how to affirm good performance. The idea of adapting reward programs to employees is not applied in most organizations.

“It is uncommon for the company to try to fit the recognition to the person, and it would be very much valued,” says Deborah Keary, director of HR for the Society of Human Resource Management. “Not only would the recipients be happy to be recognized for their contributions, but they would also realize that the company knows who they are as people and what sort of recognition they are likely to find most gratifying.”

The Different Types

Maritz, which specializes in helping companies develop and motivate employees, has identified six distinct employee types based on reward preferences.
Award Seekers prefer rewards that have both monetary and trophy value, such as gift cards and travel awards.

Nesters are turned off by rewards that take them away from their home, such as conference opportunities or travel awards. These employees prefer days off or flexible scheduling.

Bottom Liners appreciate the monetary value of rewards, like cash bonuses or award points programs.

Freedom Yearners are best rewarded with flexibility. This could translate to flexible hours, freedom to choose how to attain goals, and the chance to choose interesting and challenging projects.

Praise Cravers desire to have their work acknowledged. Rewards can include written, verbal or formal praise from managers or informal praise from peers.

Upward Movers tend to be satisfied employees who are interested in moving up in the company. They respond well to status awards, meals with company management, and opportunities to mentor others or work with people outside their own areas.

Guidance for Managers

Understanding that employees’ reward preferences are different is helpful for management, regardless of a formal company policy. But identifying those preferences presents a challenge. Liz Bywater, president of the Bywater Consulting Group near Philadelphia, recommends that managers ask employees about it.
“It takes the guesswork out of selecting the most appropriate and meaningful rewards for employee performance,” says Bywater. “The very act of asking conveys a respect for your employees and a desire to recognize their contributions.”

She also suggests that managers try a “grab-bag” approach that allows employees to select from an assortment of rewards. “While one employee would opt for a gift card to Nordstrom, another might choose a night at the Ritz-Carlton. Yet another would prefer a framed certificate of appreciation or the opportunity to work on a challenging new project.”

Written by Tom Musbach

The Four Pillars Of Employee Engagement

November 15th, 2016 by

Business People with Thumbs Up on White Background.

It’s important that we recognize the “realness” of employee engagement. It’s not just a state of mind, a fuzzy feeling or emotional blanket that keeps us warm during the chilly winter months. Employee engagement is a proven psychological state, often measured by increased productivity and performance amongst other positive business outcomes. Therefore, it needs to be taken seriously, supported, and fostered by all levels and prioritized as a key element of organizational success.
Some of the ways employee engagement grows are through the prioritization of recognition, planning, communication, and contribution. These four initiatives bring the topic to the surface and ultimately determine results.


When leaders recognize employee engagement as a targeted objective, it’s often first encouraged through recognition. Both recognizing and rewarding employee efforts does indeed drive engagement, but engagement is also fostered when organizations, managers, and staff take recognition efforts seriously.
Everybody wants to be recognized. And this seemingly small gesture can go far to increase engagement and reduce turnover. According to a recent survey conducted by the Society of Human Resources Management on Employee Recognition, outcomes of an employee recognition program included increased happiness and engagement and went a long way to develop employee relationships and instill a culture of humanity in the workplace.


Engagement doesn’t happen on a whim. Discovering what drives engagement requires observation and research, and then carefully designing a plan to ensure its effectiveness. Finding out what employees need, in addition to the core elements of engagement, helps the organization plan unique offerings.
Effective employee engagement programs are established through the continuous cycle of implementation, documentation, measurement, and fine-tuning. Establishing baselines for employee supported coaching programs, milestone achievement awards or the push to promote more overall positivity, is required for measuring initiative effectiveness. What is working and what is not? Careful planning and measurement are the only ways to assess what works.


What does your team think about employee engagement efforts? Are they working? Why? How? While each employee has their opinion on what engagement is and how it can best be cultivated, the common denominators can only be distinguished through communication. Ensure there is an opportunity for each voice to be heard, which ironically, also fosters engagement. Don’t wait until an exit interview to learn what did or didn’t work. Rather, promote open and safe lines of communication before, during, and after engagement initiatives, so organization leaders and managers can uncover what their team members want.

Employee engagement works when it’s fostered by both the employees and organization leaders. It’s not the sole responsibility of either party. While this win-win “state of work” exists when the team provides the tools, resources, and sustainable environment, the employee must also do their part. Non-engaged and actively disengaged employees may be unknowingly diluting or knowingly undermining efforts. Though communication is at the root of understanding why workers may pull away or be unaffected by engagement efforts, an action is then required. Organization leaders need to do their part by working to remove problems, and managers and team members must be willing to participate in initiative trials.
Managers are particularly helpful in aiding this process. According to an article in Gallup’s Business Journal entitled “Five Ways to Improve Employee Engagement Now,” “Great managers empower their employees, value and recognize their contributions, and actively seek their ideas and opinions.” A great manager is also willing to model engagement, providing support to team members and be prepared to be held accountable for their efforts.

Both the organization and the employee win through employee engagement. Employees are satisfied and happy when thoughtfully engaged in their work and provided with a healthy environment in which to do so. As a result, profits increase, turnover decreases, and key talent is retained and attracted. While cultivating and reaping from an effective employee engagement program takes time, the results are real and noteworthy enough to build a $720 billion dollar industry. Employee engagement is clearly not just a state of mind.

Written by Kim Monaghan

The How and Why of Employee Incentive Programs

November 8th, 2016 by

Two words reveal the secret of successful employee incentive programs: reinforcement and feedback.

As a child and young adult, you learned that continuous feedback guided you in your pursuit of learning. You received regular grades for homework, reports, tests, and the dreaded final exams, thus conditioning you to expect continuous feedback. Once out of school and into the workplace, ongoing feedback abruptly stopped and changed to quarterly goals, MBOs, and annual reviews.

Now you’re a manager; you need to incentivize and motivate your team to improve numerous Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that could make or break your career and company. How do you do it or improve what you’re already doing?

1. Ongoing Positive Feedback

You and your team were conditioned for continuous positive feedback through your educational processes, and we all know feedback is desired because it’s emotionally rewarding. Just because you’re out of school doesn’t mean that this kind of feedback is no longer a powerful motivator to you or your employees. In fact, look at the ongoing positive feedback received by those who play games either online or with a specific gaming system such as Xbox or Wii. They generate and receive positive feedback multiple times per minute—talk about “continuous,” wow!

Because anything that provides positive feedback will be repeated, it’s no surprise that employee incentive programs running longer than six months yield nearly twice the results of shorter duration programs. Successful incentive programs do not have an end-date, although they should be frequently evaluated and updated.

Therefore, we suggest you use ongoing positive feedback instead. It’s the emotion that gets activities started. Take large activities and break them down into their smallest measurable components. Then, reward those activities continuously, as they occur. Doing so will capitalize on the motivational effects that we’ve learned during the first twenty years (or so) of our lives. This may be arduous, but the bottom line results are well worth the effort. An added bonus is that morale follows performance.

2. Random Intermittent Reinforcement

Did you know that more than 85 percent of the revenue earned by Las Vegas comes from slot machines? Imagine if Human Resources tasked you to write a job description for a slot machine operator. Here is what you might write “You will sit before a machine, drop a piece of metal into a slot and pull a lever over and over and over again. The wages are that you will slowly lose all of the money you brought to work.”

The magic of Las Vegas is referred to as random intermittent reinforcement. It’s one of the most powerful motivators in existence when you realize the amount of money that is taken TO Las Vegas and stays there.

We’re not suggesting that your incentive program includes gambling. It’s a losing proposition, and we don’t recommend offering lottery tickets in an employee incentive program. However, you have witnessed the power of random intermittent reinforcement when you have a reward that depends on spinning a wheel, take a ticket from a fish bowl, or select a sealed envelope. This is the emotion that keeps activities going.

Random intermittent reinforcement should be used in every employee incentive program for every activity, not just at particular times or for special events. Injecting a game with a random but controlled result in the reward process also gives additional reinforcement to the activity. Yes, your traditional top performers will remain the top earners. The main benefit will be to improve those who are not at the top and to ensure that new hires are successful and do not become discouraged.

Two Other Principles for Effective Incentive Programs

Pay incentives straightaway and separately from payroll. The more closely you tie the reward with the activity, the greater the reinforcement.

Offer a choice of desirable rewards. Believe it or not, one-third of incentive programs produce negative results. A sure-fire way to kill an incentive program is to offer merchandise that the employee sees as overpriced. While not overtly saying so, they ask why your company wasted the incentive reward they earned on something that could have been purchased on the Internet for 30 percent to 50 percent less.

Our most recent survey of reward redemptions showed that 88 percent of the values of our clients’ employee’s redemptions were to put funds into a MasterCard or Visa debit cards. Unsurprisingly, many of the employees waited until the holidays to spend the funds they had accumulated on their cards.

How Much Should You Spend on Incentives?

Whether your agents are customer service, sales, inbound, outbound, or a combination, we would all like to improve primary contact center metrics. Yet we face the challenge of spending too little or too much. When an incentive program is properly designed and administered, we have seen that KPIs can easily be improved by a minimum of 20 percent when spending two hours’ worth of labor cost per full-time employee (FTE) per month. We have also seen that spending more than 3 percent of payroll does not generate incremental effort.

Therefore, our rule of thumb (which works with all currencies) is the “two-hour” rule. If spending $12 per hour for labor, plan on spending around $24 per month for each FTE. In general, that’s an excellent ROI which most CFOs should heartily endorse.

Written by Bob Cowen

Employee Recognition Programs and Being Authentic

November 2nd, 2016 by


According to a recent Gallup poll, proper employee recognition is an assurance of a great employer. In fact, it is also a proven method of creating a successful and productive workforce. The research by Gallup shows that companies with the highest engagement levels know how to incentivize employees through recognition and praise appropriately.

Why Personalization Matters

Not all employees associate employee recognition with positive benefits. This is because many companies rely on unvarying, scheduled awards that single out only particular types of employees. For example, some companies exclusively focus on seniority and ignore outstanding achievements. On the other hand, employees may experience bitterness at not being recognized for their considerable contributions. Therefore, it is essential to have a comprehensive employee recognition program that regularly rewards individuals. Personalizing employee recognition increases employee engagement and loyalty.

Improved Performance Management

Individual employee recognition is one of the most powerful performance management tools available to companies that must also deal with a slow-moving economy, increasing competition, and low levels of employee engagement. Meaningful employee recognition is an excellent way to increase employee collaboration and productivity among colleagues. Individual employee praise results in lower turnover rates and higher loyalty. It has also been shown to decrease the number of work-related accidents and even increase customer satisfaction. Employee recognition is also a great way to benchmark higher performers to encourage other employees to follow in their footsteps.

Recognize Milestones

Employee recognition doesn’t always have to focus on measurable statistics, such as customer satisfaction or sales. Employers can recognize other impressive employee milestones through their employee recognition and incentive program. This is an excellent way to express gratitude for all types of employees. The most basic way is to have a work anniversary celebration or recognize employment length milestones, such as 5-year increments of continuous employment. However, companies can also recognize other things, such as perfect attendance or positive peer or customer feedback. Milestone appreciation is a straightforward and effective approach that helps inspire employees while building a culture of appreciation.

Benefits of the Recognition Presentation

Recognition presentations do not need to be lengthy, formal awards ceremonies. Instead, simply allocate 15 to 20 minutes for the sharing of meaningful stories and real-life situations that illustrate how the employee impacted the customer or contributed to the company. A sincere and timely recognition presentation will make the employee feel appreciated, model exemplary behavior, and connect terrific accomplishments to the company’s values. It is also a good time for employees to bond and express gratitude to each other. Inviting a few employees to speak from the heart is much better than having an unrecognized individual from management give a formal speech.

Beware of 5 Recognition Ideas That WIll Likely Fail

October 31st, 2016 by


Most leaders fulfil their peer to peer recognition ideas with the best of intentions at heart, but that does not mean their plan is solid.

Although peer recognition is one of the most effective and impactful ways to recognize all the contributions made across an organization, it can fizzle, and even backfire when it is implemented poorly.

Here are five peer recognition ideas that are most likely to fail, why they fail, and how to improve on them:

  1. Winner-Take-All Competitions

Although some healthy, spirited competition can be useful here and there, a winner-take-all peer recognition plan is destined to fail.  Here’s why:

It only motivates a small fraction of the team. Every employee will eventually realize where they sit in the rankings, and whether or not they have a chance of winning. If there’s not a strong chance of winning, there’s not a strong incentive to participate.

It can drive employees to consciously decline to recognize their peers. If they are pushing themselves further down the rankings each time they recognize a colleague’s contributions, employees are actively motivated against giving that recognition.

If you want supported engagement in your peer to peer recognition program, make sure everyone is being rewarded. It’s important to recognize and reward top performers appropriately, but equally crucial to reward everyone else for great the work they do.

  1. Unequal Power Distribution

It’s common for managers or others in leadership positions to expect their opinion to carry more weight, but in a peer-to-peer recognition program, it shouldn’t.

Part of the magic of peer to peer recognition is the equality it promotes. When there’s a major discrepancy between the value behind the recognition certain members give, the weight behind the recognition they give is perceived to be considerably larger.

Unequal power distribution undermines the peer-to-peer concept. Under an unequal power dynamic, it’s no longer a peer to peer recognition idea; it’s a top-down recognition idea. Participants in a program like this aren’t incentivized to make contributions that their peers appreciate — they’re incentivized to compete for the favour of their boss.

You can avoid this by ensuring that everyone who participates in the program has an equal ability to show their appreciation and that appreciation carries the same weight.

  1. Boring (or no) Rewards

Rewards are a critical element of any effective peer to peer recognition plan. The recognition participants receive is the most impactful element of the program, but without some kind of tangible value attached to the recognition, engagement is likely to plummet.

By their 18th month, companies that chose a non-tangible ‘kudos’ or ‘pat on the back,’ with no real-world value as their reward saw participation rates that were 50% lower.

Sure, a digital ‘pat on the back’ is probably going to perform better than nothing at all, but it’s not going to outperform a peer recognition system with real rewards.

You don’t have to break the bank to provide meaningful rewards either. We recently shared a list of low-cost, creative rewards you can use.

  1. Exclusivity

The more people that participate, the better. If your peer to peer recognition idea excludes members of your team who would willingly participate, you’re missing out on a great opportunity.

Just like each member of your team makes unique and valuable contributions to your organization, each member also provides a unique perspective on the contributions their colleagues make.

Give everyone a chance to participate, whether they’re senior executives, or new hires on their first day. Doing this will improve the cohesiveness of your team, and the effectiveness or your recognition program.

  1. Mandatory Fun

Everyone’s idea of fun is different, but the one thing most people can agree on is that mandatory fun isn’t.

Forcing people to not willingly participate in a system, even one that is designed to be enjoyable is a surefire way to produce poor results and inspire poor engagement. Those who are actively disengaged with can even negatively impact the engagement of others.

A great peer to peer recognition idea is one that the team will find irresistible to participate in but is not forced into.

How do you come up with one that good?

Feedback is a gift. Learn to accept it — even crave it — and use it constructively to enhance your program. The hardest critics of your current program might have only one sticking point, and their point could be valid.

In Summary:

Peer to peer recognition is an astonishingly impactful engagement tool, but just like any powerful tool, it is necessary to understand what makes it work and play to its advantages. Take a look at your current peer to peer recognition initiative, and make sure you’re giving it the best chance for success.

Written by: George Dickson

Originally Posted: 

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