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