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How to get the right balance between employee challenge and reward

It goes without saying that an employee should do their job; after all, that is what you are paying them…

How to get the right balance between employee challenge and reward

5th August 2019


It goes without saying that an employee should do their job; after all, that is what you are paying them for. But the difference between just ‘doing their job’ and truly caring about their work comes down to how the employee feels about the company. More specifically, it’s about how the company feels about them. If employees feel ignored or undervalued, the chances are they will not perform beyond the bare minimum needed to complete their work. But employees who feel like a valued part of the company will have the desire to see the company progress, knowing it will benefit them too.

So, how do you achieve a good balance of challenge and reward for your workforce? Together with Badgemaster, who supply badges to over five million people in employment, we take you through some tips that will help your company. 

Challenges, when used correctly, can provide a catalyst for self-improvement in your staff. The act of giving a challenge to an employee can be seen as an act of trust; you know it is above their usual work scope, but you trust that they can rise to meet the challenge. This can be a great way for an employee to develop new skills, while at the same time, feeling recognised for their efforts.

But be careful not to overwhelm. If the challenge is unreasonable, or they happen too frequently, you run the risk of your employee feeling taken advantage of. You’ve probably heard people coin the phrase that something is “above their pay grade”, and it’s not usually in a positive manner! If it means a chance to be recognised, an employee will want to do some tasks deemed “above their pay grade”, but too often and they’ll start to wonder why their pay doesn’t reflect it.  

Using rewards, particularly in response to a challenge being met, can be a great motivator for your team. It also helps nurture a more positive environment in the workplace; one that employees won’t actively seek to leave. Happy employees, lower staff turnover, and higher productivity are all tempting prospects to implement a reward structure to your company.

According to Balance Careers, there are some requirements for effective reward schemes:

·    Open to all – if a chance at a reward is in place, make sure it is in place for everyone. It should be something that anyone in the team can realistically attain.

·   Clearly define – employees will feel disgruntled if they miss out on a chance at a reward because the goalposts are not clearly defined. Make sure the requirements are clear and reasonable.

·   Everyone who achieves it is rewarded – anyone who meets the achievement should be rewarded. Of course, if it is an expensive prize, this could be that anyone who meets the achievement has their name put into a raffle for the big prize, but make sure you recognise everyone who achieved it.

·   Rewards are given at the time of achievement – a monthly reward is ineffective, as it doesn’t reinforce the behaviour at the time it happened.

·   Avoid selection, particularly by managers – it can seem like favouritism if a manager picks a specific person for a reward. Try to structure your reward scheme so that manager involvement is minimal. For example, a reward box filled with various prizes, and anyone who meets the challenge can go and pick a random prize.

·  An element of surprise – a regular monthly or weekly reward can quickly become a given. There’s no sense of needing to attain a standard if the reward arrives weekly regardless. As previously mentioned, keeping the reward’s arrival at the time of the positive behaviour is far more reinforcing than a weekly treat.

· Greet by name – Balance Careers recommends greeting people by name to be an effective way of simple acknowledgement and recognition. Not every reward has to be as a result of something big! Sometimes, a simple thank you is enough for an employee to feel noticed, and using their name makes the encounter more personal. If you have a larger company and remembering everyone’s name is not feasible, it may be worth investing in some reusable name badges for your employees to wear.

For many employees though, rewards like treats and cash prizes make for a happy workplace, but the true reward is in recognition. The chance to be noted for their efforts and offered a chance to get to the next level of their career is far more enticing. Employees need to feel engaged with their company, to feel there is a clear path of progression for them.

Forbes reported on data from Gallup showing that only 30% of US employees felt engaged with their company; outside of the US, only 13% of employees felt that way. The same article from Forbes commented on the findings by suggesting that employee engagement can be improved by creating individual progression plans and realistic metrics for you and your employee to measure their progress.

Bright HR also followed this thought process, and suggests that companies should advertise internally for promotion opportunities before extending the search externally.

With the right balance of challenge and reward, you can help not only encourage a healthier workplace, but pave the path for progression for your employees. This results in a stronger, loyal workforce who will be less likely to look elsewhere for recognition.

Categories: Advice, Articles

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