Stars & Stripes – A Need for Rewards

I am on vacation while writing this week’s blog.  I decided that this would be a good time to talk about stars.  Not the ones you are thinking of during this holiday but the ones you received when you were a child when you did well on a test or project.  Do you remember how you felt?  Do you have a smile on your face now while thinking about it?  So when was the last time you rewarded yourself and also taken the time to recognize the contributions of others?

Although verbal praise is welcomed by most, it is difficult to personally act as your own cheerleader.  Verbal praise only goes so far with others as well but it is ALWAYS important to at least acknowledge the other’s achievements even if you can’t provide another other type of reward.  No matter what type of reward you think of for yourself or for others the key element is that it has to have a positive and long lasting impact; in other words fit the needs of you or the individual. 

The rest of this blog is from an article I wrote awhile ago about rewards –

Rewarding has to be more creative; rewards that were successful in the past do not hold the same value now.  According to the book, Drive – The Surprising Truth of What Motivates Us, author Daniel Pink explores the difference in the workplace between algorithmic people (“those that “follow a set of established instructions down a single pathway to one conclusion”) and heuristics people (“those that experiment with possibilities and devise a novel solution”).  In the past, most jobs were based on the philosophy that if you did your job you would be rewarded and if not, you were punished; in general, the practice was to reward with a cash compensation paid in set intervals.  The algorithmic mindset worked well under these circumstances. 

Nowadays some companies are experimenting with novel methods on how to motivate and reward their staffs which heuristics thrive and are highly motivated.  One that is particularly interesting that Pink discusses is letting employees spend 20% of their time working on projects that the employee develops on their own.  This allows for greater creativity and is more of an intrinsic reward which brings greater meaning to the individual.  He cites several examples of how this has been successful including the introduction of Google Mail. 

Regardless of which incentive/motivation plan a company implements, it is recommended to start off small and see what the responses are from employees.  Instant gratification is always welcomed but that only has a short-term effect (this can also apply to individuals i.e. losing

weight for a particular event and then gaining it back).  Constant monitoring will be needed but the payoffs can be substantial.  Companies should also consider “who” is offering the rewards.  Conventional wisdom was that the boss and senior management offered these rewards but a more modern concept would be to consider having peers make recommendations too.  This fosters more team unity and loyalty as well.

Although work is a four letter word that most would like to avoid, it can also bring a real sense of accomplishment for the individual and ultimately for the organization if implemented correctly.  Listed below are some recognition ideas that companies can easily execute if they do

not have the inclination or ability to institute a larger scale program now.  The key thing is to develop a program where the employee receives some kind of gold star.

Here is a list of recognition ideas –

Achievement certificate

Article in company newsletter

Work area upgrade

Temporary help for a day

Special parking space

Attend a conference

Work at home option

Clothing item (i.e. sweatshirt, T-shirt, baseball cap)


Training opportunities

Cake or homemade cookies

Pick a special project


Gift card


Bigger office

Handwritten note or call

Flex hours or time off

Dress down time

Meeting with President

Wall of Fame

Bring your child/pet to work

And of course, gold star!

My reward to myself as I work a small amount on my vacation is to head to a warm place and sit on the beach.  I hope you all have had a wonderful holiday weekend and can find unique ways to reward yourself and others and be willing to share with the rest of us.