What makes people jump out of bed in the morning before the alarm clock rings and rush to work to face their day? My bet is that it's not the salary they will earn that day, regardless of the amount.
Though money is the reason most of us work, seldom is it the reason to rush to work. In my years of managing technology professionals, I've found that money is a short-term motivator. As I've moved into public service, financial incentives are seldom an option for rewarding good work.
So what's the secret sauce for recognizing and rewarding excellent performance and motivating employees? The answer to that question may differ with each employee. For some, the satisfaction of a job well done may be enough. For others, recognition in front of peers and management speaks volumes.
The trick is to provide enough variety for rewarding performance and service that a rewards program can genuinely meet the diverse needs of the employees. Organizations must also ensure timely delivery of appropriate rewards to the employee or team who has excelled. Acknowledging specific tasks or achievements of excellence too long after they are accomplished diminishes the recognition.
'Thank You' Goes a Long Way
I've used a variety of techniques to recognize excellent performance. First and foremost, I verbally acknowledge the good work immediately. A phone call, hallway conversation or discussion during a meeting goes a long way to let people know their work is noticed and appreciated. Even a quick email is better than not acknowledging the accomplishment.
Another approach I've used successfully in the past is a CIO Award program to recognize efforts of special achievement. I accept nominations for the award and select two recipients per quarter to receive certificates and a $50 gift card, which I personally purchase. Often, these awards go to teams for collaborative achievements and the gift card can be used for a celebratory group lunch. Even toys from a dollar store can help staff have some fun and release stress after completing a particularly difficult IT project. Other perks, such as an afternoon off or a special parking spot, can reward a job well done.
As IT leaders, we should also mark special occasions. I celebrate employment anniversary dates by taking staffers who achieve service milestones out to lunch during Public Service Recognition Week, which is the first week of May. It gives me time to connect personally with them and celebrate the contributions they make to public service.
The most effective way to recognize good performance is to entrust employees with greater responsibility. It's ironic that doing good work begets more work, but I've found that people for the most part desire more say in the work they do. Recognizing good performance by giving employees a voice in choosing IT products and developing strategies moving forward provides a win-win for both the employee and the organization.
This ignites the passion and truly is what wakes people up before the alarm bell rings and gets them rushing to work every day.