by Paul Matthews

Recognition and reward

Stop and consider for a moment what you really want from your job.


Write down a list of the things you want from your job and prioritise them.

Then ask colleagues to write down their lists and share your results.

What did you learn from this?

Time after time, surveys show that people want things such as reward and recognition from their job, rather than just a pay packet. The same surveys also show that many managers are out of touch with what their people really want from work and the priorities of those wants. This mismatch can lead to very poorly implemented incentive schemes, which cost a lot for little or no return.

If people get what they want from their job, they will anticipate good consequences from doing their job, and thus be motivated to do it. If people are not getting what they want, they will not be motivated to do the job.

It pays to understand how reward and recognition work, and how they affect motivation.


Employee recognition is not just a nice thing to do for people. Employee recognition is a communication tool that reinforces the most important outcomes people create for your business. When you recognise people effectively, you reinforce the actions and behaviours you most want to see people repeat. An effective employee recognition system is simple, immediate and powerfully reinforcing.

Very often a tangible reward is given as well as the recognition.


Studies have shown that employees value reward schemes which reflect their efforts and their results. How much they value a performance-based reward scheme, and hence what sort of motivational effect it has, will vary from employee to employee.

Interestingly, it is often the low-value reward given in the moment that is more effective and appreciated that the longer-term high-value reward. This is good news, as the low-value immediate reward is far more in the control of a line manager or team leader than the higher-value rewards, which tend to be corporate level decisions.

Value versus cost

When considering rewards, you need to consider what the value of the reward is from the perspective of the employee; this will then affect the value to the company of giving the reward. The more the employee values the reward, the more it is likely to raise their motivation levels to do a good job and thereby seek further rewards.

In effect, you need to consider the cost of the reward and balance this against the anticipated value (employee satisfaction plus behaviour of benefit to the company) the company receives from giving the reward.

How to do it

There are a few key points to keep in mind.

  • You need to establish criteria for what performance or contribution constitutes rewardable behaviour or actions.
  • All employees must be eligible for the recognition and any attached rewards.
  • The recognition process must include specific information about what behaviours or actions are being recognised and rewarded.
  • Anyone who performs at the level or standard stated in the criteria receives the reward.
  • The recognition should occur as close to the performance of the actions as possible, so it reinforces the behaviour the employer wants to encourage.

Make sure that the recognition and reward process does not include a situation where managers select the people to receive recognition. This type of process will be viewed as favouritism or talked about as ‘it’s your turn to get recognised this month’.


When an employee meets the recognition criteria, they could be given the opportunity to draw a gift from a box. Gifts could range from theatre tickets to restaurant vouchers or simply cash. The employee draws the reward, so no supervisory interference is perceived.

You could even have a second-tier reward, where the employee’s name then goes into a draw for a bigger prize, such as weekend trip away for two to a spa or a holiday destination.

What to give?

The rewards you can give are only limited by your imagination and the return on the investment. With a little thought, you will be able to think of rewards that are perceived as having a high value, but actually cost the company little to provide.

  • Car park space for the month close to the office
  • Theatre tickets for two
  • Leave early on Friday
  • Trip for two to Paris