Friday, July 1, 2011

How Appropriate Employee Rewards Are Like Good Wedding Presents

I’ve written before in Compensation Cafe about the difference between compensation and employee recognition (and the rewards often associated with recognition). To summarize: Cash compensates. It does not motivate.
This is largely true for three reasons:
1) Cash is expected in a set “trade” agreement. Simply put, cash is the expected (and in many cases, legally required) recompense for services rendered. Employees expect to be paid in cash for the work they’ve provided according to agreed terms. Yes, cash is often the medium of reward given to employees in terms of a bonus, but like a paycheck, these bonus often become an expectation as well (e.g., Wall Street’s bonus culture).
Even when cash rewards are given more frequently, most organizations slip these rewards into the paycheck. This means employees often don’t realize the reward has been given as the extra cash slips right out again, leading to the second challenge of cash rewards…
2) Cash is not memorable.
When company leadership goes to the effort of investing in employee recognition and rewards, immediate benefits are the increase in positive working relationships built through the “power of thank you” . This leads to increases in employee productivity, retention and engagement.
Rewards associated with that recognition extend these benefits long after the formal recognition moment occurred. Cash, when used as a reward, loses this benefit because it is too easily spent on things of daily life – gas, rent, groceries – leading to the third challenge of cash rewards…
3) Cash cannot elicit long-term positive associations and memories.
A knock-on benefit for companies that include personal, meaningful rewards with recognition is the lasting association of positive memories with that reward for the employee. Every time the employee sees the reward item, they are reminded of the value the company places in the employee and in their work.
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