No two individuals are the same. We have our own wants and needs, our own tastes and peculiarities. This is seen to be true, both in our personal or professional lives. Even at work we have our own likes and dislikes. As a result of this, managers have come to the realisation that while cash bonuses and pay increases can motivate some employees, money does not motivate everyone. Even in the case of the same person- our wants and needs change over time, therefore what motivates us today, might not motivate us tomorrow. In seeing this dynamic in the work place, many managers have turned to non-cash incentives as an alternative to bonuses.
In his book ‘1001 Ways to Reward Employees’ Bob Nelson states that whilst cash is widely appreciated and needed in most cases, employees feel more rewarded when they receive something that they may not acquire otherwise or something that they have longed for over a lengthy period of time. Recently, it has been noted that in the right circumstances and in the right combination, non-cash rewards are even more effective at bringing about higher levels of productivity from staff.
With many managers contemplating changing the way in which they reward employees, Nelson continues by stating that the best way to set up a rewards policy that everyone is happy with is through open dialogue with employees. This will help determine what inspires each one of them to do their best. Supervisors need to understand the type of reward that will stimulate the participant group. Whilst money may still be the incentive for some, recognition or more challenging assignments may be more desirable and exciting for others.
He writes that organisations should:
- match the reward to the person,
- match the reward to the achievement, and
- be timely and specific.
There are different kinds of non-cash incentives that can be rewarded to staff. Whilst some are non-monetary, others consist of cash and a keepsake. Incentives that can be considered include:
Recognition– The act of simply saying ‘thank you’ in public and the presentation of a tangible gift has multiple functions. To the employee, recognition signifies that someone noticed and someone cares. To the rest of the organisation, recognition acts as a guideline for standards, signifying what constitutes outstanding performance.
Time Off- In receiving paid time off, an employee’s job satisfaction is increased. They are given the opportunity to pursue a hobby or to simply relax without having to take on the extra burden of contemplating how the time off allotted will affect their earnings. The reward of a day off can be given when a staff member maintains perfect attendance, exceeds monthly sales or production goals or provides the department with an innovative solution to a business problem.
Development Opportunities/ Success– Recent arguments suggest that when an employee has access to personal and professional development opportunities they may contribute more time and effort to an employer’s goals. Success can bring about financial perks, but employees need to witness that these perks are being distributed for genuine accomplishment. If the company or department is perceived to reward staff based on favouritism or increase salaries arbitrarily, it could create negative feelings to those who were not acknowledged and perhaps then lead to demotivation.
Development can be enhanced through formal training or simply by maintaining a company library full of development based resources. This will assist in the honing in on personal and professional skills.
There is no particular reward that supersedes any other as being the best type to present in recognition of superior work. Rather, the onus is on each organisation to dialogue with employees over time and therefore determine each individual’s needs and match the reward to the person and their achievements. Managers need to ensure that rewards are not blanket or a continuous copy. There needs to be diversity according to achievement. Top performers need to know that their efforts were exceptional, recognised as such and rewarded accordingly. If this is not done, these incentives will fall short of what they aim to accomplish, that being to inspire employees to be more productive.