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by Roy Saunderson | February 02, 2016

Rewards, on the surface, can seem so simple. But if rewards are not well understood or are used unwisely they can easily become a headache. Here are the top 10 success factors essential for getting the best of your rewards -- and because I love alliteration, these ten all begin with the letter "m."

1. Very Meaningful. Whether it is a tangible reward, a travel incentive trip, or an experiential event, record employee preferences and look to make your rewards more personalized to each individual receiving them. Hold face-to-face meetings with employees to learn all about their reward likes, wants, and needs.

2. Perfect Matching. Rewards must always reward the right behavior. Carefully look for and correct any misinterpretation of the right behaviors employees are expected to demonstrate. For instance, you don't want to reward people for an error-free accidents report -- only to find out people are hiding minor injuries just to get the reward.

3. Make Motivational. Rewards can help elevate an employee's stature among his or her peers and in the eyes of company leaders. Use the power of prestige and accompany rewards with perquisites such as status badges, executive clubs, and the familiar parking spots to lift your rewards.

4. Clearly Measurable. Rewards are given consequentially on the premise of "if you do this, then you get that." Since these behaviors can be measured, write out the targeted objective to be achieved and then identify how you will know for sure whether the performance has occurred or not.

5. Well Merited. Rewards can stir up some unwanted bias when people think they deserved getting them over someone else. Telling the story of the recipient's above-and-beyond actions, communicating his or her positive attributes, and noting how all criteria expectations were met will help confirm the winner's merits.

6. Ensure Memorable. Rewards do not often come in fancy wrapped packages. It is up to those who manage rewards to assist leaders who will give the rewards and to provide the messaging, image, and experience that make rewards memorable. Always accompany rewards with ample appreciation.

7. Easily Manageable. Rewards come at the end of achieving specific results. Utilize online management systems so rewards are aligned with reaching specific goals and you are notified and/or assisted with distribution of the rewards. The transactional element of rewards should make life easier for you.

8. Visibly Metrical. Reward the right actions by creating metrics to consistently measure qualitative variables as well as expected quantitative measures. Metrics help track progress as well as performance. People looking at these metrics should be able to use the same measurements and come close to the same conclusion.

9. Right Material. Rewards need to have all the right qualities suited to the activity being rewarded. A top salesperson will likely always be a leader and could perpetually merit the best-in-sales award and annual exotic trip. But doing something like giving him or her a painting made from a family photo is personal and acknowledges the sacrifices made.

10. Fastidiously Meticulous. Rewards must be handled with care and follow strict rules to avoid any and all questionable practices. This comes down to dealing with the details. Behavioral objectives must be clear, reward strategies must be documented, and compensation and benefits must be given in accordance with reward tax laws.

Incentive columnist Roy Saunderson is author of Giving the Real Recognition Way and is the Chief Learning Officer of Rideau's Recognition Management Institute, a consulting and training company which helps leaders and managers get recognition right. He can be reached at RoySaunderson@Rideau.com. Also, check out the library of Real Recognition Radio shows.