by Jacqueline Benjamin | July 28, 2017
Reward and recognition schemes are meant to celebrate the efforts and achievements of staff and sales reps, making employees feel valued. But if they're not implemented correctly, these programs can end up doing more damage than good. So what are the pitfalls to avoid?  
 
Don't base rewards on performance alone 
  
Rewards should not be based on performance alone, but effort, enthusiasm, and other attributes. After all, reward and recognition should be about reinforcing your organization's culture and values and these won't always be about performance. It is with this in mind that the savviest employers link rewards directly to their organization's core values. These tend to focus as much on softer, ethically focused attributes such as "integrity" as they do on performance. Linking your reward and recognition program to the company values is a very good way of making those values more tangible for your employees.  
 
Don't make it about money
 
There is a lot of evidence to suggest that recognition -- in particular, praise from management or having the opportunity to lead projects -- is a better motivator than cash. If employee rewards are purely financial, there is a risk that they are mistaken for salary or bonus, with the emphasis then being on monetary value, rather than the act of recognition. Moreover, some of the best rewards don't cost a penny. This is a particularly important point for organizations that may employ high-earners for whom a cash reward (if it's not deemed generous enough) could end up de-motivating employees. A banker earning $300K may not appreciate a $150 voucher, but very much value a thank-you letter and bottle of champagne from the CEO.
 
Don't lose sight of team moments
 
Team moments are a crucial part of recognition and though digital, social recognition tools now form an important part of many recognition strategies, organizations should not lose sight of the importance of face-to-face presentations as an effective form of "social recognition." This is especially important for those organizations with a large mobile or flexible workforce.   
 
Don't let managers get in the way
 
Managers are crucial to the success of staff engagement strategies such as reward and recognition, yet we sometimes hear stories of them getting in the way. Some may not be naturally good at formally recognizing the efforts and achievements of their team, whilst others will give the impression that they don't want to spend budget. As such, it's crucial to get them engaged from the outset, communicate the benefits of recognition to them, and involve them in the process.
 
Don't be generic
 
The best employee rewards are those that are tailored to the individual. Employers have access to so much data these days - from anecdotal (via peers and managers) to automated (via online benefits platforms which provide insight on buying patterns and preferences) -- that it is easier than ever to ensure that you are rewarding your team with something that they really value, whether an extra hour at lunch, or a day out at the races.   
 
Don't be unfair
 
Fairness is a critical factor in keeping staff motivated and there is raft of evidence to suggest that internal inequities are much bigger de-motivators than external factors. Make sure that rewards appear equal, that there is a clear and logical decision making process involved and that this is communicated to effectively to your team.  

Jacqueline Benjamin is cofounder of Xexec, an industry-leading employee engagement, reward and recognition, and customer loyalty program provider.