There are "1001 Ways to Reward Employees" for a job well-done, and Bob Nelson, author of the new book by that title, lists them all.
Surprisingly, "more money" does not head the list, said Nelson, vice president of (Ken) Blanchard Training and Development in San Diego and an expert on employee/employer relations. In fact, said Nelson who was in Salt Lake City this week on a book tour, four of the top five employee motivators cost nothing to implement.Nelson said that in one study of 1,500 companies and 65 potential motivators, most employees said the best thing their manager could do for them was give them a face-to-face meeting and tell them they were doing a good job.
But 60 percent of those workers said their supervisor never took the time to do that.
"I found a real gap between what employers think are the strong motivating tools and what employees say motivates them," said Nelson.
Managers, he found, believe that the people under them care only about salaries, promotions and other tangible evidence of their worth to the company.
Yes, those things are important, but the majority of workers told Nelson what mattered most to them was being appreciated when they did a good job.
"Also, they want to be in on things. They want to be included in the decision-making. They want at least a part of their jobs to be interesting and to feel they are making a difference."
In second place, following the personal meeting, Nelson said, is for a supervisor to acknowledge a good job in writing - in a letter or memo to the employee.
Third was acknowledgment of good work in a public way, such as singling the employee out in a staff meeting.
In fourth place among morale builders were staging special activities acknowledging employees overall, such as "casual day" or "ice cream day" in which treats are provided by the boss for the workers.
Providing opportunities for promotion came in fifth, but the next best thing to promoting someone, said Nelson, is to help them prepare, through training, for a future opening on a higher rung of the ladder.
Last year, noted Nelson, the Working Family Institution, based in New York, asked a group of employees why they took a job with their current employer. The No. 1 reason cited was "open communications" between management and staff. Salary was only the 16th item listed.
"When you think about it," said Nelson, "it's not so hard to understand. Everyone wants to have meaning and purpose in their job; they spend so much time at it."
But what about those who aren't cutting it? How do you praise someone who doesn't deserve it?
First, said Nelson, you have to make sure the worker knows what is expected of them on their job. Surprisingly, he said, many people simply don't know what they are supposed to do.
Nelson cites the case of a surly bank teller. Nelson says the bank manager should take that person aside and tell them, "Perhaps we haven't made it clear. Gary, we want you to be pleasant to the customers."
If "Gary" then changes his attitude and begins treating the customers with respect, the manager then acknowledges it. "That's exactly what I'm talking about, Gary. Thanks for doing it."
Sounds simple, but Nelson said this approach is the opposite of the way most managers react to a non-performing employee.
"Most managers tend to ignore their employees until they jump on them for a mistake - the `Leave Alone - ZAP!' school of management.
With `Leave Alone - ZAP!' said Nelson, the job becomes political.
"You start looking over your shoulder, focusing on the boss' whims instead of your job. If you don't get zapped, you begin to think you're doing all right simply because you haven't been chewed out lately. Your self-esteem erodes. You begin to dread coming to work. This is not a definition of a productive employee."
Nelson concluded from his research that a good manager in today's workplace is more of a coach or cheerleader, not a taskmaster who tells workers, "It's my way or the highway."
"1001 Ways to Reward Employees" is currently available in oversize soft cover in bookstores for $8.95.