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Boosting employee performance on a small budget

When firms establish reward systems to encourage workers to fulfill basic job functions, this can lead to problems that reduce productivity. Organizations may be better served rewarding exceptional performances as they occur.

A strong company performance depends on getting all employees working toward a common goal. Many organizations struggle to lift productivity and engage staff members, which prevents businesses from reaching their objectives. Employee reward programs can help deliver results, but companies need to be careful how they implement them.

Harvard Business School assistant professor Ian Larkin recommends that companies focus on recognizing past behavior. He notes that when firms establish reward systems to encourage workers to fulfill basic job functions, this can lead to problems that reduce productivity. Larkin told Forbes that organizations would be better served rewarding exceptional performances as they occur.

When an employee goes out of his or her way to deliver results, companies need to acknowledge the commitment publicly for the benefit of the entire team. Showing the value of hard work highlights the potential gain that top performers will see and inspires others to push harder to receive their own recognition.

"You can't put a price on that," Larkin said. "The recognition of hearing you did a good job and that others are hearing about it is worth more than money."

Get creative with rewards
Not every reward program needs to depend on expensive bonuses. Small rewards can be just as effective at delivering results if administered correctly. The Bath Chronicle recommends that employers get creative when it comes to providing rewards to workers. Items that are unique and memorable can boost productivity more than cash. Money is quickly used and forgotten, but workers eager to show they are proud of their accomplishments will likely appreciate  personalized laptop bags, coffee mugs or plaques that can be displayed repeatedly.

That said, rewards don't have to be physical items at all. Giving employees time off to be with their families or volunteer at local charities can help increase their productivity and enthusiasm at work. Getting creative with the choice of rewards allows businesses to appeal to a wider range of employees. For this process to be successful, it is important for companies to know their workers, so that each reward is appreciated and valued by its recipient.

When businesses implement employee reward programs properly, this creates a culture that encourages hard work and dedication. By focusing on recognizing workers for outstanding customer service, stepping in to cover absent employees or offering innovative ideas on how to improve a product, businesses can inspire the type of behavior they want without a lot of additional costs.

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