Mixed signals confuse employees and often result in reduced communication and cooperation among team members.
Good managers know that they need to send consistent messages to their staff members to generate the best results. Mixed signals confuse employees and often result in reduced communication and cooperation among team members. A lack of consistency pushes each worker in a different direction and can create friction.
The same concept applies for reward and recognition programs. Companies that haphazardly cobble together incentive programs may see short-term gains, but will fail to build a culture that supports staff in their efforts to achieve long-term goals. Employee Benefits notes that consistency is an important element for generating high participation levels in corporate initiatives.
Be aware of the messages being sent
Before implementing any sort of program, organizations should carefully consider not only who will be eligible to participate in them and what type of rewards will be offered, but the message that these programs will send as well. Some efforts can lead to unintended consequences if not planned properly. The South Bend Tribune reports that rewarding behavior that should be considered part of normal work functions, such as showing up on time for a shift, can lead to lower productivity as top performers lose motivation once they feel the extra efforts they give are not being recognized. Those who used to show up early may feel such programs are unfair and lose motivation for their job.
The source notes that a better strategy to improve results of reward and recognition programs is to reward past behavior. By recognizing employees who have embodied the behaviors companies wish to encourage, they can motivate all staff members. If businesses want call center employees to arrive on time, recognizing star employees who have made punctuality a priority on their own will send a clear and consistent message to other workers.
The type of rewards being offered is also part of the message that participants receive. A large single reward can motivate workers, but it can also generate competition among team members. This can work well for roles that are highly independent in their functions, but in areas where cooperation is a key part of productivity, it can have disastrous effects. IMedia Connection states that when all employees share in an accomplishment they should share equally in the rewards. Recognizing each member of a team that delivered projects on schedule or under budget will encourage better communication and coordination on future projects. When each worker knows that their efforts will be valued, they become more committed to the success of a project.
Creating effective reward programs requires a lot of thought and planning. Business leaders should consider each initiative and the messages that it sends to employees with the goal of maintaining consistency over the long run.