The secret language of reward
There’s a reason that anthropologists study gift giving. It’s because a gift is more than a thing given by one person to another. Much more. It’s a feeling embodied in an object. It’s a piece of communication, and as such speaks volumes about the gift giver, whether they’re from somewhere deep in Amazon country or a more corporate kind of jungle.
A case in point: A family friend of mine spent 25 years working his way to the top of a well-known global FMCG company. To mark the occasion, he was presented with a catalogue jam-packed with the usual gold watches and crystal knick-knacks.
Deflated, he chose a signet ring, which arrived some months later with his initials engraved the wrong way round.
What was his gift trying to say? Probably something like this:
“Your hard work and loyalty have been invaluable and we wanted to say so’ But somewhere in the wrangler of overstretched administration and remote execution, the message was lost. What he heard was more akin to ‘Are you still here? Have a generic trinket and be on your way.”
Fortunately, reward-gone-awry anecdotes are on the wane as more and more companies prick up their ears to the importance of reward and recognition. Vodafone, IBM and Camelot all run successful schemes. At BT, loyal employees are given a Long Service Reward Card that they can redeem anywhere that takes Mastercard, while at Tesco, anyone from a manager to a junior to a customer can purchase an award to acknowledge the hard work of an individual or a whole team.
Why the wake-up call? Because I’d put really good money on it being the case that that employees whose loyalty, commitment and hard work are rewarded, produce better work and stay longer in their employment. In fact studies have shown that they value feeling valued over anything else, including monetary reward. The good news is that HR bosses in companies of any size don’t have to employ a personal shopper to offer staff their heart’s desire. A reward and recognition scheme means giving them the luxury of choosing whatever they want from wherever they want.
It means putting the battered catalogue in the paper shredder where it belongs, and saying a thousand thank yous in a thousand personal ways.