Increase Teamwork by Rewarding Your Best Employees

Raises, promotions, bonuses, gift cards, time off—these are all customary ways of recognizing and rewarding an employee’s good work. Yet, studies show that often the effects of these rewards are transitory. While such rewards can be well-earned and appreciated, there are other ways to acknowledge good work that also help to motivate employees to improve their performance.

Timing is everything

Companies typically pick an arbitrary point in time, such as at a monthly or quarterly staff meeting or annual awards ceremony, to recognize employees for a job well done or for hitting or exceeding specific milestones or goals. Such feel-good occasions may give a temporary boost to employee morale. But letting time elapse between the achievement being celebrated and the recognition event is not good. Waiting longer means the reward is less likely to have an impact on performance.

To be most effective, employees should be recognized as close to the time of their achievement as possible. More immediate recognition will have a greater impact on their sense of achievement. It will also send a message to the rest of the team that leadership is paying attention. It’s a way to show they truly appreciate a job well done. Moreover, it more directly links the reward to the actual contribution and its value to the company. Whereas recognition given at a regularly scheduled awards ceremony can feel less genuine—a moment for leadership to showboat their generosity rather than one that emphasizes the contribution of the employee.

Money isn’t everything

If employees are presented with monetary incentives to achieve certain outcomes or deadlines, then they will respond positively when given monetary rewards for achieving or exceeding those targets. Such rewards, though, are often regarded as transactions. They do not motivate many employees to improve their performance in other areas of their job. On the contrary, studies have shown that they can disincentivize employees from applying themselves to other duties and responsibilities other than those with a monetary award attached.

If your goal in rewarding employees is not only to recognize a specific job well done but to motivate them to perform at an even higher level, then recognize them for their contribution to the company by empowering them to achieve more. Show you value them by giving them more responsibility:

  • Offer them opportunities for professional development.
  • Assign them to a project where they can learn new skills or play more of a leadership role.
  • Work out a plan for future advancement in the company.
  • Help cover the cost of getting licensed or certified.
  • Put them in charge of a staff task force or committee that provides input to leadership.

According to one recent HBR study, when individuals are singled out for excellent performance in a timely manner, not with transactional rewards but with recognition for a specific, concrete contribution to the company, it can further motivate not only that individual but other team members. Team members are less likely to be resentful when money is not involved. There should be no hint of favoritism in the presentation of the reward.


Monetary rewards are appropriate when performance is linked directly to generating revenues or cost savings for the company. Achievement can be more easily quantified in these roles. For other roles and tasks where you want to motivate job performance or instill certain kinds of behavior, offer rewards that demonstrate how much you value the employee and want them to continue to grow and succeed.

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Pearl Collective

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