MSU Human Resources >> Recognition >> Informal Rewards

Informal Rewards

What are they?

Informal rewards act as a "common sense" approach to employee recognition and refer to the innumerable ways in which supervisors can demonstrate their appreciation of a job well done.

As effective strategies to recognize employees, they are often overlooked in lieu of formal reward programs, such as the University's lump sum or base pay merit increase programs. In fact, when asked, employees often have heightened morale and are more motivated by consistent appreciation and recognition than simply by money.

Informal rewards focus on spontaneous, sincere and personal appreciation of employee efforts. These types of rewards successfully recognize employees, while generally requiring very little or no funding to implement and maintain.  Informal rewards, when delivered correctly and consistently, improve both performance and morale.

Why should I use them?

Informal Rewards when implemented correctly deliver results:

  • Improvement of employee performance
  • Frequent repetition of "good" performance
  • Improvement in employee morale and motivation
  • Increased sense of self-respect and confidence
  • Increased employee retention
  • Enhanced employee/supervisor relationships
  • Open channels of communication
  • Reinforce university/unit values and culture
  • Recognize personal performance and achievement
  • Build mutual commitment and relationships
  • Inspire change and improve productivity

How should I use them?

Informal rewards should be:

  • Highly Individualized
  • Spontaneous
  • Immediate
  • Symbolic
  • Consistent
  • Meaningful
  • Simple

Delivering Rewards Effectively

Four principles should be considered in determining how best to deliver a particular reward:

If-Then Principle
If an employee's performance meets or exceeds your expectations, then reward the employee.

ASAP Principle
Give the reward as soon as possible after the performance has occurred.

Variety Principle
The reward should keep changing to retain its effect. The same reward given multiple times will lose its impact.

Sometimes Principle
A "sometimes" reward is given only some of the time when an employee's performance exceeds your expectations. Employees who are rewarded periodically when they perform well are likely to continue to perform well in the absence of rewards.

Use these steps when delivering a reward:

1. Describe exactly what was done well.
2. Describe how your unit, the university or customer benefited.
3. Deliver the reward using the above principles

Need some ideas? - Keys to Selecting the Right Reward

The first key to selecting an effective reward is knowing what your employees will find rewarding. When an employee's performance, morale or motivation has not been influenced by a reward, it is likely because it was the wrong reward for that employee. When rewards don't fit, they don't work. However, it is sometimes difficult to identify a reward that your employee will find valuable.

There are three easy ways to find out what your employees would find rewarding:

  • Watch what they do - Pay attention to how they spend their free time or what they might have as hobbies.
  • Listen to them - By listening, you can learn about their interests or work place concerns. (i.e. the desire for advanced training)
  • Ask them - If you're unsure, ask them!

The second key to selecting the most effective reward is having a large number available from which to choose. The following list offers ideas and an expansion of options for informal employee rewards. Review them for rewards you may have not previously considered.

  • Praise, "thank you" in person and/or in front of others
  • Email thank you
  • Letter of appreciation with copies to the employee's file and to top administrators
  • Publicity - mention in newsletter/MSU News Bulletin/Local newspaper
  • Paycheck delivered in person, thanking employees for their work or note on the paycheck envelope recognizing the employee's accomplishments
  • Electronic message boards recognizing accomplishments
  • "Behind the scenes" Award - for those not normally in the lime light
  • Employment anniversary note
  • "Meet the President" forum or lunch
  • Lunch with top departmental administrator
  • Invitation to "higher-level" meetings
  • Offer to mentor the employee
  • Opportunity for advanced training/attendance at seminars or conferences
  • More frequent assignment of responsibilities the employee enjoys
  • Reassign work the employee does not enjoy
  • More autonomy to determine how the work is completed
  • Additional staff for project development
  • Job sharing
  • Work off-site
  • Flexible work schedules
  • Increase work space privacy
  • Upgrade of computer
  • Special parking space near the office
  • Regular recognition lunches
  • Tickets to local events
  • MSU t-shirts, jackets, hats, cups, desk accessories
  • Restaurant certificate
  • Tour University gardens/facilities during work hours
  • Contribution to a favorite charity
  • Food basket
  • One month club membership
  • Cash bonus - with taxes pre-paid
  • Baked goods, balloons or flowers delivered to employee(s) at work from on-campus: MSU Bakers
  • Employee appreciation day - with banners, lunch, etc. in honor of employee
  • Employee photo boards or "Hall of Fame" - with kudos provided by peers
  • Certificate of accomplishment
  • Employee of the month

Please note that all cash awards, including gift certificates, or any other cash equivalents, are taxable income and are subject to withholding tax and FICA

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