Rewarding the new normal

trophy free to use As we work toward a more collaborative culture within MnSCU, we’ll need people at all levels to take ownership of their part in the changes. If you’ve been following the Charting the Future implementation teams, you know that incentives and rewards are an important part of the strategy.

Leaders in public higher education sometimes think that our labor contracts and financial restrictions leave us few options for rewarding employees. But there are many non-financial ways to reward good work, and they can be even more effective than money. For example, engagement expert Beverley Kaye created this list of 26 ways to reward star employees. Check it out for some new ideas.

In addition to thinking about how to reward good work, leaders need to think about what to reward. Last year’s safety issues at General Motors sparked an interesting case study in a recent Harvard Business Review blog.  Titled Do Your Company’s Incentives Reward Bad Behavior? it proposed that while GM talked about the importance of safety, organizational behaviors indicated that cost control was more important. This mis-alignment probably discouraged people from bringing up safety concerns. Here are some tips from the article:

  1. Create an honest and reflective list of the behaviors you want and the behaviors you don’t want.
  2. Identify the behaviors that you are currently measuring. Think broadly about the kinds of feedback that you pay attention to and the activities you formally and informally track with colleagues and those who report to you.
  3. Compare the two lists. What behaviors do you care about, but are not currently measuring? This is what the article called your “danger list.”
  4. Assess your rewards and incentives to be sure they reflect the behaviors you want to see more of.

Identifying the feedback “danger list” is an important leadership strategy to support change. If a key behavior is not being measured, others are likely to think it isn’t very important. Further, even if people want to engage in that behavior they will lack feedback about what they are doing well and what needs to be improved.

The article suggested an easy way to assess your feedback strategies, rewards, and incentives: ask people what would happen if they did the behaviors on your “more of” and “less of” lists. Would they 1) be rewarded or approved, 2) be discouraged in some way, 3) receive no reaction, or 4) not know what to expect? The answers can help you pay attention to the right things.

Are the right things are being measured and rewarded in your area?

–Dee Anne Bonebright



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