A Fresh Look at R and R... It's Not What You Think

By Jean Marie Johnson

While rest and relaxation may be on your mind in these early days of spring, we're talking about another set of R's: Rewards and Recognition. These are two of the most powerful people practices on the planet.

Companies across a wide spectrum of industries are placing a strategic priority on rewards and recognition. For good reason. With a persistent need to attract, retain and develop the best of the best customer-facing employees, they can't afford not to. 

Here are a few tips to help you get started in setting up your own rewards and recognition program:

  • Get Employee Input: When it comes to rewards, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Some organizations continue to use monetary or non-cash rewards exclusively, while others use a combination of the two. Specific rewards vary. A trip to Tahiti may be one organization's grand prize for stellar performance, while a ticket to the local movie theater may be another's. In fact, rewards such as gift certificates, dining out coupons, and parking spaces top the list of non-monetary rewards.

  • The best practice that emerges here is straightforward: employee involvement. And that makes perfect sense since rewards are intended to both encourage and acknowledge specific behaviors and results. By asking employees what they value and desire, organizations demonstrate respect for their employees while providing effective external motivators in the form of rewards that matter.
  • Depending on your organization's size and structure, you might consider an on-line survey, focus group, or simply a team meeting as the means of getting input. What matters more than how you ask is that you ask.
  • Follow Up and Follow Through: Best practice research suggests that companies who excel in “rewards management” pay particular attention to how performance is tracked and communicated. Employees in these organizations know where they stand because the process for tracking is clear, visible, and communicated in a timely way. While there is no specific formula for tracking or communicating, it is the clarity and consistency that counts.  

  • Be Timely with Recognitions: A combination of both formal and informal recognition programs continues to be favored by most organizations. We are pleased to learn that increased attention is being paid to informal ways to acknowledge and appreciate employees. Managers and supervisors are being encouraged to hone their “noticing skills,” to pay attention to those brilliant moments when a sincere thank you or praise speaks volumes.

  • This form of recognition identifies desired behaviors and reinforces them while making the employee feel good about herself and her contribution. While formal programs of recognition are still deemed important by employees, there is no substitute for the spontaneous expression of gratitude for a job well done.
  • That certainly sounds like MAGIC to us! Yet, the biggest missed opportunity for recognition is in the day-to-day interaction with employees. 


As our lives become more and more permeated with technology to connect us, schedule us and support us, we can't afford to lose sight of these high-touch practices – rewards and recognition. Following these tips will get you on the path to greater employee satisfaction, which in turn will lead you to the golden goose: greater customer satisfaction!

Jean Marie Johnson is a Communico facilitator and has helped clients with their MAGIC initiatives. And for 20 years she has specialized in cultivating the customer experience as a key competitive advantage.

Before and After
Before and After
Just one "tragic" contact can influence your customers' perception of your company (and their buying decisions). Listen to the difference MAGIC® can make.