Years ago my friend invited me to Friday night drinks. Her company, a big advertising agency, was located on the harbour, in an office with beautiful sweeping views in the centre of a bustling district.
I remember at that time thinking how great this place was, providing free drinks in a private office bar. Not just beer and wine, but any spirits too, with a DJ thumping out the latest tunes while you drank and partied. It was like having your own club right in your office.
Does your team care about the rewards you offer?
I look back on that time now and find the scene far less appealing. But that’s natural. I’m much older now, and that stuff isn’t as important to me.
Even back then, it wasn’t hard to see that these people were making a trade. They were trading very long hours and low salaries for free drinks and entertainment. Of course, they were also able to attend functions put on by their customers, getting to know the industry bigwigs.
So what team rewards are you providing? Are they team rewards that they actually care about?
Understanding what your team members want is the first step
To provide team rewards to your people, you need to know what they like. Too many times, I have seen companies take the easy way out. Free food, free drinks, invites to fancy parties.
But these are tokens. They don’t provide lasting value. If your employees feel motivated by these things, then consider yourself lucky.
Everybody is different, so even if 80 per cent of your team loves free food, there are 20 per cent that aren’t interested. You can’t pretend you are offering valuable team rewards when some of them don’t care about it.
Make a list of your team members and write down two or three team rewards that they value. Don’t know? Meet with them one-on-one and talk about it. If they aren’t sure, then let them go away and think about it, letting you know later.
Even the simple act of asking your team what they like is powerful, because they see that you’re interested.
Examples of valuable team rewards
There are a million team rewards that you could provide for your team. I’ve grouped them into broad categories here for you to consider. You may not be able to provide some of these things. But you’d be surprised how many of them are low cost, or even simply require you to spend some time.
Free food, drinks, parties, functions, events. These are team rewards that many employers use all the time, because it’s easy. Often functions take place out of work time, meaning that there is no impact on the team’s work. In my experience, these team rewards don’t provide much lasting value, but they do take people’s minds off work for a while.
2. Coaching and mentoring
Putting in the effort to have coaching and mentoring conversations with your team can be extremely valuable, and all it requires is putting aside some time. Many leaders consider time spent coaching and mentoring as a waste when people could be working instead. Many leaders don’t understand the longer term benefits of coaching somebody to improve their skills.
One of the best things one of my former bosses did for me was to sit down and coach me on project management years ago. He had been doing it for years and it was valuable information. It didn’t cost anything, except a few hours of his time, but it made a lasting impact.
Training courses cost money, with training budgets often the first to go when times are tough. Look outside of the box for this one. There are many free resources available that you can use for training. You don’t need a fancy certificate to learn something.
Most importantly, make sure your team are learning skills that they can actually use in their jobs. Otherwise it will just be training for training’s sake and not something that is actually relevant. Spending time learning things that aren’t relevant is actually extremely boring.
4. Flexible working arrangements
Do you really need your team to be in your line of sight all the time? Are they perhaps able to work from home or come in later on some days? You’d be surprised at the difference this makes. This flexibility lets people balance their personal appointments outside of work, helping to reduce stress.
5. Time to work on new things or pet projects
Innovation is the catch-cry that we’ve all heard recently. “We have to innovate”, leaders cry. But often all innovation side projects are OK out of work hours, but not when there is other “real” work to do.
This can be as easy as setting aside some time for your team to work on something they find interesting for an hour a week. Make sure that it is relevant to the work they do, with the view to potentially using it in a real project in the future. This doesn’t have to cost money, it could simply be research and experimentation. But if you don’t allow it, it won’t happen.
6. Interesting work
Sometimes all people want is to work on something interesting and that can be reward enough. If your team members are doing never-ending work consisting of the same tasks every day, they are probably bored. Even if they don’t quit, there is no doubt they’ll be unhappy and not performing to the level that they could be.
See if you can change it for them. Have them work on a side project, or learn new skills working on something that they don’t normally get a chance to put their effort into. Variety is key.
7. Career opportunities
Some people value career opportunities, such as more responsibility or leadership activities. This doesn’t always need to be a formal promotion, but could simply be something that they can put on their resume to improve their career prospects.
8. Financial benefits
Staff discounts, special deals or salary sacrificing can be great benefits for team members if they are available. Some people are value experience and learning more than money, but you shouldn’t overlook the ability to make home life just that bit financially easier.
9. More time off
Whether it’s buying additional leave to go on that big holiday or giving your team time off because they worked some long hours, additional leave can be a good way to make your team happy.
Do the people in your team care about your team rewards?
It’s quite well known that money is not the best motivator for many people. Often people will forget a high salary if the work is unpleasant.
If you think your people should be happy just being paid, then you should think again if you want to actually get the best out of them.
Look around your team. Do you know what team rewards they value, and are they getting them? What could you do to introduce more valuable team rewards?