The title says it all. Rewarding Your Employees in Tight Salary Times is a problem to which almost any manager can relate. After all, finding a way to show genuine appreciation to deserving employees isn’t always possible.
But author Harry T. Roman believes that with planning, and a little creativity, managers can reward key and special employees ” even when the budget won’t allow it, or they’ve topped out in their position. In Volume 1: Some Basic Techniques of his new IEEE-USA E-book series, the veteran engineering professional and educator describes strategies that he promises will keep valued employees feeling appreciated as well as motivated. More significant than, say, giving someone their own reserved parking space for a month, Roman’s techniques are designed to keep people wanting to stay rock-solid in their manager’s corner.
To begin with, Roman recommends that all managers should get to know their employees well. “For instance,” he writes, “do you know what issues at work get them into a rolling boil? What keeps them at their jobs and liking it? Do they have a flair for creating new ideas, and moving to implement them ” by their own initiative?”
Roman says it also helps to understand whether employees are team builders ” both within the department and elsewhere ” and whether they have other, related work interests they might like to have a chance to try out.
He also suggests that managers answer this rhetorical question about each person who reports to them: “If you gave them resources and authority beyond what they have now, what might they be inclined to do?”
Roman says these facts are especially important to know about special or high-performing employees. “At some future point, company circumstances may prevent you from rewarding them with a conventional salary increase, or bonus,” he says. “What will you do to keep these important people wanting to stay the course?
“Understanding your people can help you in crafting programs, opportunities and circumstances where they can continue to shine and grow in new directions,” he adds, noting it also sends a powerful workplace message about your flexibility as a leader/manager, and also how the company cares for its employees.
One strategy the author encourages is to assign more responsibility. He notes that while it may seem counter-intuitive, increasing a person’s assignment is also an implied acknowledgement of his or her value. For example, the person may be asked to coordinate all departmental or group budget information, coordinate and approve vacation schedules, or, when the manager is out of the office, act in his or her place ” with appropriate approval authority, of course.
Temporary assignments are another way to reward high-performing employees. Providing them with a temporary or liaison assignment allows people to obtain some cross-training that will benefit both the department and the individual’s interests. Temporary assignments, adds the author, can be refreshing for someone eager to learn and grow.
“It’s important,” notes Roman, “for the employee about to embark on a temporary assignment to talk with others in your group, to determine what their information needs are. When the liaison person returns to full-time work in your department, they can debrief, and share their experiences to everyone’s benefit.”
The author acknowledges the potential downside to arranging for a temporary assignment; the employee may end up liking it more on the other side of the fence than in his or her current position. But even this situation has value, says Roman. “Yes, it could deny you the skilled working experience of an employee,” he writes, “but it can build a powerful bridge for future interactions with his or her newly chosen group. Your job as a leader is to make sure that not only do your resources benefit your department, but the company as well.”
One more strategy for rewarding employees is to encourage them to attend a professional conference ” and either present a paper, or have it published in a conference proceeding. The author acknowledges there’s an ego aspect to giving papers–but he adds the activity is also loaded with both recognition ” and the opportunity to learn what he calls “a killer business skill.”
Rewarding Your Employees in Tight Salary Times contains many more proven ideas for showing appreciation and motivating key employees. Moreover, there’s more to come; IEEE-USA e-books will publish Volume 2: More Techniques later this year.
Harry Roman is an IEEE Senior Member who worked for 36 years, almost all of them in R&D, for Public Service Electric and Gas Company, the largest utility serving New Jersey. Over the years, he directed and consulted on more than $100 million worth of projects and programs. He also has taught graduate-level R&D project management courses at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Rewarding Your Employees in Tight Salary Times, Volume 1: Some Basic Techniques is available for $4.99 for IEEE members and $7.99 for non-members.
Helen Horwitz is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Albuquerque, N.M. She was with IEEE from 1991 through 2011, the first nine as Staff Director, IEEE Corporate Communications.