Everyone thinks money is the big motivator in the workplace, and it certainly is when people aren't being paid enough or when they don't have enough to provide for their basic needs. But once that happens, money doesn't go that far unless it is a huge sum.
Even if large financial rewards are there, people still want to feel special. Money feeds the pocketbook; recognition feeds the soul.
If giving recognition doesn’t come naturally to you, just remember how much most people need and appreciate it. Find ways of recognizing people that are comfortable for you. An e-mail message -- or, better yet, a handwritten note -- that thanks someone for a job well done speaks volumes. So, too, does a word of appreciation from someone even higher up in the organization.
Every time you recognize or affirm your people publicly, you send a message about what you value. People will also extract their own meanings out of your public recognition, so it’s important to allocate recognition equitably.
Some people will wonder, “Is my manager playing favorites, or does my colleague really deserve the recognition she is giving her?” Others will ask, “Have I received equal recognition for accomplishments that are of equal importance and significance? When was the last time my manager recognized me in such a way?” You don’t want people to think you are playing favorites, so look for something to acknowledge in everyone’s performance.
When giving recognition, one word of caution: make sure you don't promise rewards that you may not be able to deliver.
If you even only imply that people will advance if they do this or that, in their mind promotion is a fait accompli. You may even have the intention of promoting people if they meet their goals, but today's business world is changing too rapidly to be able to promise almost anything in the way of promotion or pay. Nothing can erode trust more than failing to deliver on a promise.
You also want to stimulate in people a desire to grow and develop for reasons other than pay and promotion. One person I coached was extremely upset because he had been meeting his objectives and hadn't been promoted as he thought he should have. His boss hadn't promoted him because of some of his interpersonal skills and because he was too driven and aggressive. Getting him to want to improve and grow for no other reason than the mere satisfaction of doing so was essential.
By changing the focus from his extreme need to be promoted (which he did not need for financial reasons) to simply working on himself, he eventually got what he had stopped driving so hard for -- the promotion. By that time, after months of arduous work on himself, the promotion was secondary. He seemed to be more proud and pleased with the personal progress he had made than with the promotion.