Awards, are you motivated…

Well done you won an award. How do you feel. Hopefully this was well deserved and unexpected and you feel great, after all people have recognized what you did. You should feel great…

But do awards always motivate people. Some research says the opposite.

In a scientific test it has shown that this is not always the case. For tasks that are Algorithmic (Think repetitive task) it appears they work, but for Heuristic tasks (Think creative) it appears they may not.

What does this mean as in most businesses today more work is Heuristic v Algorithmic. It means that you might demotivate your staff with awards. In the case they ran with kids. See link here . It appears that awards may turn fun into work and reduce output. 

I am not against awards, however companies need to think hard about how they run them and why.  Many places allow anyone recommend a person or group for an award and this is good.  A small group often decide and often they depend on the ability of the person who writes the award ask.

You need to put a lot of thought into any award process.

Risks in Awards and Ceremonies.

  • Fire Fighting is often awarded the most as the people selecting the winners remember the fires and are happy they are out. But you need to think does this make firefighting the thing people do for recognition?
  • An overall project is awarded and people are missed from the teams and this demotivates them or worse people who didn’t deliver are on the podium adding more demotivation to those missed or who added a lot.
  • Does the audience really think this reward is deserved, if they see the same people all the time and never see the recommendations they make on stage then they stop putting people in for awards and become disheartened as they see this as an elite club they can never be part of.
  • Some people find them embarrassing, as they do not like being called out in public. Do you know how your people like being awarded
  • Does the employee of the month really motivate other employees to become employee of the month?
  • Did the person who saved $1m by removing 1c of many things really do more than the person who fixed all the data in the system, which required more cross work and was harder to achieve and while affecting many teams is hard to put a Dollar figure on.
  • Are people reciprocal in awards, simple things like Kudos (many companies use this as small thank you in their organization), do you see the same people trading Kudos with each other. Do you call out those with most Kudos as this can cause people to just give Kudos to receive it.
  • Business results are rewarded in reviews, should you awards add to this or should the focus on something different.

So how do you do awards correctly? I do not have the answers but here are some suggestions

  • Start with what you want to achieve with the awards, what is your goal.  I assume you want to motivate people and recognize them, I assume it should match to the culture you want.
  • For any award think, is this firefighting, If I give this award am I putting in place a culture I do not want. If it doesn’t match with your culture then don’t do it.
  • If there is a group of people who were on a project across teams, should I make a list of individuals or pick one person on behalf of the team and state they are accepting this for all people on the team, as then people in the audience who were part of it feel this is for them v being missing on a slide and you will never know all that participated in the success. Also those who know they didn’t add to this will know in the hearts this is not for them.
  • Think will the majority of people really think this is deserved or not, how do you assess this. Maybe the people picking the awards should not always be the same people.
  • Do I know the person receiving the award how do they like to be awarded, try and reach out and find out what motivates the individual so you don’t call someone up on stage who doesn’t like this.
  • For the $ v the data fix reward both.
  • Look to the past how many times have you had a Steven Spielberg who is nominated many times but never makes the cut. Because everyone knows Steven deserves it but is missed all the time.
  • Check who is constantly putting people forward, who never does and why.
  • Check who consistently gets put forward and why and are they also always your top people, who get all the end of year bonuses, Is the award just a preview for end of year or is it to step out of the review process and push culture. Who are the people you hear about all the time in the corridor or in conversations but never appear in the awards. Why are they hidden.
  • Have you ever surveyed people on your awards, do they like them, do they think the right people are awarded, do they think the process is worthwhile. It might be worth getting feedback on your awards remember you created this to motivate people is it working.

I think awards have their place and I am sure most are given to deserving people and they feel good receiving them.

From the business perspective, think hard, why am I doing this, what do I want to achieve. Have Italked to the people about my award goals and the best way to achieve them. Is this business results or culture. Do I check in with the people on if what I am doing is achieving the results I want.

So if you do awards, do them with thought, with the people in mind and with the results you wish to achieve clearly defined and make them measurable as you would with any other part of your business, and like any part of your business check in and adjust if what you are doing is not leading to the results you want.


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