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By: Mike Fox (December, 2010)

With cash tight for many technology firms, and with raises few and far between, there has never been a better time to come up with low-cost and effective rewards to help keep your team driven and motivated.

Following are some suggestions to keep your people active...and engaged:

1. Provide Recognition and Attention - When your employees accomplish something, they have achieved something. Your recognition is appreciation for that achievement.  Become a giver!  Recognition is free!

2. Applause - Give a round of applause for specific achievements.  Use it wherever and whenever. Using plaques or trophies is another effective way of applauding your people. Take the time to be creative, matching special accomplishments with unique awards.

3. One-on-One Coaching - Coaching is employee development. Your only cost is time and taking time means you care.  Whenever you recognize and encourage people in "public," it acts as a natural stimulant for others who are close enough to see or hear what's taking place

4. Training - Is training ever finished? Can you possibly overtrain? NO and NO. For whatever reasons, too many people feel "My people have already been trained" or "I've got good people...they only need a little training." But training never ends. Schedule "tune- up" training sessions. These should be led by you or by a supervisor with help from specific employees who show a particular strength in the skills taught.

5. Career Path - Your employees need to know what is potentially ahead for them and what opportunities there are for growth. This issue is a sometimes forgotten ingredient and the importance it plays in the overall motivation of people.  Needless to say, wherever possible you should promote from within.

6. Job Titles - When you talk about job titles you are tapping the self-esteem of people. How someone feels about the way they are perceived in the workforce is a critical component to their overall attitude and morale.  Be creative as you think of possibilities for titles. Have your staff come up with ideas giving them input into the titles. Bottom line, you are dealing with pride...and pride enhances a positive attitude

7. A Good Work EnvironmentWorking conditions are very important to the way employees feel about where they work.  Cosmetically, does your office look nice? Are there pictures on the walls?  Plants and fresh paint  make people feel good about their environment? Does their work space have enough room or are they cramped in a "sardine can?" What about furniture? Is the desk the right size, chair comfortable? Is there file space and do they have the miscellaneous office supplies needed for maximum performance? Is the temperature regulated properly?

8. On-the-Spot Praise - This too is associated with recognition but the key here is timing. When there is a reason for praising someone, don't put it off for any reason!  Promptness equals effectiveness. Praise people when the achievement is fresh on everyone's mind.

9. Leadership Roles - Give your people leadership roles to reward their performance and also to help you identify future promotable people. Most people are stimulated by leadership roles even in spot appearances. For example, when visitors come to your workplace use this opportunity to allow an employee to take the role of visitors guide.  A great place to hand out leadership roles is to allow your people to lead brief meetings. Utilize your employees' strengths and skills by setting up "tune up" training sessions and let one of your employees lead the training.  Assign a meeting leader after someone has attended an outside seminar or workshop. Have them lead a post show briefing the other employees regarding seminar content and highlights.

10. Team Spirit - Have a picture taken on your entire staff (including you!), have it enlarged and hang it in a visible spot. Most people like to physically see themselves as part of a group or team.

11. Social Gatherings - Scheduled offsite events enhance bonding which in turn helps team spirit, which ultimately impacts your positive work environment.

12. Time Off - Implement contests that earn time off. Put goals in place and when these goals are reached by individuals, teams or the entire staff reward them with time off.

13. Outside Seminars - Outside seminars are a stimulating break. Because outside seminars are not always cost efficient for most people, consider on-site seminars or workshops for your staff. Use outside seminars as a contest prize for one or two people. Then set up a structured plan for those seminar attendees to briefly recreate the seminar to the rest of your people when they return. Now everyone gets educated for the price of one.

14. Additional Responsibility - There are definitely employees in your organization who are begging for, and can handle, additional responsibility. Your job as a manager is to identify who they are and if possible match responsibilities to their strengths and desires.

The options are endless and limited only by creativity.  If none of these resonate you might want to take a look at the book 1001 Ways to Reward Your Employees by Bob Nelson.

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