1) Choice of work: A very effective non-monetary reward is giving employees the work they enjoy doing best. For instance, in one of my previous organizations, an experienced IT person in a branch wasn’t happy handling managerial responsibilities. He wanted a purely technical role. So we transferred him to the headquarters and gave him a role he was passionate about. He has been with the company for more than 15 years now and has been recognized as a person who has contributed to innovation.
2) Freedom to pursue one’s passion: Companies like Google have something called a ‘Time Off’. It’s the time when employees can do whatever they want to. This can be a great non-monetary reward if used judiciously. For example, an employee in another organization that I worked in was involved in social services and attended camps during weekends. As a non-monetary reward to that employee, the company decided to accommodate the social cause as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR). The employee was overjoyed at the company’s gesture of backing him in his social cause.
3) Appropriate training: Employees often require training and certifications to grow in their careers. Companies can offer non-monetary rewards to its employees in the form of flexible work schedules, thus allowing them free time for their educational pursuits. Companies can also provide in-house training wherever possible. For instance, one of my team members at Shoppers Stop was interested in business intelligence (BI). Seeing his potential, it was decided that he should be trained in BI. He was given an opportunity to work in BI domain.
4) Public recognition: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs identifies that everyone yearns for recognition. Being recognized for one’s services is a huge motivator. Shoppers Stop has a policy of publicly recognizing an employee’s efforts if he or she goes out of way to contribute. For instance, recently, Shoppers Stop encountered a database crash, which was close to being a critical event, and would have resulted in data loss.
The principal database vendor washed its hands off the affair, but the in-house team took it on as a challenge. And after continuously working on it for 72 hours, the team got the database up and running, without a single transaction being lost. We thanked them for going beyond their call of duty by sending e-mails recognizing and appreciating their efforts to everyone in the company. The team was presented with a memento in an all-employee gathering.
5) Opportunity to represent the company: When an employee represents the organization, there is a sense of pride. Employees can be motivated by sending them to attend conferences and seminars in foreign countries. At Shoppers Stop, the employees from the IT team are sent to international conferences. This helps them gain exposure to global technologies and best practices in retail. It also gives them an opportunity to visit and explore new places.
Precautions before using non-monetary rewards
Although non-monetary rewards are generally beneficial, companies should take a few precautions to derive the best benefits from them.
1) The process of selecting candidates for non-monetary rewards is susceptible to bias, and a challenge for a CIO. Information about the rewards and the selection process should be communicated transparently. Involving and explaining the process to employees before it is executed will help them understand the rationale behind the steps, and they will be able to follow it better.
2) Non-monetary rewards should be aligned to employees’ objectives and development needs. So if an employee dislikes travel and is sent for an overseas assignment, the purpose of the reward stands defeated. Rather, if the person is interested in doing an online course, offering that as a non-monetary reward will be of great benefit to the employee as well as to the organization.
3) Lastly, do not forget the importance of monetary rewards when focusing on non-monetary ones. A proper balance between the two is necessary for the effective functioning of the company.
the author: Arun Gupta is the
customer care associate and group chief technology officer in the Shoppers Stop Group. In his
27-year career, he has played IT leadership roles in companies such as Philips Electronics, Pfizer,
Hughes Telecom, DHL Worldwide Express, DSP Merrill Lynch, and Great Eastern Shipping Company.
(As told to Anuradha Ramamirtham)
This was first published in April 2011