The Art of the Employee Reward


After many years of providing year-end bonuses to employees, we have learned that employee satisfaction and engagement is better increased through what we call “on the spot” recognition. An effective spot reward has at least the following elements: (1) timely, (2) delivered with real emotion, (3) connected to positive performance, and (4) tailored to the employee. Daniel H. Pink in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us describes these rewards as “now that” recognition. The theory being that if a company pays someone to do a specific task that transforms doing something an employee may be passionate about to simply work. Here’s how we address that challenge. First, the reward needs to be unexpected in both timing as well as employee expectation. Put another way, the reward should follow stellar performance as opposed to act as a known incentive for the performance. This is critical to the reward’s effectiveness. If you create an extrinsicly motivated workplace, you will encourage employees to perform for extrinsics.

Second, the reward needs to be delivered with a genuine emotional message of appreciation. It must be real. To be most effective, this needs to occur shortly after the great performance. That’s why year-end bonuses are not as effective.

Third, the reward needs to be tailored to the specific employee. Extra points will be awarded for creativity. While money can work for some people, others appreciate time off, an act of service, a gift, or a combination of these elements. We are currently studying Gary D. Chapman and Paul E. White’s The Five Languages of Appreciation at Work: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People to execute on this strategy more effectively.

Read more blogs by author: Darin M. Klemchuk

The Culture Counts blog is a discussion of law firm culture and legal innovation, including topics such as effective leadership, employee engagement, workplace culture, ideal work environment, company core values, and workplace productivity.  

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Klemchuk LLP is a litigation, intellectual property, transactional, and international business law firm dedicated to protecting innovation. The firm provides tailored legal solutions to industries including software, technology, retail, real estate, consumer goods, ecommerce, telecommunications, restaurant, energy, media, and professional services. The firm focuses on serving mid-market companies seeking long-term, value-added relationships with a law firm. Learn more about experiencing law practiced differently and our local counsel practice.

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