A Moving Experience
“What we learn with pleasure we never forget.”
ewards and recognition, and motivation and inspiration, come in all shapes and sizes—whether it's a piece of designer bling, a trip to an exotic destination, a public pat on the back or even just a personal achievement that one can relish. But no matter whether the reward is coveted merchandise, a trip to an exotic destination, an experience of a lifetime or just the satisfaction of knowing you got the job done, the way the reward is experienced can make a lasting impression.
Here are a couple of personal examples:
Like many people, I will never forget my first promotion, but it was the way it was announced that really sticks in my mind. I was working for a small-business trade publisher as a copy editor, the lowest on the editorial totem pole for that organization. At the annual Christmas party, I was called out in front of friends and family, and was given a nicely wrapped box. What was inside? Not a watch. Not tickets to Aruba. It was a box of business cards with my new title. Everyone who was in on the promotion looked on with happy expectation, explained it to the rest, and the round of applause had me beaming for days. I stayed on through another promotion, the launch of two award-winning publications and five more years with that publisher, and this is still the moment that stands out.
Fast-forward nearly eight years to April 11, 2009, when I ran a 25k in Channahon, Ill. (That's 15.5 miles, for those who are trying to do the math right now.) My husband was out of town, and there were no friends there to see me finish. And because I was slow and it was a very small race, most of the faster runners were already at the awards ceremony when I made it across the finish line (in just over 3 hours, for those who care about the stats). Just the race volunteers and a guy waiting for his wife were there to shout "Good job!" at the end, and after a quick rest stop, I hopped into my car and drove home on my own. But I'm still savoring the day and the accomplishment. Here was something I was highly motivated to accomplish—and that motivation saw me through sub-zero training runs and endless loops around a 17-laps-to-a-mile indoor track through a snowy Chicago winter. The reward? Fifteen-and-a-half miles along the I&M Canal and Illinois River on a beautiful spring morning. I know I'll savor those miles forever. As I approached the turnaround, the faster runners passed, and we shouted encouragement back and forth. And the 200-meter uphill finish was one of those moments to prove you can tough it out no matter how rough the going gets.
I tell these stories to highlight a key aspect of motivation—and the subsequent recognition and rewards that follow. It's all about the experience.
The true value that turns recognition and rewards into lasting engagement is not necessarily the bling, but the experience the employee, partner, sales rep or customer associates with receiving that reward, even if it's just a thank-you in front of peers. The value is more than just the physical reward—it's the act of recognition and the experience of being recognized. Sometimes it's just the personal savoring of the accomplishment, and the value of that experience—in a truly motivated employee—cannot be denied. It all serves to create a lasting impression. And this issue is chock-full of examples of how the experience heightens the value of the reward.
On page 38, you'll find a story about making the experience the reward itself. Experiential rewards offer a chance to make great memories for your recipients. Turn to this story if you want to learn more about why experiences—a flight in a hot-air balloon, a trip to NASCAR driving school, scuba diving or skydiving—make people happy and have a lasting effect. Whether they take part alone (like my 25k) or in a group of friends, family or peers, when you provide your recipients with a powerful experience, you create a memory that they can savor forever—and the goodwill that goes along with it.
To place the experience of the recognition closer to the actual behavior that's being recognized, consider spot rewards, or empowering your company's employees to reward one another. The feature story, "On the Spot: Immediate Rewards for a Job Well Done' on page 46 explores the ins and outs of spot rewards and peer-to-peer recognition, and shows how a little recognition at just the right moment can create lasting impact.
If you want to provide a shopping experience, consider gift cards. While some may lament the impersonal nature of gift cards and claim they are nearly the same as giving cash, we beg to differ. When you give someone the power to make the choice themselves, and to savor the thought of shopping with their reward, you give them a pleasing experience they'll be sure to remember. Turn to page 42 to read more about gift card incentives in our story, "Card Carriers: The IGCC & Trends in Gift Card Incentives."
And finally, when you want to empower your people to record all of their favorite experiences, consider the power of digital cameras as incentives and rewards. A digital camera—whether it's a lower-priced point-and-shoot or a top-of-the-line digital SLR, gives your recipients the ability to record all of their life-changing and meaningful experiences so they can savor the good feelings again and again.
Above all else, no matter what kind of reward you're giving, you need to remember to make the giving of that reward an experience your recipient will never forget—something that touches an emotion. With so many negative feelings raging all around us these days, you'd do well to bring a little positivity to the game.
And whether it's recognition in front of a group or a personal goal achieved on one's own, know that the power of the experience is what brings the reward lasting value and what keeps the recipient coming back to savor that reward and associate it with your company again and again.