As bonus season approaches, the leaders of small businesses (those that are profitable) will start to think about year-end bonuses or holiday gifts for their employees. A year-end bonus is a traditional way to reward employees for a job well done. Similarly, a holiday gift (cash or otherwise) is a way to express gratitude for all the hard work over the year.
Unfortunately, these annual forms of “surprise” compensation are entirely expected. In fact, they are so highly anticipated that they usually fall short. Paradoxically, something that started as a gift and expression of recognition has become a routine disappointment.
Which makes me wonder if year-end rewards are in need of an overhaul? Rather than have an annual holiday bonus, why not deliver a few spontaneous gifts of recognition throughout the year?
Imagine, for a moment, that you walk into work one random day in April and your manager asks to speak to you for a moment.
“Joe, I just wanted to say how great things are going,” proclaims your manager. “You’ve made such an impact lately, and I wanted to express just how grateful I am for your hard work.”
Your manager then hands you an envelope with a check. You are completely surprised. And regardless of the amount, you’re uplifted.
I am not suggesting that small businesses abandon a holiday bonus. On the contrary, I am proposing that we complement it with a series of spontaneous forms of recognition. Over time, you might even find that spontaneous rewards garner more enthusiasm and motivation than the traditional end-of-the-year ritual that often leaves us feeling flat.
***This article is based on research by Behance CEO Scott Belsky, whose book, Making Ideas Happen, will be published by Penguin in April 2010. Behance runs the Behance Creative Network, the 99% productivity think thank, the Action Method project management application, and the Creative Jobs List.