How to Reward Your Service Stars
By Jill Fonte
It was the last day of the season at an outdoor club in the Northeast. The staff was gathered in the clubhouse to hear the general manager’s closing remarks before heading off to their winter jobs. He highlighted the season’s successes—membership was up, tournaments went smoothly, new junior programs were a hit. Then he looked everyone squarely in the eye and said, “I want to thank you all for taking such good care of our members this past season, and thank you for your integrity.”
No bonuses had been distributed, nor were any salaries increased. But as two staff members walked to their cars, one was heard saying about the GM, “I’d walk through walls for him. He never forgets to say thank you.”
Employee rewards come in all shapes and sizes, yet many managers think money is the only motivator that matters. According to the Labor Relations Institute, “full appreciation of work done” is the most important factor in job satisfaction for employees. Managers might feel that financial reward is so important because they rank “good wages” as their most important job satisfaction criterion. Clearly there’s a disconnect here, and if you’re a manager, consider that you and your staff members might have different motivators at work.
To get your creative juices flowing, below are seven ways to reward your employees by expressing your “full appreciation of work done.”
Socialize with them
What do people discuss at work when they’re not talking about work? Typically, people talk about their hobbies and interests, families, and personal lives. In healthy workplaces, people often come together as colleagues and as friends. You can acknowledge and facilitate that by hosting various social gatherings for your employees and their families.
Treat your staff and their spouses to a sporting event (even a high school event is great if you have staff members whose kids play high school sports); host a family picnic at a local park; take your staff out for happy hour; participate as a team in a local 5K walk/run; put a volunteer team together for a local event.
Give your staff members the chance to socialize with you and each other and meet each others’ families outside of the work environment. It will increase their sense of connectedness at work and it will give them a treat they might not have given themselves.
Donate for them
Pay raises might not be in the budget, but do you have a budget for charitable contributions? Identify the “Service Star of the Month” and make a donation to his or her favorite charity in their name. By donating to the causes your employees hold dear, you’re saying thanks while tapping into their deeper purpose. And the donation need not be large; it’s the message that’s important.
Listen to them
Your willingness to listen doesn’t cost a dime, but it can mean more to your employees than a pay raise. They rated “sympathetic help on personal problems” as their No. 3 job satisfaction criterion. That’s where you come in. You don’t need to have a solution, but you’d do well to listen. There’s also a business reason for your willingness to lend an ear. The solution to a problem can often be found with the person who is closest to the problem. Many managers mistakenly believe they should have all the answers. By listening to your staff members’ suggestions for improvement, you’re sure to get some terrific solutions, and your staff members will know they’ve been heard. Ask for their assessment and solutions. If you choose not to implement their suggestions, let them know why you chose an alternate course of action and make sure they know that their suggestions were considered.
In that Labor Relations study, employees ranked “a feeling of being in on things” as their No. 2 criterion for job satisfaction. People want to know how their work contributes to the overall picture, and it’s your job as their manager to make that clear.
The most satisfied employees know what’s expected of them, and they know why their work is important to the organization. Be sure to keep your people in the loop on plans, progress, and the role they play.
Give them a break
Sometimes, people would rather have time than money. If it’s possible for you to let an employee leave early with pay once in a while, then do it. If the club is slow and someone needs a bit of extra time to run errands, then give it.
Granted, this can be a bit dicey. You can’t have hourly employees disregarding the clock. But if you’re flexible from time to time, you’ll often get the time back along with their full appreciation and loyalty.
Have their backs
Have you ever been sold down the river by your boss? It’s a terrible feeling. If a customer or another manager levies a complaint against one of your people, be sure to get the employee’s story before reacting. Your people want the benefit of the doubt from you, and your loyalty is often worth more to them than financial reward.
Just say it
You nourish your people by saying thanks. One manager once remarked, “I pay people to do their jobs. Why do I have to say thanks?” It was easy to guess why turnover was so high at his club. People might take a job for the pay, but they’ll stay for the recognition.
There are dozens of thank-you opportunities throughout the day: “Thanks for getting in a bit early. These phones are ringing like crazy this morning.” “Thanks for getting that merchandise tagged so quickly.” “Thanks for covering for me while I was in that extra-long staff meeting.” “Thanks for your help with the juniors today. We had 10 more kids than we’d expected.” “Thanks for staying so calm with that angry member. You kept the situation under control.”
Rewarding the people who take care of your customers does not have to cost money. Start with a clear understanding of what’s important to them, and tie their rewards to service excellence. In any case, don’t forget to say thank you. Before you know it, they’ll be willing to “walk through walls” for you, too!
See all articles by Jill Fonte
About the Author
Jill Fonte , who plays tennis at least three times a week, has had a lifelong love of tennis on both a personal and professional basis. She was the owner and executive director of the U.S. Racquet Stringers Association for 20 years and has served on the TIA board of directors for many years. As an executive coach and business consultant, she is currently a Principal in Business Visions Group and has addressed tennis audiences throughout the country through her involvement with the USTA, USPTA, PTR, TIA, USRSA, and various global suppliers. A longtime local and national volunteer, she currently chairs the USTA's National Tennis Innovation Committee, and serves as the Vice President of Marketing and Communication and a member of the governance, strategic planning and personnel committees for the USTA Middle States Section.