5 Ways To Reward Your Team

by Jennifer Bridges, PMP (formerly, Jennifer Whitt)

We get so many questions about the issue of rewarding teams. Rewards either generate great teamwork and results or can destroy teams and projects. It’s good to reward the behavior Reward Your Teamthat you want to continue, such as when people work as a team. It takes many individuals with different and critical areas of expertise, training, and skill sets to actually implement a project, so we want to reward a team for working as a team. However, if we reward individuals we can get heroes, or superstars. They become the people whose achievements are always noted, or celebrated. They always get the reward, much to the disappointment of other team members. Essentially, that’s what destroys nations and even sports teams. It’s not one person who makes a field goal or scores a point, it’s a team effort to block, tackle, pass, and be in the right position at the right time. The same applies for projects. We should also keep in mind that rewards do not have to be monetary. Sometimes people use the excuse that they don’t have money in the project to reward the team, but there are a lot of rewards that don’t require a lot of money. A hand-written note, small gift or little token can go a long way. Also, reward values vary by groups or cultures. For instance, if there are vegetarians on the team and you throw a pizza party it’s not going to be well-received. A reward may not have any meaning in one culture yet be valuable to another. It’s not a reward if someone doesn’t attach any meaning to it. A lot has been written about reward systems if you want to research the practice more deeply, but I want to share five simple things I gleaned from experience that worked to reward my teams.

  1. Always be timely. It’s important to reward the action or behavior early and often. Do not wait so long that people forget what they are being rewarded for.
  2. Be specific. What are you rewarding? What behavior has occurred? You can say, “I really like how this team worked together to help get that milestone done.” Let the team know exactly why you are rewarding them, so that the reward has meaning and it’s not just another pizza party.
  3. Appropriate to the behavior. If someone just helped out a colleague and you give an elaborate party it would be overkill. Little rewards along the way are more appropriate, and if you want to have the big party save it for the big milestone or close-out phase.
  4. Customize. You don’t want your team to expect the same-old-same-old, and think to themselves, “Oh great, another coffee cup…”! Be a little creative and do things that make the reward interesting. One of my teams did enjoy pizza parties, but I still customized each one by buying small gifts from the Dollar Store that were fun yet personal. One of the people on the team loved to talk. He loved to go up to the whiteboard and take over the stage, so we got him a little microphone. Another person on the team loved golf so I got him a golf trinket for his desk. One lady on the team was famous for being late so I got her a little foam clock to put hang on her door. They were gifts we could laugh at but made people know they were being recognized and that they were a part of the team.
  5. Reward the team all along the way. You don’t have to wait to the end of the project to reward your team. Regular rewards along the way help to keep the team energized and excited about working as a team and on the project.

If you found these tips from Jennifer Whitt, PMP of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in her self-paced, downloadable courses at PDUs2Go.com.

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