Over several decades of building businesses, working with employees and in some cases partners, I’ve learned a few things about what people want when they do something well. When somebody on your team presents you with some surprise good news, the results of a job done well, or a task accomplished with extra merit, you really need to react quickly, and well. Here’s what I recommend you do when somebody on your team does an unusually good job at something.

1. Do it fast. Delay kills the reward buzz

Instant reward, right at the moment you get the good news, is way more powerful than anything that comes later. Reacting fast to your own people is as critical to a business as answering sales queries quickly. Do not wait. Don’t take a note for the next salary review. Do it right now. Every day you wait dilutes the impact.

A quick bonus has more impact than a future salary increase. A $100 gift certificate given instantly can have more impact than a $25-per-month salary increase.  I’ve seen that many times. Second best is the $25 monthly increase announced and executed immediately.

2. Do it publicly. Recognition matters more than money

Good people want praise and peer recognition. If you’re the boss then you should always be looking for the so many obvious and easy ways to praise somebody — not the meaningless self-esteem-like prattle that nobody respects, but serious acknowledgement for good work and good results —  in meetings, in email, even on the wall.

So give that bonus in a meeting where peers are present. Give it along with an email to the group, so the person you want to reward gets the additional benefit of an email to save and use at some future point.

Do you want to do things that make it easier for your best performers to find new jobs? Yes, you do. Because that keeps them happier in their present job, with you. And the long term win is having people realize they are better off with you than somewhere else.

Specific concrete recognition of good results is more powerful and more practical and manageable than playing, as some bosses do, with job titles. Job titles affect everybody else and can’t change that often; acknowledgement is unlimited.

3. Good people want more responsibility

This third point is my favorite because it has a double whammy to it. if you reward success with more trust and responsibility, you improve your team at the same time. People who don’t want to do more might not be motivated by more responsibility, but then by definition those aren’t the people you want to reward anyhow.

So if the praise comes with more responsibility or a new project, and it’s instant, and it’s public recognition, you just maximized the impact of reward for a good job.


Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.