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Why it matters

Validating people's efforts and work encourages initiative and creativity. In an increasingly agile environment (VUCA), it is essential to stimulate ongoing feedback, open communication and collaboration with peers. That's why many organizations have abandoned traditional annual appraisal systems, which are tending to be replaced by real-time, personalized feedback with praise for outstanding results. Admittedly, this approach is not easy. Poorly applied, it can even cause more harm than good.

Some ideas for developing this dimension with your team

Things to do

  • Complement annual performance reviews with a dynamic approach, incorporating frequent feedback - in real time if possible - open communication and supportive coaching. Promote a culture of continuous improvement, where constructive criticism is encouraged and individual achievements acknowledged.
  • Democratize 360° feedback within the organization, by giving everyone the opportunity to contribute. For example, through collaboration (upwards and downwards) between peers. Feedback must be meaningful, personal and immediate. Occasional rewards, i.e. small tokens of appreciation given regularly and spontaneously by colleagues, ratify individual contributions while consolidating the team.
  • Turn managers into coaches. In the past, we tended to consider the authority of the hierarchy as legitimate in itself. This is no longer the case. People have become accustomed to motivating themselves through continuous learning. They turn to managers mainly to ask for mentoring or other types of coaching.
  • Learn how to stimulate enthusiasm. Sources of motivation differ from one person to another. Ask people what spurs them on and find ways to say thank you, in a variety of ways. Be creative in this respect: thank-you notes, verbal praise, birthday or cash gifts, vouchers or free tickets, stock options, time off, and so on.
  • Organize small, company-sponsored events: office parties, open days, work anniversaries, barbecues and so on. Make them special moments, because they're all opportunities to connect with your team and publicly recognize individual and collective merits. The organization's core values will be reinforced. These events also provide an opportunity for people to express their gratitude to one another.

What to avoid

  • Abusing contests and competitive reward systems. Over time, this will swell the ranks of the disappointed. The accumulation of their disappointments could undermine the atmosphere and demobilize all the troops. This would obviously be counter-productive for the organization as a whole.
  • Bureaucratize performance management by introducing self-justifying rules. Appraisal systems that are limited to critical feedback once a year produce even more deleterious effects. People need to be able to develop continuously. To do so, they need regular feedback to help them stay on track.
  • Rewards that revolve exclusively around money, and fail to signify a genuine act of recognition. To generate deep commitment, you need to go beyond purely material rewards. Compliments from management, inclusion in a new project, career opportunities, offers of training and/or apprenticeships are all options to consider.
  • Aim too narrowly and too high. Don't focus excessively on certain parameters such as sales targets, success percentages or Net Promoter Scores. Whatever your reward system, make sure it supports the organization's culture and values. These are the so-called soft targets, which are harder to measure than hard targets (deliverables and other performance-related results). Align rewards with the organization's core values, rather than simply offering an additional incentive.
  • Being unfair. When embodied by managers, fairness is a great source of inspiration for teams. According to academic and empirical research, exemplary leadership has a positive impact on the health, well-being and commitment of the workforce. A study carried out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in the UK showed that openness, straightforwardness and consistency are essential managerial qualities for lasting staff commitment. Check that rewards are fair. They must be the result of a transparent and consistent process.

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