No Budget? No Problem!

For years I’ve been saying that recognition is the single greatest motivator of people.  My book, “Common Things Uncommon Ways” gives lots of ways to use recognition to improve performance in employees – even contract workers.  I’ve also been speaking on this topic for the better part of a decade citing countless examples where recognition – the single cheapest thing you can give – consistently gets results.

Over the weekend, while reading articles and blogs in the Wall Street Journal, I ran across the results of recent research in Switzerland.  They found that even meaningless awards spurred performance in workers.  You can read the article here.

Workers with the same task of gathering information, some competing for a paper award certificate, some not,  had interesting performance results.

“Both groups were productive. More importantly, the workers competing for a frame-able piece of paper gathered, on average, 12% more information than those that did not—with no fall-off in quality.”

A detailed analysis is the feature of an article upcoming in the American Economic Journal entitled: “Getting More Work for Nothing? Symbolic Awards and Worker Performance,”

While I am not an advocate of meaningless awards, the example does show how effective recognition is as a motivational tool.  It should also serve as a reminder to all of us to find ways to employ this simple, inexpensive, yet productive technique widely throughout our own organizations and businesses.


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3 Responses to “No Budget? No Problem!”

  1. Robin Ryan Says:

    A top reason many people quit a job and look for a new one is because they don’t feel appreciated. Following Sunny’s advice and recognizing extra effort and will help you retain employees — and that means lower costs — turning over people and hiring new ones is costly. Avoid it–recognition costs little beyond the thoughts to do it.

  2. Judi at GPI Says:

    As somone who works in the awards and recognition industry, I’m delighted to see this post this morning. Recogntion is rewarding all the way around.

    Prior to going into business for myself, I worked in a variety of office settings. At one company, on payday, the executives of the company personally handed employees their paychecks/paystubs and thanked each employee for being part of the team. That simple act not only boosted the morale of the employees but also kept them engaged. And it didn’t cost anything, except a little time.

  3. Glenn Leach Says:

    Sunny, your awards were always fun – themed and relevant – and spurred me to better performance. in fact, one of your annual awards is STILL motivating me to better performance every year. Your January sales contests always involved earning a gift certificate to a florist shop – just in time for Valentine’s Day (and just in time for my anniversary too). Every January, I had to be sure to exceed my quota so I could earn that certificate so I could shower my wife with a house full of roses.
    The year after I left the company, I obviously did not win that award and financially, I wasn’t doing so well. My wife let me know that it was okay that I didn’t keep the truckload of flowers tradition going that year, so I didn’t. I learned a lot about women that year, trust me. She was terribly disappointed that I believed her and that she didn’t get her flowers. That will never happen again, and each January, you can be sure that I’m busting my rear that month so I’ll have enough money to buy all those flowers you caused her to get used to. And I love doing that for her!


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