Should you reward your teams or individuals? The answer may surprise you

Juliana Stancampiano

Everyone expects their employees to act as a team, have remarkable success and earn rewards as a result. But that doesn’t always happen in that order or as well as it could, says business expert Juliana Stancampiano.

In her new book, “Radical Outcomes: How to Create Extraordinary Teams That Get Tangible Results” (Wiley Publishing; January 2019), Stancampiano shows companies how to more effectively help their people do their jobs, to build more profitable and productive organizations.

Stancampiano is an entrepreneur and the CEO of Oxygen, a Seattle-based firm that focuses on workplace education. For more than 15 years, she has worked with Fortune 500 companies, both in them and for them. Her firm’s clients include Microsoft, DXC, Delta Dental (of WA), Starbucks, F5 Networks, Avaya, and Western Digital, among others. Her experience, along with the research that Oxygen conducts and the articles she has published, has helped to shape the perspective that Oxygen embraces.

She says most business leaders recognize that success in today’s environment demands much more than quality products. Companies must also create great experiences for their customers by leveraging the increasingly complex technology landscape.

To do this, employees need to develop new sets of skills on a regular basis. Indeed, learning and development is now a $140 billion industry. However, Stancampiano maintains that much of this money is wasted.

Juliana Stancampiano

Q: Why is employee recognition an evergreen or long-lasting issue for companies?
A: As different generations enter the workforce, what is important in terms of recognition tends to change. In addition, leadership has an impact on employee recognition. Different leaders take varying approaches to this issue. Also, as businesses grow, how employee recognition is done – and why – tends to evolve, as well. Sometimes, generic phrases like “all sales people are coin operated” catch on – when, in fact, it is incorrect to assume that everyone is motivated in the same way. Indeed, studies show that all humans have six basic needs. No single motivator will work when it comes to employee recognition. People are looking for a mix of different things – yet this isn’t how many employers approach employee recognition.

Q: What are the benefits of rewarding and recognizing employees?
A: The benefits are typically loyalty; highly productive or motivated employees; people who want to drive the business forward; people who are generally happy at work and who manage their teams more effectively.

Q: What are the long-term effects of a good recognition program?
A: I think that the long-term effect is a higher Work/Health Index rating by employees. Employers will see high performers stay and low performers leave (if the recognition program is based on what people have accomplished AND HOW they accomplished it). It will also enhance the employers’ ability to attract and retain talent.

Q: What else do you want employers to know?
A: Good employee recognition programs are one part of how to keep and retain talent and create highly productive people at work. There are many other things that also need to be taken into account. These include challenging work; development of the individual in his or her career; the leadership of the company; the employee’s direct manager, and so on. Also, it’s important that recognition isn’t competitive between peers. A lot of companies still work on a rating scale for employee performance management. This doesn’t reinforce teamwork or collaboration. With the pace of business today, we should no longer focus on having amazing individuals. Instead, we need to reward amazing teams. Rewarding teams will be the way forward. You can still highlight individuals, but they are only successful if the business outcome was made and the team succeeds together.