How to Reward Your High Performance Teams

By Emeka Ogbonnaya

We know now that getting the most out of your team depends on collectively rewarding and recognising them. But with all the known benefits of team-based rewards, it can be tough for managers to implement when most HR systems are focused on rewarding the individual and not the teams.

Transforming how rewards impacts teamwork conversation and culture, requires the recognition and rewarding the firm’s most dynamic duos and productive trios by name. Identify and celebrate the “fab fours” and creative quintets of innovation or efficiency. In other words, top management should seek out high-performance teams, not just gifted individuals.

While this can be challenging especially when the boundaries are often blurry with employees working on multiple projects at the same time, it’s worth the effort to get it right. According to experts, “rewarding a team dramatically improves not only the team performance but also the individual’s experience”. Here’s how to do it effectively.

Set clear objectives

Team members have to understand and agree on what success looks like. “You need to have some way of assessing the group’s performance, for instance a common set of objectives or aspirations. Teams must agree what the goals are and the metrics to measure them. They must answer the question: What would it take for us to give ourselves an A? “Having this sort of dialogue can be motivational and lays the groundwork for collaboration in an objective way,” according Michael Mankin.

Check in on progress

Once the team knows what it’s supposed to do and how the work will be evaluated, check in regularly. Pose questions that help the group assess its progress: How are we performing as a team? What obstacles can we remove? You can have this conversation in a meeting or do it anonymously. Use surveys to ask team members to give themselves a collective grade. If everybody agrees that it has been a C week for the team, then you can discuss how to improve. “If however an A is awarded collectively, it will be worth celebrating.

Use the full arsenal of rewards

Most managers don’t have the power to change how salaries or bonuses are handled at their organizations. If you do, be sure to tie a portion of the discretionary compensation to team or unit performance — the bigger the percentage the better. But if you don’t control the purse strings, don’t fret. There are lots of non-monetary rewards at your disposal for instance, team building events, social events, team dinners etc.
In addition to completing individual performance reviews, consider conducting a team review as well. Every six months or so, take a close look at the group’s progress, noting its accomplishments, where it has succeeded, and how it can further develop. Don’t mention individuals in this appraisal but focus on what the team has done — and can do together.

Focus discussions on collective efforts

Experts say that many companies include teamwork as a core competency in their leadership development models. As a manager, you can further encourage your people to collaborate by talking about them as a team, not as a set of individuals. Be sure to celebrate successes and discuss setbacks collectively. “The less you talk about individual contribution the better. Instead, praise the behaviors that contribute to the team’s overall success such as chipping in on others’ projects and giving candid peer feedback.

Your teams may respond positively to some or all of these, but your task as a manager is to identify and focus on those that generate the most outcome for your organisation.

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