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Mentor - Management clinic

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I would like to reward and provide incentives for my staff. I’m obviously not in a position to offer financial incentives, so what non-financial rewards can I offer without being patronising?

This is a tricky issue. Most public sector staff would not consider money as their main reason for working in the sector, but they may still feel a little envious when colleagues in the private sector get bonuses or other financial incentives.

Don’t despair, though. There are lots of things you can do. Positive feedback is something all staff secretly enjoy, probably don’t get enough of in life, and which is free. By this I mean not just a simple ‘thank you’ but some description of what, why and how what they did was so important.

Sharing this feedback with others in the team can increase its value and have the additional benefit of encouraging more positive behaviour by all team members.

You also need to think creatively about the discretion you have as a manager to offer incentives such as an additional day’s leave, access to learning opportunities, a team away day, being the boss for the day or leaving early on a Friday to reward outstanding performance.

But you need to ensure you have fair mechanisms for measuring performance, and that staff have an equal chance of succeeding, or you may do more harm than good.

If your higher salary is based partly on your team’s hard work, it is not unreasonable to give a little back of your own resources. Avoid being patronising ask for ideas up to a certain value and get them to choose as a team.

Or you could give them a choice of suggestions. Depending on resources, you could offer to: make them all breakfast; bring in a team picnic lunch; take them out for dinner; give them spa vouchers; book tokens; or just commit to bringing in cream cakes once a week for the year.

Surprise them occasionally by decorating the office, giving out Easter eggs or prizes for ideas or customer service. It might not be as great as a lump sum, but will make them feel valued and make the workplace a more fun place to be.

Jan Parkinson, managing director, Local Government Employers

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