Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Rewarding employees - it's not just about the money

I recently had a couple of opportunities to reward a couple of my stand out employees. Kay (name change to protect the innocent) has been a leader on her software testing team for over a year. She's very, very talented and knowledgable. She's the kind of employee who will sit quietly in a meeting until you make a bad assumption and then she'll correct you AND give you reminders (and bug id numbers) to back her information up. Just the kind of person you want to work on a mission critical highly volital (sp) piece of software. Anyway I digress.

Our company does trade shows a few times each year. Usually it's just the marketing and operations crowd that goes out and does the set up. But lately they've been taking volunteers from other parts of the company. When they asked at the last management meeting if we had anyone we could send I jumped at the chance to send Kay. The show was on the west coast so she'd be out of town, and she'd get to do something totally different than her day-in-day out routine stuff.

Why this is a reward: you would think that maybe sending someone off to do a trade show -- where they work constantly for five days in a city where they'll get to see not only the hotel, but the route to and from the airport (and that's about all) isn't much of a reward, but you would be wrong. Particularly for Kay. Kay works on mission critical software and she knows it very well. But she doesn't get to see this stuff in action very often. Going to the trade show gave her an opportunity to meet the users and to think about the user experience in a way she hadn't done before. Plus she got five new work-logo shirts for free, plus she got to keep her frequent flyer miles... Her conference was just last week. When she got into the office this week, we met for our 1-on-1 where she thanked me for the opportunity. It was so rewarding (for ME) to hear how much she'd learned and how much she enjoyed getting to know more of the folks from operations. I know I'll get feed-back from the operations folks and I look foward to hearing how much they enjoyed having HER expertise on their side.

Then there is Charlie. Charlie started with our organization long before I did. He started as an intern assisting with testing while attending college. When he graduated, we offered him a full-time permanent position. He's been working full time for about two years now and has made significant contributions to his team. He constantly receives high praise from those who know his work.

Last week we had customers in the office. One of the senior managers in operations called and asked if we had anyone who could show these customers one of our pieces of software with an emphasis on security. Now normally I would ask Kay (see above) or Charlie's team lead to do this sort of thing. The sr. manager knows both of them well and is very comfortable with their expertise. But both Kay and Jill were out. So I said to Deb, "I'm going to leave you in expert hands. Charlie will do the demo and he'll be able to answer any questions you or the clients have." And I went off to talk to Charlie.

Charlie's up to his neck in work that was due yesterday (of course) and is still somewhat buggy. Still, he jumped at a chance to talk to others about his work and the work of the software that they had asked to preview. Charlie needed to spend about an hour preparing and about a 1/2 delivering the demonstration.

Why this is a reward. Charlie is a very sharp guy. He's young, smart, and knows what he's about. People on his team know him and know his abilities, BUT NO ONE ELSE DOES. Getting him exposure to a senior level operations director was a reward because next time Deb wants something done, she might ask for Charlie. Charlie's profile in the company has risen to a new level.

Charlie did do the demo and it went off very well. He told me later that he was nervous because Deb seemed to really know the software he was showing and he was sure he was missing something critical. About twenty minutes after that conversation I ran into Deb. She said thanked me for arranging the demo and said that the clients were thrilled. Then she went on to say how well Charlie had done in giving the demo. She absolutely could not believe that we had that caliber of people on our staff and that she knew NOTHING about them. She mentioned that she realized she had lost touch with our organization and wondered if Charlie would be interested in working on another project that she had coming up....

Charlie's stock has risen and so has Kay's. Neither of them got a raise, but both learned a lot and got noticed by people outside of their normal sphere of influence. It's a neat way to reward your top performers.


At 2:38 AM, Blogger Meg Nakagawa said...

And presumably you still get to keep them both?

At 2:40 AM, Blogger Meg Nakagawa said...

But seriously, in a way, it says more about you that you're the kind of manager who loves to see good staff rewarded.


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