Back Page: Spotlight on Leadership - Reward Employees for Top Performance


 Liz Bywater, PhD

Today’s top healthcare leaders know that their organizations cannot succeed without dedicated, hard-working employees. They recognize that talented, devoted people are positively essential for operating a worldclass organization.

The best leaders also realize that even in the helping professions, where caring for others is often reward in itself, nobody works for purely altruistic purposes. People seek some type of reward for their efforts and their achievements. That reward may be financial, as in the form of a raise. Or it may consist of heightened recognition or prestige within the organization. In the world of healthcare, the emotional payoff also can be substantial. Knowing that one has helped a patient and his family can provide a tremendous sense of accomplishment and pride in one’s work.

The preferred rewards for a job well done vary from person to person. The need, however, to get something for one’s hard work is universal.

People-savvy leaders know all about this. They understand that they cannot expect their employees to do their best work, day after day, year after year, without some sort of meaningful acknowledgement. They understand that to get the most from their people, they’ve got to recognize employee contributions in ways that have an impact, that serve to reinforce hard work and encourage continued creativity and dedication.

Creative Ways to Reward Employees

There are many creative ways to reward excellence. Of course, money remains an important motivator for many employees. But it’s not the only factor and, for many people, it’s not even the most important. Here are several outside-the-box ideas:

Demonstrate your genuine appreciation. A well-deserved pat on the back, a written letter of commendation or some private words of appreciation can have a significant impact. Where appropriate, recognize your outstanding employees publicly. This allows your best people to receive some well-earned kudos. At the same time, it serves as a model and incentive for others.

Provide meaningful perks. Offer some extra flexibility to work from home when feasible. Give your high achievers the afternoon off from time to time. Send them on a golf outing or to a show. Take them out to lunch at the restaurant of their choosing. The possibilities here are almost endless. Be as creative as you’d like.

Help them keep up the momentum. A motivated employee will relish the opportunity to work on a challenging, new project. Success breeds further success. Give your outstanding employees a say in where their talents will be used next. Encourage them to keep on growing, learning and raising the bar.

Develop them. Mentoring, coaching and advanced training need not be viewed merely as a means of addressing poor or deteriorating performance. You’re far better off investing your developmental time and dollars in your top performers. Give them the tools to build upon their already strong performance. This is a sure way to drive your organization to even greater levels of success.

There are many ways to recognize the efforts and accomplishments of your most dedicated employees. The possibilities are many and one size does not fit all. If you’re not sure which approach to take with a given employee, remember this: You can always ask. What better way is there to engage your employees in the process, demonstrate your respect, and provide them with meaningful, high-impact rewards for superior performance?

Liz Bywater, PhD, is the president of Bywater Consulting Group located in Yardley, Penn. She helps her clients improve individual, team and organizational performance. She can be reached at or at