Reward Your Best Staff - Even When Money is Tight

March 24, 2011

Especially in the current economic climate, it might not be possible to keep up with the Joneses, dollar for dollar. Under such circumstances, it’s always worthwhile to consider what intangibles you’re offering your troops, before they ever consider breaking ranks.

Come with me for an imaginary stroll through your department. Or office, imaging-center, whatever. As we go, take note of the folks we pass-radiologists, techs, fileroom workers, front-desk staff, etc. You’ve only got a second or two to consider each of them. What are the details that leap to your mind in that mental snapshot?

Chances are, you thought at least momentarily of their typical performance at their posts. There’s a reliable one: She always gets things right the first time, rescues those around her from mistakes they were about to make. She’s your go-to troubleshooter when a mess needs cleaning up. Not like that other fellow skulking in the hallway; he makes the same mistakes over and over…maybe he’s not too bright, or he just doesn’t care so much.

You probably have quite a mixture of talent in your work environment. In an ideal world, you’d expect those who worked harder and/or had better skills would be rewarded - better compensation, perhaps, or promotions. You might also expect the slackers or “suboptimally competent” types to be cut loose, perhaps replaced by more promising candidates.

Yet somehow, the opposite often seems to occur.

Yes, sometimes it’s all about the money. If the fancy imaging-center on the other side of town offers your best techs an extra few bucks an hour, you might suffer some brain-drain. Especially in the current economic climate, it might not be possible to keep up with the Joneses, dollar for dollar. Under such circumstances, it’s always worthwhile to consider what intangibles you’re offering your troops, before they ever consider breaking ranks.

What kind of environment is your staff experiencing on a daily basis? Is there a sense of teamwork, or are little feuds constantly erupting? Is it “we’re all in this together,” or “Do unto others before they do unto you?” Do people feel safe expressing themselves, or is there constantly a threat of being overheard or tattled upon?

If the expectation is that one should do one’s specified job or face punishment, many will trend towards the bare minimum. But if there is a culture of “catch them being good,” people tend to go above and beyond. Simple things - a kind word, an extra day off for being the “Employee of the Month,” or even being included in the next decision-making meeting - can have just as much of an impact as a slightly larger paycheck.

All too often, the exceptional worker who gives 110 percent is rewarded by subsequently being given 10 percent more work than the others. He’s the one who won’t have difficulty finding work elsewhere, and sooner or later he’ll do so if you can offer neither better pay nor a better daily work environment. His uninspired replacement, however, who performs at about 80 percent and couldn’t care less, might just stay with you for the rest of his career.