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The art of giving

Rewards, contests, incentives, and bonuses can all be used to motivate employees, but what do employees value? How about asking them what they want? Get better service and keep your employees by using the right rewards.

My dad's idea of a perfect day was puttering around his shop. No agenda, no schedule — something totally different from his weekly routine of scheduled sales calls and business lunches. So each year, on his birthday, my Mom would plan his day to the hilt. Brunch with friends, tennis, a matinee, then out to dinner at a fancy restaurant.

So it's not surprising that my mom anticipated a fully-planned extravaganza for her own birthday. At breakfast, when she would eagerly ask for details, what was my Dad's response? You guessed it...Nothing. Just a nice, relaxing day to hang out and do whatever. You see where I'm going?

If your restaurant employees aren't motivated by your rewards, contests, incentives and bonuses, it may be that you don't see eye to eye on what's valuable.

What do employees value?

To keep good employees you must offer benefits. Offering benefits reduces employee turnover. And trust me, employee turnover costs a lot more than benefits. But, you must offer the right benefits.

I can cite hundreds of surveys, but the results all boil down to this: Employees want cash, time off, a balanced life, public recognition, health benefits, contests and competition, a great parking place, bonuses, travel, child care, shopping sprees, season tickets, home improvement gift certificates, input about uniforms, training and professional development, free food, discounts, opportunities to do charitable work or public service (yeah, you heard me), flexible schedules, profit sharing.

So how do you know which benefits are right for your employees?

My suggestion

Ask them. To develop a customized rewards and benefits program, survey employees about they want. But don't ask until you're ready to act on the feedback, because there's only one thing worse than not asking for input...asking for input and not doing anything about it.

Start by clearly stating the purpose of the survey, and then ask your employees to rate a variety of benefits you could offer. The goal is to determine a range of rewards and benefits that they value so you can structure a program that works for everyone. But it doesn't imply that you will give employees everything on their wish list.

We've developed a ready-to-use Employee Benefits Survey and some guidelines for building an effective benefits program.

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