The ways to reward employees go beyond pay increases

With limited budgets, school districts are looking for creative ways to reward employees. State funding was increased this year, but only enough to bring state funding levels to 90 percent of the 2011 amount. In addition, school districts are required to pay an additional 1.5 percent contribution to employees’ retirement.
With the uptick in local property values, some districts are able to provide increases to their current employees. In May, TASB HRS reported that 80 percent of districts completing our prospective salary increase survey would provide a modest pay raise for the 2015‒16 school year (an average of 2.2 percent).
School districts are not alone in their desire to find new ways to reward employees. Most private sector companies use employee recognition programs to encourage employees to meet organizational goals. In May, WorldatWork released a new survey, Trends in Employee Recognition. This survey contains a mix of private sector, both privately held and publically traded; nonprofit/not-for-profit; and public sector employers. For the last two years, the top five recognition programs have not changed:

  1. Length of service (87 percent)
  2. Above-and-beyond performance (76 percent)
  3. Programs to motivate specific behavior (51percent)
  4. Peer-to-peer recognition (48 percent)
  5. Retirement (34 percent).
So how do districts reward employees without increasing the payroll budget?
Hutto ISD decided to change the workplace culture by improving working conditions. Superintendent Douglas Killian took a vested interest in changing the culture and led the change. Killian met with campus leadership on a regular basis and would make trips to the campuses. Central office staff would push around a snack cart at various campuses. This provided time for campus staff to meet and talk to central office staff in a less formal way, fostering better communication. The above examples were of relatively little cost to the district, and created goodwill between the administrators and campus staff.
By building a culture of recognition you can align employees to the achievement of district goals and organizational success. Recognition draws special attention to employee actions, efforts, behavior, and performance, and provides a nonmonetary means of rewarding good performance. Below are a few examples of ways to foster recognition in your district.
  1. Create recognition events and make other opportunities for people to share their success stories and anecdotes. Encourage everyone to share their appreciation publicly and frequently at team meetings.
  2. Post a list of accomplishments on the wall or in an internal blog or communication.
  3. Ask for employee of the quarter nominations and acknowledge top performers publicly with awards or gift cards.
  4. Use social media and employee blogs as a platform for employee recognition.
  5. Put your work-life benefits (e.g., workplace flexibility, culture, community involvement) in writing, so employees can easily access and understand them.
(Editor’s note: WorldatWork is a nonprofit human resource association.)