While there are similarities between celebrations and rewards, there are also some key differences and each serves a unique purpose. One focuses on the group and the benefits of working as a team. The other reinforces individual effort with an individual acknowledgement.
A celebration is an event that acknowledges effort and accomplishment. A celebration also reinforces the benefits of being on a team and the satisfaction of group accomplishment. As such, no group project or change effort is complete until you’ve celebrated. Celebrations can be as simple as a pizza lunch or a team meeting with cake or other treats. More elaborate celebrations include a team dinner, a picnic or outing that includes significant others and families, or a group outing to some place fun.
Rewards are something the individual can enjoy, usually outside of work, and frequently without the rest of the team being present. Gift cards, movie tickets, paid time off, massages and spa treatments, trips, and electronics are all examples of rewards. To be effective, rewards need to be appealing to each person, consequently they may vary among team members. If you keep the value the same from person to person, the rewards need not be cookie-cutter in nature.
Celebrate Team Effort
Even if the results were disappointing, you need to celebrate the effort and the learning. If you leave people hanging with no closure, you invite resentment and less cooperation in the future. Give people a chance to let their hair down, even for 30 minutes, and they are more likely to feel like you understand their needs.
What to Offer
The easiest way to make sure you’re picking appropriate rewards and celebrations is to get suggestions from your team – and it’s okay to provide parameters such as budgets, timeframes, acceptable locations, etc. Whether it’s a quiet cup of coffee, a dinner out, movie tickets for the team and their significant others, or something more off the wall, embrace it as long as it meets the needs of the team and fits your guidelines. Doing this at the beginning of an initiative gives your team a chance to think about what’s coming and decide on appropriate celebrations and rewards…and to look forward to them!