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by Mark Powers and Shawn McNalis

In today’s highly competitive job market it is more important than ever to make sure that everyone at your firm — from legal secretaries to associates — is happy with the firm and his or her place in it. One way to increase employee satisfaction and boost morale is with periodic “rewards.”

Surveys show that employees value day-to-day recognition from their supervisors, peers and team members and want to feel appreciated for their work. Rewards are an easy and inexpensive way to recognize individual or team achievement.
To help your firm identify some immediate and fun ways of rewarding your employees, we have included a list of informal rewards to present to your staff. You can decide to incorporate some of these ideas into your employee rewards program or they may spark some ideas of your own. In any case, the important thing is to begin rewarding good work now.

Verbal and Written Rewards

Let employees know in advance that you plan to tell them how they are doing. Praise them immediately and specifically, and encourage them to repeat their positive behaviors. But don’t stop there – also let them know how you feel about what they did right as well as how their actions help the law firm and other staff members.

Here are 10 tips that can help you accomplish this:

  1. Call the employee at home just to thank him/her for a job well done.
  2. Jot a note of thanks on a paycheck envelope or right on the check stub.
  3. Hide a hand-written thank you note where it will be discovered during the day.
  4. Ask five other people to thank the person on your behalf.
  5. Place a bell in a central location and permit staff to ring it to announce any individual or team achievements.
  6. Send a nice e-mail acknowledgment.
  7. Drop a heartfelt letter in the person’s “in” basket.
  8. Create a “success file” on each employee and place into it letters of acknowledgment and appreciation that you have written during the year. Go through it during the employee’s annual review.
  9. Call a team huddle and give everyone an opportunity to acknowledge each other.
  10. Post letters of praise from clients on a wall, memo board or hallway for everyone to see.

Cash Bonds and Gift Certificates

Another excellent way to motivate your staff is with cash – 95 percent of American workers consider a cash bonus a positive and meaningful incentive, especially around holidays. Be sure to be consistent and fair when awarding these to avoid rivalry. And always prepay taxes when offering a cash bonus.

Try these ideas or get together with partners to come up with some of your own.

  • Award a dinner-for-two coupon for added efforts like coming in on a day off or working late to wrap up an important case.
  • At Easter or springtime, fill a large plastic Easter egg with quarters for tolls.
  • Give a cash bonus using unique currency or coinage like $2 bills, silver dollars or gold coins.
  • Surprise an outstanding employee with a small permanent pay raise.
  • Offer $25 to each employee — or anyone on staff — who gets a rave review from a client.
  • Pass out $25 cash or a savings bond each time an attorney or associate presents an innovative or lucrative solution when the firm is faced with a difficult situation.
  • Offer a bonus for a specific measurable team win.
  • Send a restaurant gift certificate to a spouse with a thank you note for his or her support during a long drawn-out case.
  • Tuck $20 in a file folder in its final phase to reenergize a legal secretary or paralegal.

Experiences as Incentives

People are emotional and social creatures. Creating a fun experience for employees is a gift they will share with family and friends for years to come. Carefully planned events are not only pleasurable, but they also result in memories that can carry your staff through the tough times with your firm.

  • Arrange for the employee’s car to be washed or detailed during lunch. Or, rent a convertible sports car for an employee to drive around in for a weekend.
  • Swap services with clients as payment of services rendered by your firm. Select services that will pamper your employees or save them time like housekeeping services, baby-sitters or spa visits.
  • Lunch with the boss is more than food. It is an opportunity for the employee to “connect” with management and feel special. You can also call an employee into your office just to discuss recent wins over a cup of gourmet coffee.
  • Buy a batch of chocolate chip cookies or make a fruit basket and leave it on the employee’s desk.
  • Thrill single parents with a surprise visit at home from a maid service. Buy their child a Christmas gift they cannot afford or provide the cake and trimmings for a birthday party that would not happen otherwise.
  • Put a pair of tickets to a special event that you know the employee would enjoy in a card as a token of appreciation. Or send an employee to a midday movie with all the trimmings — popcorn, candy and soda.
  • Move the employee to an office with a door or a cubicle with a view.
  • Pop the top on a bottle of Champagne or fine wine after your firm wins a difficult case.
  • Offer to pay for personal or professional training and development for employee growth.
  • Support a charitable event by making a donation in an employee’s honor.
  • Create a law office “year book.” Photograph people at work on successful projects. Set aside time at work for the staff to assemble the shots in a photo album for clients to enjoy or place the collage on a central wall or “hall of fame.” Write in stages of development or individual contributions on each photograph.
  • Roll phones over to an answering service for an hour to give support staff a break.
  • Grab some take-out food and hold an innovative team meeting in the park.
  • Acknowledge an attorney or associate in an appropriate trade publication, the person’s hometown newspaper, the local paper or your firm’s newsletter praising the person for a job well done.
  • Pick up a unique award for the team to pass around among themselves as they see fit. Hold a special ceremony when a champion player decides it’s time to pass off the law office traveling award to a peer or supervisor.

The important thing to remember is that the purpose of the reward is to boost morale. The reward should be personalized enough so that the one receiving it feels that you took the time to select something just for them.

In addition, give employees the public recognition their achievement deserves so that others in the firm can recognize and congratulate them as well. Making the award immediate, personalized and fun is a valuable yet inexpensive way to keep the hard-working members of your legal team satisfied.

Atticus, Inc.

This article was written by an Atticus staff member.

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