Rewarding employees

Monday, July 31, 2006

When a management trainer speaks of The Scooter Store in the same breath as notoriously well-run corporations like the Walt Disney Co., you can't help but take notice. Since visiting The Scooter Store in New Braunfels, Texas, last year, Bob Nelson says, the company now "sets the standard," in his eyes, for rewarding employees. Nelson, president of Nelson Motivation in San Diego and author of 21 books, including the best-selling "1,001 Ways to Reward Employees," spoke with HME News in late-May to share why he's sold on The Scooter Store and how any provider can propel itself to success by rewarding its employees.
HME news: What's The Scooter Store's philosophy toward rewarding employees?
Bob Nelson: For them, it's an embedded process that dignifies and values the contribution of every person in the organization. In other organizations, it's a challenge just trying to get people to acknowledge they have employees--that they're not just a line in the budget. The Scooter Store is always worried about how they can better connect their employees.
HME: What are examples of this philosophy?
Nelson: One of the best ones is how, when you walk into a building, you feel a buzz. You feel it from how you're spoken to, how you hear other people talk to each other. In the front lobby, there's a game room, where there are two employees who need a break playing ping-pong. It's like, wow, that's different. You walk down a corridor and see 150 T-shirts that have been framed and mounted. They represent clear goals that have bubbled up from the bottom--not announced from the top.
HME: Why does The Scooter Store put so much stock in rewarding its employees?
Nelson: There's this trust that it directly leads back to the things that are important to them, which is not just making money or increasing their market share, but also providing freedom and moveability. It's a connection that people don't see. There's overwhelming evidence, probably 2,000 studies, that systematically, without any doubt, say that "You get what you reward" is the most powerful and valid management principle ever to exist.
HME: Why don't more companies make this a priority?
Nelson: They don't see it and they don't believe it, and everything else follows from that. Managers say they don't have time. They don't have time, because they don't think it's important or they don't think it's their job. They think it'ps HR's job. It stems from their conceptual model of management.
HME: What's the first step a company can take to do a better job rewarding its employees?
Nelson: All it takes is a manager saying, "How can we do what we're doing better? Does anyone have any ideas?" Instead of saying, "We tried that last year and it didn't work," say, "Maybe you have something there. Are you willing to take it to the next step? What can I do to support you in that?" Right there, you've demonstrated, in a microcosm, the philosophy that what you do in an organization is made up of small interactions.
HME: It sounds like The Scooter Store, in your eyes, stands up to the Walt Disney Co. and others, in terms of the culture it creates for its employees.
Nelson: Disney has a deep-seeded focus on rewarding their employees, and The Scooter Store is a notch above that. The Scooter Store has a full-time employee whose job is to blow up and deliver balloons to deserving people all day long. They use more confetti than any other enterprise in Texas. That's a thing of beauty.