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Great post. Most top performers I've had the privilege to manage get most of their job satisfaction by being given opportunities to learn / grow in something they're interested in. They inherently are hungry to learn and achieve more. Find out what your top performers are interested in and look for the right project to challenge him / her. Look for projects that will position them for promotion. Keep them stretching and growing. Beyond that, just be sure they're paid a fair salary - one a bit higher than their more average peers.

Great advice, Ginger! The best managers actively help people on their team grow and shine.

Very well argued and presented - on both sides, Laura. A point I made before on this: http://bit.ly/9JW1Nl

One thing that should be clarified (and resolves many of the problems of linking reward to performance) is the "currency" used for reward. By their very nature, cash recognition (or bonuses) are a problem as cash quickly becomes an entitlement and is easily confused with (or subsumed by) compensation. If the goal is to recognize above and beyond efforts of employees then recognition with a different “currency” than the cash used in compensation must be applied. That’s where strategic recognition comes in — giving a different currency for recognition with clearly defined and oft-repeated reasons deserving of recognition — to ensure employees know when they are being PAID vs. being REWARDED.

Derek, thank you for underscoring the point about reward currency. There's so much more to feeling appreciated than just money. And thanks for sharing the link - what a great quote from Jeffrey Pfeffer!

I think I gave myself whiplash from nodding "yes, yes!" with so much enthusiasm as I reached the conclusion of your post. For years, I have been a cheerleader about the importance of our relationships with managers and colleagues. Having a great workplace is dependent on so many things, and compensation level is only part of the mix. Sure, if compensation is way out of whack there will be problems -- but compensation levels can be less than perfect and employees can still be thrilled with their workplace. Too much focus on money can lead to morale hell. (I appreciate how this blog recognizes the importance of compensation issues, but also of how compensation is part of a larger picture).

Thank you for joining in the discussion, Evil Skippy. You've highlighted an important point: Compensation is a means to an end, not an end in itself, and has the most impact as part of a larger strategy.

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