Although I am an administrator, I still consider myself an educator because I am responsible for making sure that students learn. I work in a profession that is notorious for underpaying its teachers. In addition, we have a seasonal layoff (summer), during which no money is earned. Yet, the public looks at the average salaries of these teachers and are heard saying comments that reflect the attitude that the salary is either fine or too much. They are unaware that the more ”mature” employees’ salaries draw the “average” higher to the point that it does not reflect how the less mature employees have to struggle to make ends meet. In fact, many teachers leave my building and go to second jobs where they work until 10:00 PM – 11:00 PM in order to make enough money to pay the bills. Yet, if anyone complains, the common responses range from, “You knew there was no money in that before you went into it,” to, “You’re supposed to do it for the kids,” to, “You can make more money in sales; You need to leave.” Even when the local papers report that the state wants to provide raises to bring teacher salaries to the national average, no one wants them to go above the average because they feel they would be paying too much.
Other organizations, specifically the non-profits, face the same question as I do: How can I keep good employees when the state regulates the salary, I have no authority to provide bonuses, and I cannot even use my budget, due to state law and local policy, to provide monetary incentives for doing a good job? I can’t even set out a tray of bagels and doughnuts and a pot of coffee unless I have a meeting agenda, participant roster, and pretend its a meeting, so I wind up paying for this out of my own pocket.
So here are some ways I’ve found to “reward” my teachers for doing a good job in the face of low pay:
- Thank You cards — The old fashioned, hand-written thank you card says a lot, especially if you take the time to craft a personal message rather than depending on the card’s text.
- Recognition programs — Teacher of the Month (or year or week ) and other recognition programs that let teachers shine before their peers.
- Letters of commendation — I place these in the employees file in addition to giving them a copy.
- Special occasion recognition — Birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, children’s graduations)
- Special parking privileges — The closest spot to the front door means a lot on a rainy day.
- Empowerment — Empowering workers creates stronger stakeholders in the organization.
- Regular connection time — Meeting with employees as groups and individuals to listen to concerns and to allow substantive input into the organization.
What ways do/can you reward your employees?