Relational vs Financial Currency: The Difference and Synergy Between Rewards AND Recognition

by Sarah McVanel, Chief Recognition Officer, Greatness Magnified

image of different currencies of the worldNot all world currencies have the same trading power. So too, with workplace currencies.

Some workplace currencies tend to be more transactional. Others lean toward relational. Which one trades better in the open (job) market?

Relational Equity

The currency that never deflates in value is relational. You have full access to it, even if cash flow declines. It works in all industries – including not-for-profits and small businesses. It is valued from that new intern to the CEO.

You might pay in the top 25% of your industry. You might have a beefy benefits package, offer hiring incentives, and give “jazz hands” level performance bonuses. Pretty awesome, right?

The question is this: Do you want people’s loyalty to be at the financial transaction level? Sure, every employee engages in an economic partnership with their employer; however, money doesn’t always equal the kind of robust heart-mind engagement you need for the business to thrive.

Warning: Believing you’ve handled a turnover problem by paying off the problem might disguise a slow but steadily growing flight risk. (Of course, the same is true if we write compensation off and assume passion for the work, social good, and other soft reasons for belonging will always keep people.)

We’re talking about the need for reward AND recognition.

Recognition’s Hidden Economic Value

image ofd 2 women coworkers smiling at each otherRelational currency is built through recognition. Regardless of industry, tenure, seniority, and title, everyone must know they matter to someone else and that they – not just their output – would matter if they didn’t show up the next day. Regular simple small appreciation “deposits” give you compound relational “interest.”

We need to live recognition daily. We need it to be embedded into “how we do things around here” before an issue arises (a turnover crisis, massive transformational initiative, interpersonal conflict). Because guess what? If we recognize people because we have to, it can lead to relational currency withdrawals. That’s right! It feels like a bait and switch if we acknowledge someone for transactional gain (such as to increase productivity, reduce resistance to change, or assuage a conflict).

Here are ways to build relational currency:

  • Ditch the “regards” on an email sign-off and opt for a “compliment thank you” (e.g., “thank you for your continued perseverance on this project”)
  • Before a meeting starts, build in a one-minute check-in about how their week is going and give 100% attention
  • Write a thank you card acknowledging effort and impact, not just results
  • Send someone on a course, book or other resource for growth to show you believe in them

Drip, drip, drip those relational deposits. Don’t “save for a rainy day.” Cultivate a shared, satisfying present and future every day through recognition.

Supply…Not Supply and Demand

Recognition doesn’t operate according to “supply and demand.” It’s all about supply. If you have no shortage of goodwill, gratitude and appreciation, the ability (for you and others) to weather future demands naturally follows. Don’t wait for a demand, pressure, struggle or strain to amp up the appreciation—redouble recognition efforts when you see demands that have outstripped relational supply. Then, recommit to rebuilding the regular practice of appreciation to ensure you don’t get into relational arrears in the future.

If you don’t believe me, answer this: Have you ever heard of someone leaving a job because they were “too appreciated”? Thought not. Click the image to watch a quick video about boosting your Relational Currency.

And if you aren’t being appreciated, pay it forward to someone else; create a ripple effect by modelling the personal or professional context you want to be a part of. It costs nothing to be the one making the deposits.

Looking for more ideas on keeping your best and brightest? Check out these delicious posts:

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

Deb Rakonjac

Organizational Development, Purolator Inc.

"Sarah nailed it!  She worked with the planning group to learn about the organization, the audience, the desired key messages and integrated it seamlessly into her keynote. Her energy was contagious! We received rave reviews of this portion of our event and Sarah was able to speak to all members of our organization in a way that motivated them to recognize others everyday. Our executives were extraordinarily pleased and integrated FROGging into their recent board meeting. Purolator is grateful to Sarah for dropping the pebble and we continue to see the ripples from this session across the organization. Working with Tami was phenomenal and the supports were easy to integrate to ensure the session went well. Thanks to you both!!"
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Director, Marketing and Special Events, Encana Events Centre

"Funny, full of energy and incredibly motivating – all words to use when describing Sarah and her passionate stage presence. We were fortunate to have Sarah join us as a speaker for Spark Women’s Leadership Conferences and her presentations about leveraging greatness hit the core of our objective at SPARK: “A rising tide lifts all boats”. I would not hesitate to recommend Sarah to other organizations that are searching for a well-prepared, well-organized, thoughtful and passionate storyteller."
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Learning & Development Manager, Libro Credit Union

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Executive Director, Community Living Hamilton

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Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

"We work hard at CDHA to give our members a wonderful conference experience, so we were thrilled to have received resoundingly positive feedback on Sarah's opening plenary keynote. It was the highest attended of the entire conference for both dates!"
Jamie Campbell

Director, The Center for People in Organizational Development, Sheridan College

"Smart, challenging, innovative, committed, dependable, and reliable, I highly recommend her for all your recognition needs. I have brought Sarah into my last two organizations to help build a culture of recognition and celebration. The focus on appreciation is more important now than ever."

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