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Performance management handbook (recognition) - chapter 8

Chapter 8. Team-based Recognition


In highly productive organizations, individual employee contributions to the success of a project may often be made as part of a team. Teams are a way of organizing people to support interdependence and cooperation and require coordination among team members--often representing all levels of an organization. A team can be defined as two or more employees who coordinate their activities to accomplish a common goal.

As more organizations are using teams to accomplish work, management is faced with the challenge of developing mechanisms to acknowledge both the accomplishment of the team's efforts and the contributions of its individual members.

Within an operating unit's authority to recognize employees and pay cash awards based on predetermined criteria such as productivity standards, performance goals, measurement systems, and award formulas, the following are appropriate methods to acknowledge excellence in individual and team performance:

  • Gainsharing;
  • Goalsharing; and
  • Team recognition. 

Gainsharing Awards

Gainsharing is an incentive award system for organizations that have operations that are monetarily quantifiable. It is based on measurable improvements, where the employer shares a percentage of the improvements with individual employees and/or a group of employees. Improvements usually increase productivity, quality, and customer service.

Major components of gainsharing are:

  • Shared rewards; 
  • System to solicit and implement improvement ideas; 
  • Continuous, measurable improvement systems; 
  • Employee empowerment; and 
  • Positive management practices. 

Organizations that have used gainsharing find that it:

  • Improves communication within the organization; 
  • Improves levels of mutual trust between leadership and operations employees; 
  • Increases cooperation because the organization has a focus on productivity improvement; 
  • Improves "team spirit";
  • Improves product quality; and 
  • Improves customer service. 

Current DOC Gainsharing Programs

There are several gainsharing programs currently within the Department. Please contact the appropriate servicing human resources office for additional information about these programs.

Goalsharing Awards

Goalsharing is a relatively new approach to incentive awards that can extend to virtually all groups of federal employees. It serves to unify all employees in the accomplishment of the organization and requires teamwork, pride in service, better communication and higher quality service. The events that trigger goalsharing awards are not limited to work that is measurable using production and cost formulas. Instead, awards are triggered by reaching a wide variety of goals established for the group or the organization as a whole. Progress toward the goals must be measurable, but the measurements can include qualitative data such as information from customer surveys and project reviewers.

Some basic features:

  • Clearly stated objectives; 
  • Performance measures and baseline; 
  • Stretch goals; 
  • Specified performance periods; 
  • Employee involvement; 
  • Agency commitment; 
  • Quality evaluation; 
  • Goalsharing formula; 
  • Payout size and frequency; and
  • Award alternatives. 

If goalsharing programs are to be successful, operating units should not pay out promised awards when goals are nearly--but not quite--reached. Proceeding to grant the awards can undermine the program's purpose. It is more effective for managers and employees to acknowledge and analyze the reasons for the shortfall and agree to new strategies to overcome the obstacles.

Comparison of Gainsharing and Goalsharing Award Programs

Listed below is a comparison of the major features of gainsharing and goalsharing programs.

Only operations that are monetarily quantifiable All Government Operations
Bottom-up program Fully participatory program
Driven by preset productivity formulas Driven by group performance indicators
Emphasis on efficient operations Emphasis on achieving organizational outcomes
Payout trigger: exceeding baseline from past work Payout trigger: reaching "stretch goals" in future work
Usually cash awards paid periodically Range of award options annually or at milestones
Customer service is usually held constant Improvement of customer service is frequently a goal
Self-funding Technically, not self-funding

Team Recognition 

A team needs to know how its efforts and results will help the organization, and individuals on the team need to know what the team requires of them to reach the team's goal.

The following elements are critical to successfully developing and implementing team-based recognition programs:

  • Knowing existing organizational measures; 
  • Developing specific team measures; 
  • Linking team measures to organizational measures; 
  • Making team and organizational measures understandable and known; 
  • Clearly identifying individual and team roles; 
  • Linking individual and team roles to team results and processes; 
  • Developing team and individual performance measures and standards; 
  • Making performance measures and standards known and understandable; 
  • Incorporating performance measures and standards into performance plans; 
  • Developing tracking systems to properly measure individual and team performance; 
  • Frequently and consistently publishing team performance; 
  • Frequently providing feedback on individual performance; 
  • Ensuring prompt payout when goals are achieved; and 
  • Celebrating the achievement. 

Measuring Team Performance

The following chart provides an overview of individual and team level contributions, behaviors/processes, and results that will be useful in developing team-based recognition programs.

Team-Related Measures Matrix
Contribution Behaviors/Process Results*
Individual Level: An Employee's Contribution to the Team The employee: cooperates with team members, communicates ideas during meetings, participates in the team's decision-making processes. The number of significant ideas contributed by the employee, the rapid turnaround time for the individual's product, the quality and accuracy of data supplied to the team.
Team Level: The Team's Performance The team: runs effective meetings, communicates well as a group, allows all opinions to be heard, comes to consensus on decisions. Customer satisfaction with the team product, the number of cases the team completed, the cycle time for the team's entire work process.

(*) Awards are granted based on the results, not the process.

For Additional Information, contact your servicing human resources office.