Three Intrinsic Rewards that Drive Employee Engagement

February 27, 2018 by Andy MakarAndy Makar



Joe has a team.

Joe’s team works long hours writing code and meeting ridiculous deadlines.

Joe’s team is already well-paid with above market salaries and profit-sharing programs.

How should Joe reward his team?

Given the compensation structure, does Joe even need to reward his team? After all, isn’t the money the reward? The team is paid to do a job.

Rewarding team members is an age old topic that continues to be a management challenge to retain talent, ensure employees are engaged, and maintain job satisfaction. Regardless if your team is an Agile team or delivering in a traditional waterfall environment, effective managers need to reward, motivate, and sustain high-performing teams.

If you conducted a compensation survey, I’m sure everyone surveyed would say they’d want more money. Who wouldn’t? However, studies have shown that money is not an long-lasting way to reward employees.

Dr. Frederick Herzberg conducted a study that revealed intrinsic factors (i.e. motivators) lead to employee satisfaction and extrinsic job factors led to job dissatisfaction. Herzberg’s dual-factor theory indicated if you’re not compensated fairly, you will have job dissatisfaction. If you are compensated competitively, then true job satisfaction comes from intrinsic factors.

Although money may be an extrinsic reward, it doesn’t sustain long-term satisfaction. Just think about your last raise or bonus. You were likely happy to receive that fat check (minus the substantial chunk for Uncle Sam), however, a week after, how happy were you with your job? It is likely the same as before you received the bonus. Based on Herzberg’s study, it is better to focus on intrinsic motivators to reward teams.

One memory that stays with me was when I was recognized for earning my doctorate degree. My boss ordered a cake and sent out a note to the entire department to recognize my academic achievement. It was a small gesture, but I sincerely appreciated the thought. That small recognition of four years of academic work helped build stronger trust and dedication to the organization.

[Further Reading: 5 Ways to Create a Positive Work Environment]

Another simple way to say thank you and publicly recognize the team is to start a Kudo’s program. Using business card size pieces of paper, employees can say thank you to another employee. Each month, the company summarizes the kudo’s feedback and displays each note electronically on a screen. Instead of physical thank you cards, the same system can be implemented using a simple email to a central “Kudo” program coordinator.

Both examples reward an employee’s achievement or contribution to the team. Publicly recognizing someone with a “Thank You” is also a nice way to reinforce positive behaviors. Remember it doesn’t have to be a formal program. Stopping someone in the hallway and saying “Thank You” goes a long way to provide positive reinforcement and costs you nothing!

Rewarding individuals and teams with more responsibility helps to contribute to individual growth and advancement in the organization. Have you ever had an employee identify a process improvement or suggest a new way to do something? One option is to take the idea and implement it. The better approach is to support the employee to implement the idea and then recognize the employee for the effort and contribution.

Team members also need to be given opportunities to grow in their role. Project managers typically submit a weekly status report and during a portfolio review, the senior leader will speak to the portfolio’s overall status. Instead of having the director represent the activities in the portfolio, encourage the project manager to attend the meeting and speak to the project status in the organization.

[Further Reading: 11 Ways to Build the Strengths of Your Team]

As new promotional opportunities arise in the organization, encourage qualified team members to apply to the position. Even if the employee doesn’t get selected for the position, the experience interviewing for the position will help prepare the team member for future positions. Managers can be reluctant to encourage their top performer to apply for a promotional assignment, however, good managers can also find and build good talent to continue the work. If you don’t provide employees with these opportunities, you’re likely to lose the talented employees to other firms who will recognize their talent and value.

How often do you wonder, does the work I do matter?

It may not seem like a reward, but ensuring the work is rewarding will help motivate the team and drive for r...

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