The one extrinsic reward that every employee needs

by on February 2, 2011 · 7 Comments POSTED IN: HR Cafe
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If you’ve read Daniel Pink’s bestseller Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, you know he demolishes the notion that people are motivated by money and most other extrinsic rewards.

He points to study after study proving that if your workplace promotes Autonomy (don’t over-manage people), Mastery (give employees interesting work they can excel at) and Purpose (give people a cause higher than themselves), they’ll be remarkably motivated and productive, assuming of course that you’re paying them fairly.

Like most readers, I found Pink’s advocacy of intrinsic reward very persuasive. And it struck me while reading it that I’ll never be able to motivate my employees by taking Easy Street – that is, just paying them more. It won’t work (as I suspect Google will soon find out – in December they gave all employees a 10% pay raise to discourage talent flight).

Instead, I have to figure out how to create and sustain an environment where my employees can tap their own intrinsic motivation. Getting it right will take a lot more thought, and a lot more work, than authorizing a pay raise. That said, it sounds like a fun challenge, and I have a ton of intrinsic motivation to pursue it.

When I finished the book I was left with a thought about extrinsic motivation. True, pay-for-performance probably doesn’t work. True, even some nonmonetary rewards could backfire if they seemed like a crass payoff for complying with a rule or impersonal goal.

But there’s one extrinsic reward that I believe should never be replaced – recognition from a boss. No matter how happy and intrinsically motivated employees are, they still need to know that somebody is paying attention. They need to know that their boss “gets” that they’re good and can tell the difference between excellence and mediocrity.

As a boss, you’re the audience, sort of like the symphony hall is Yo-Yo Ma’s audience and the gallery is Tiger Woods’ audience. Excellence should never be like the proverbial tree falling in the forest. It needs to be acknowledged.

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7 Comments on This Post

  1. Karen D. Kraus, SPHR
    February 2, 2011 - 6:58 pm

    Am now interested in this book, “Drive…”. I’ve always believed in the power of recognizing excellence in employees’ abilities. Respect for management is developed when management’s accolades are sincere and direct reports are genuinely trusted to perform.

  2. Karen D. Kraus, SPHR
    February 2, 2011 - 6:58 pm

    Am now interested in this book, “Drive…”. I’ve always believed in the power of recognizing excellence in employees’ abilities. Respect for management is developed when management’s accolades are sincere and direct reports are genuinely trusted to perform.

    • Barton Roxanne
      February 2, 2011 - 7:44 pm

      Type your comment here. Great article. I received my first review from our new Director and knowing that my boss truley gets why I am an excelent asset to the organization was more rewarding that any increase that I have received in 20 years.

    • Derek Irvine, Globoforce
      February 2, 2011 - 9:42 pm

      Great post. We’re big proponents of Dan Pink as well. I had the pleasure of hosting him on a webinar, in which he discusses the connection between Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose and strategic employee recognition. He also endorsed our own book on the importance of recognition.

      You’re right, indeed, that nothing can replace the recognition and appreciation from the boss. But a strong corollary is receiving the same from peers. As we say, no one knows who’s doing the job best than those actually doing the job.

      If you’d like to see the webinar or read more about the book:

      Webinar: http://blog.globoforce.com/2010/02/globoforcedan-pink-webinar-available.html
      Book: http://www.winningwithacultureofrecognition.com

  3. Barton Roxanne
    February 2, 2011 - 7:44 pm

    Type your comment here. Great article. I received my first review from our new Director and knowing that my boss truley gets why I am an excelent asset to the organization was more rewarding that any increase that I have received in 20 years.

  4. Derek Irvine, Globoforce
    February 2, 2011 - 9:42 pm

    Great post. We’re big proponents of Dan Pink as well. I had the pleasure of hosting him on a webinar, in which he discusses the connection between Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose and strategic employee recognition. He also endorsed our own book on the importance of recognition.

    You’re right, indeed, that nothing can replace the recognition and appreciation from the boss. But a strong corollary is receiving the same from peers. As we say, no one knows who’s doing the job best than those actually doing the job.

    If you’d like to see the webinar or read more about the book:

    Webinar: http://blog.globoforce.com/2010/02/globoforcedan-pink-webinar-available.html
    Book: http://www.winningwithacultureofrecognition.com

  5. June 6, 2011 - 2:21 am

    money and who you work for has alot of motivation also

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