Rewarding employees: A useful insight

by on December 29, 2010 · 6 Comments POSTED IN: HR Cafe
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If you’re like me, you’ve given thought over the years about the best way to motivate people. Pay them more? Give them line of sight to goals? Provide interesting work? Emphasize career growth? Terrorize them?

I’ve tried them all. I can say with authority that the bookends on that list – more pay and terror – don’t work. But I still don’t have a precise formula for motivating people.

But I got a good insight from “Drive,” the bestseller by Daniel Pink. He argues that the best rewards for employees are intrinsic, not extrinsic. He describes one particularly interesting experiment where different groups were given a challenging, fun task. The ones who were promised no reward whatsoever for completing it did better than those who were expecting a reward. This suggests that interesting work is a reward in itself. Humans love to be challenged and may do better when there’s no carrot or stick attached to a task.

That doesn’t mean we don’t have to pay people, of course. But it does suggest that for many tasks – particularly those that require complex, creative “right brain” thinking – we’ll get better results from our people if we DON’T try to motivate them by saying, “When you complete the job we’ll give you a pay raise or a bonus.”

Warning: If you’re a big proponent of “pay for performance” you’ll hate “Drive.” Pink demolishes the concept.

His formula for motivating people might look something like this: Hire people who are ideally suited for a job and who’ll love doing it. Give them the resources and support they need to master the job. Help them see why doing that job is important for the company, for the community, for the world – in sum, something bigger than them.

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6 Comments on This Post

  1. Wayne
    December 30, 2010 - 4:12 pm

    I think you are stating the questions wrong. Certainly pay increases by themselves do not motivate employees for very long and terrorism from a tyrant does not keep the best working for you, or even get the best from your weakest employee. But to think that just making a job interesting will keep your best employees, is equally wrong. The correct answer is to pay a fair market salary and make the job interesting and challenging. Even the most mundane job can be rewarding if employees are paid fairly, treated decently, respected and even included on some of the decision making. While a coach can give direction, they do not play the game and really do not know, or have forgotten what is like to take an elbow to an eye, or be battered and bruised by the competition. I’ve watched, while those at the top take credit for work done by others, received bonuses and perks, and assumed they deserved more due to the efforts of others. Meanwhile, they can’t understand why the employee does not love them nearly as much as they love themselves.

  2. Wayne
    December 30, 2010 - 4:12 pm

    I think you are stating the questions wrong. Certainly pay increases by themselves do not motivate employees for very long and terrorism from a tyrant does not keep the best working for you, or even get the best from your weakest employee. But to think that just making a job interesting will keep your best employees, is equally wrong. The correct answer is to pay a fair market salary and make the job interesting and challenging. Even the most mundane job can be rewarding if employees are paid fairly, treated decently, respected and even included on some of the decision making. While a coach can give direction, they do not play the game and really do not know, or have forgotten what is like to take an elbow to an eye, or be battered and bruised by the competition. I’ve watched, while those at the top take credit for work done by others, received bonuses and perks, and assumed they deserved more due to the efforts of others. Meanwhile, they can’t understand why the employee does not love them nearly as much as they love themselves.

  3. February 2, 2011 - 10:25 am

    Recognition: The one reward every employee needs

  4. February 2, 2011 - 10:25 am

    Recognition: The one reward every employee needs

  5. December 14, 2011 - 10:10 am

    Rewarding employees can be as simple as a handwritten note

  6. December 14, 2011 - 10:10 am

    Rewarding employees can be as simple as a handwritten note

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