Give Them What They Want: Rewards and Motivation that Matter

Published in March 2019.

Salaries and bonuses are often the first thing that come to mind as ways to reward good performance.

Spoiler alert: Intrinsic rewards—personal enjoyment and satisfaction—are a bigger driver of motivation and engagement than money. In fact, money can actually reduce intrinsic motivation.

Feature Insight

Give Them What They Want: Rewards and Motivation that Matter

Raises and bonuses seem like the obvious reward for star employees, but they may not be feasible, and more importantly, they don’t motivate employees to continue the good work.

Research from the Center for Creative Leadership indicates that faculty and staff are more likely to be motivated with things like support for advancement, greater authority, and feedback and coaching. Here are other ways to affirm their performance, keep them motivated, and ensure job satisfaction.

Stretch Assignments. Setting goals and achieving them evokes feelings of satisfaction. Talk with your employee about their professional interests and work with them to create challenging goals that align with those interests. Challenging and meaningful goals will require your employees to tap into their internal motivations to achieve their goal.

Ask yourself:

  • What do my employees find most challenging and fulfilling in their work?
  • What am I doing to help talented, ambitious employees remain challenged and satisfied at the University?

Coaching and Feedback. Regular feedback is one of the biggest drivers of performance. Feedback and coaching should, at different times, address both positive and negative behaviors. Be specific about behaviors and explain why a behavior was effective or ineffective. Describe the situation, the behavior, and the impact of the behavior.

Ask yourself:

  • What kind of feedback do I give to employees and how often do I give it? How do I know if it’s effective?
  • How often do I discuss performance and give feedback to faculty and staff?
  • How do I know my feedback is fair, timely, and specific?

Greater Authority. Give faculty and staff the authority they need to ensure their work is successful. Employees who are trusted to make impactful decisions respond with better performance and engagement.

Ask yourself:

  • How do I know whether employees understand what decisions they can make?
  • How can I drive decision-making into lower levels within my unit?
  • In what ways do I delegate challenging work and give employees the authority to complete the work?

Career Planning and Support. To remain motivated and productive, employees need to grow in their jobs—and perhaps grow beyond them. Talk to your employees about the opportunities that exist for advancement and development and the skills required.

Ask yourself:

  • Have I discussed with my employees their desire for career advancement and development and the opportunities that exist?
  • How do I support employees’ career development and what they need to do to advance?

Flexibility. Flexibility can be a reward for a job well performed, and many people have come to expect flexibility from their employer. First, consider the needs of the position—some positions require the employee to be at a specific place and time. However, if the work allows and your employee is meeting expectations, the opportunity to work outside of normal business hours or the office can be rewarding and motivating.

Ask yourself:

  • How can I be more supportive of employees who have personal or family matters to attend to?
  • How can I allow my employees to focus on their work at the time and place where they can be most productive?

Recognize good work. Recognizing your faculty and staff should not be a one-size-fits-all technique. Find out how each of your employees would like to be recognized. Some may prefer to be recognized publicly, others are more comfortable with praise during a one-on-one conversation or a personalized note. Regardless, affirming good work is sure to encourage more good work.   

Ask yourself:

  • How do I give and share credit for success?
  • How do I recognize faculty and staff, either individually or as a team, for doing a good job?
  • Is the recognition I provide meaningful to the employees?

Remember, faculty and staff who feel valued are more engaged, productive, and committed employees.

LTD consultants have expertise in leadership development, engagement, and supervisory development. If you have questions about employee engagement, send us an email. We’ll do our best to respond and may even feature it in the next newsletter.  

How can you elicit what motivates someone without simply asking them "what motivates you?"

Find out more about their interests outside of work. If you listen carefully, you might pick up on what makes them tick. For example, they may say they volunteer, which could mean they value helping others. Or if they enjoy scrapbooking they may value creativity.

Another way is to ask them what they like about the projects they are working on. Maybe it’s because they have the authority to make decisions, which could indicate that they are motivated by the opportunity to lead.

Listening for the aspects of their work or personal life that drive them should give you some indication about what motivates them.