The EX(trinsic) Factor!
Money can’t buy productivity! According to research conducted by R Long and J Shields published in The International Journal of Human Resource Management, extrinsic incentives such as monetary and other material valued rewards can serve to destroy the intrinsic motivation that exists in the workplace.
Not to make this article too academic, but it is important to define extrinsic and intrinsic incentives. Extrinsic motivation occurs when we are motivated to perform a behaviour or engage in an activity to earn a reward or avoid punishment. Intrinsic motivation involves engaging in a behaviour because it is personally rewarding; essentially, performing an activity for its own sake rather than the desire for some external reward.
Acknowledging employees regularly builds intrinsic values in them. Being singled out for a job well done, creating a better process, being a positive influence in the workplace or just caring about the quality of their work, will generate loyalty and pride in an employee. Which in turn will result in greater productivity. This is not to say there isn’t a place for extrinsic incentives in business, but many companies today rely too heavily on monetary rewards and not enough on employee recognition.
“But monetary rewards ARE recognition” you cry. Yes, they are, but the culture they build may not be what you are trying to achieve in your business. Do you want employees who will do anything to achieve a monetary reward or are you building a culture of employees who care?
A colleague who was assigned to head a foreign subsidiary for an international IT company had to work very hard to change the culture. As employees in the country
had been so used to being financially rewarded for meeting sales targets, they no longer cared how they were achieved. One salesperson boasted that he closed a considerable deal to a client for a product that he knew was not ready to be marketed and then left the company that he worked for once he received the commission for the sale. This left the client with a product they paid for but could not use until modifications were made.
Good leaders acknowledge their employees’ efforts. Great leaders recognise the individual’s contribution to the organisation. This is a subtle difference but a critical one. Building a sense of team is very important and will be easier to achieve if you build a sense of belonging in the individual. This is done by recognising the contribution the individual makes to the organisation and the impact their individual contribution has on colleagues.
For example, Gerard is a storeman for a large electronic wholesaler. While packing an order for a client Gerard notices that the quantity of one line-item in his picking slip is significantly lower than all the other line items on the order. In fact, the item is critical for the operations of the other items which have been ordered. He decides to bring this to the attention of his manager who then questions the order taker about the accuracy of the order. It was discovered an error was made when the order was processed.
Had the shipment been dispatched as presented the client would have been unable to complete installation and be behind schedule on a major project which would have been very costly for them. Gerard’s diligence not only saved the client’s project but his company’s reputation. His action helped secure greater loyalty from the client. Unless Gerard was told how his actions affected the company, his colleagues and the client, the chances of Gerard repeating this behaviour reduces significantly.
“Don’t do what’s right to get something. Do the right thing because it’s the right thing.”
The best way to recognise your team for their contributions is to know what is important to them. Are they family-oriented? Do they enjoy outdoor activities? Are they studying? What action, by you, would signify their importance to the team and to the company in their eyes? Using the previous example, you learn that Gerard has been studying for an undergraduate degree part-time. By acknowledging Gerard’s efforts through a visual sign of appreciation such as a plaque or trophy (extrinsic motivation) his efforts will be on display for all to see. Yet, adding a personal component such as a fully paid study day every semester will cement Gerard’s loyalty and show how the company is in touch with what is important to employees.
The personal touch is as important as the public display. Recognising desired behaviour publicly sends a clear message to the entire workforce that you are watching and appreciating each individual’s contribution to the company. Having a trophy to recognise the event will keep the good deed in the consciousness of the team longer. Unlike an ‘employee of the month’ program, recognition of an individual’s effort does not pitch one employee against another. In fact, it heralds their achievements and the impact on their colleagues.
So, when you are considering how to recognise your employees, don’t just consider milestone achievements. Look deeper at what type of culture you would like to instill in your company. Ask yourself, “What do I really know about the people I work with?”. You see the people you work with more than you see your family (in some cases). Create an environment which brings out the intrinsic motivation we all have.
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