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Although most employers hope to motivate their staff, the majority of employees feel unmotivated in the workplace. As it comes to motivation and reward, there seems to be a disconnect between what employers consider effective and what actually motivates employees. By definition, motivation is the reason(s) for acting or behaving a particular way. In other words, it’s how willing someone is to do something with passion and enthusiasm. It is the force, incentive or stimulus that inspires tenacity and drive. In this article, we will explore motivation and reward, how they relate to one another, and how they each go hand-in-hand to solve employee engagement issues.  

Motivation and Reward Drive Better Job Performance

The important thing about motivation is that it contributes to better job performance by getting to a person’s WANT. Employees usually know what to do, how to do it, and have the resources to do it. Successful organizations are the ones that can effectively encourage their employees to WANT to do it, and to want to give their best effort doing it on a consistent basis.

Rewards, or “things” given in recognition of service, effort or achievement; are scientifically linked to an increased level of motivation. We learn the link between motivation and reward from our earliest memories. Parents use motivation and reward regularly to teach their children good habits. “If you clean your room, you can go out to play with your friends” is an example of this. The method is simple — do THIS, get THAT.

Many companies use a similar reward method to motivate employees to work harder, smarter and even safer. Rewards can be used to encourage any initiative or behaviour that you want employees to adopt. Rewards can be effective in increasing participation in a new program, or in motivating employees to:

  • Stay up on training
  • Adopt new systems
  • Demonstrate behaviours in line with core values
  • Adopt wellness programs
  • Increase effort, sales and teamwork

Rewards can also be effective in increasing general engagement, reducing turnover and decreasing safety incidents. Statistically, higher workplace engagement leads to 41% fewer safety incidents.


How To Use Rewards to Increase Motivation in Your Workplace

As proven by statistics, employing a successful rewards program is easier said than done. Although 89% of senior managers say that their organization is good at showing appreciation to workers, over 30% of employees give their firms low marks. Here are five quick tips to ensure a successful rewards strategy:

  1. Don’t assume employees are happy or engaged.
  2. Create a high-feedback environment.
  3. Conduct surveys to learn what motivates your teams.
  4. Design programs that support your corporate strategy.
  5. Create a communications & launch strategy.


Do Rewards Benefit Employee Motivation?

Absolutely yes.  Motivation to act a certain way is found in the reward. Rewards that match the effort are typically the most successful.Motivation and Reward - Happy team members

Hay Group, a global management & consulting firm measured its employees’ level of satisfaction, and linked the results to revenue.  As a result of their study, they found that offices with engaged employees were 43% more productive.

The Corporate Leadership Council studied engagement levels of 50,000 employees around the world to learn the impact on performance and retention.


HR’s Two Biggest Nightmares

Human Resources professionals often face two major challenges: performance and retention. Over ⅓ (36%) of HR professionals report that performance related engagement is their top priority, while 53% say that retention is their greatest concern. These priorities are on the top of the list for a reason:

  • Performance: Engaged companies outperform their competitors by over 300%.
  • Retention: Employees are 87% less likely to leave their organizations when they are engaged.

Furthermore, organizations that have a formal means to acknowledge employee contribution see on average, a 14% increase in financial results.

Not only is the benefit of engagement enormous, but the cost of disengagement is also extremely high. According to a report from McLeans & Company, “disengaged employees cost approximately $3,400 for every $10,000 of salary.” This is especially important since statistics suggest that only one third of employees are engaged. How does this connect to motivation and rewards? Over 77% of employees reported that they are willing to work harder if they were appreciated for their efforts (Marketing Tools Inc).


The Expert Opinion on Motivation and Rewards

Knowing how important the relationship between motivation and rewards is, it comes as no surprise that many top entrepreneurs use rewards strategies in their operation.

Richard Branson says that his most important keys of success include, “great office spaces with ample natural light, tasks that stimulate, a rewards system and a priority on health.” Additionally, he believes in:

  1. A flexible working policy that allows employees to work when and where they choose. This change in culture paid off, because it was a perk that was truly valued by employees. Branson knew that it would show respect, trust and faith in his employees, and his strategy paid off in an employee happiness boost, increased productivity and greater creativity throughout the organization.
  2. Empowering people to empower the company. Branson knew that is was critical to help employees celebrate anything that made his company different. For example, if how you engage with customers is important to your mission, empower your people to take the lead in assisting your clients.
  3. Achievement being celebrated throughout the organization. When an employee knows that a successful action is valued by the company, they are much more likely to perform that action continuously.
  4. Happy customers being a result of happy employees. Richard was able to build Virgin into a multi-billion dollar conglomerate by focusing heavily on customer service. However, he reveals that the company does not put the customer first. At Virgin, employees come first and are top priority. Branson explains, “It should go without saying if the person who works at your company is 100% proud of the brand and you give them the tools to do a good job and they are treated well, they’re going to be happy. Happy employees equal happy customers. If you take care of your employees – they will take care of your clients.” On the other hand, dissatisfied employees can ruin the brand experience for many customers. Branson knows that the same way that happy employees go the extra mile in taking care of customers, unhappy employees may be unengaged and not concerned about whether the client is happy or not.
  5. Choosing leaders that inspire the team. Branson believes that having great leaders is key to motivating employees. Engaged managers that care about the progress of their employees are much more effective in getting others engaged with the mission.

Richard Branson isn’t the only executive that bases their entire operation on motivation and rewards. Jack Walsh, the CEO of General Electric, said, “No company big or small can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission & understand how to achieve it.”


What types of rewards are the most effective?

Effective rewards can be either tangible or tangible. Usually, it is recommended to include both. Some employees will be highly enticed by a $500 cash prize or extra vacation days, but nearly a third of employees state that they would rather be recognized Company-wide by an executive than to receive a $500 prize (Bamboo HR).

  • Effective tangible rewards include gifts, gift cards, points, free lunch, or extra vacation days. These type of rewards can include climbing the leaderboard and achieving club status with a variety of perks.
  • Great intangibles rewards center around praise & recognition. The most impactful of these include publicly expressed gratitude, thanks, congratulations, a “pat on the back”, endorsement, applause and other accolades.


Extrinsic vs Intrinsic Motivation

The most successful programs should include both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

  • Extrinsic refers to behavior that is driven by external rewards such as money, fame, grades, and praise. This type of motivation arises from outside the individual.
  • Intrinsic motivation is the satisfaction from within and originates inside of the individual.  For example, a person who writes music for their own personal enjoyment as opposed someone that writes music to make money.


Here are some examples of intrinsic rewards that are desired by employees today:

  • Sense of Meaning – Employee feels that they have an opportunity to accomplish something of real value. They are contributing to a bigger picture that is worth the time and effort.  A sense of meaning fills the employee with a strong sense of purpose.
  • Sense of Choice – The employee feels free to choose when and where to work. They  appreciate being able to use their own judgement to select the activity and method that makes the most sense.  The employee feels responsible for his/her tasks, and is self-directed and passionate about work.
  • Sense of Competence – Employee is content that their performance is meeting or exceeding their own personal standards.  They feel a sense of pride and satisfaction.
  • Sense of Progress – They are confident that efforts are on track and moving in the right direction. They are comforted in knowing that things are working out.


How do Motivated employees end up being non-motivated employees?

Organizations that ignore the importance of motivation and reward can accidentally create an atmosphere that has a counter approach to inspiration and performance. Motivated employees can transform into unengaged employees by:

  • Feeling unappreciated and undervalued.
    • Solution: Support new ideas, this shows you care. Empower employees to grow, and challenge them with work assignments that show that you trust their performance.
    • Solution: Have team members take turns running weekly meetings.
    • Solution: Acknowledge achievements and milestones, including performance and personal (like birthdays and work anniversaries).


  • Working under an uninspiring manager or a manager that they don’t trust.
    • Solution: Hire managers that are passionate, driven, fair and respected among the team. Their ability to lead properly will greatly determine the performance and happiness among employees on the team. Make sure your leaders are worth following.
  • Non-cohesive co-workers.
    • Solution: Implement a consistent rewards program that drives teamwork and helps employees connect to the organization’s mission. 
    • Solution: Introduce some friendly competition through gamification.


  • No purpose, lack of vision, and the stress from not having the correct tools or a clear direction.
    • Solution: Create clear expectations for your team. Set attainable goals and encourage them to work both individually and as a team to meet these goals.


  • Bored with daily work and craving more excitement.
    • Solution: Reduce boredom with fun team activities such as planning a happy hour, hosting a push up contest, or introducing a cooking/baking contest.  
    • Solution: Make the work experience more exciting by offering a pet friendly work environment and flexible work hours/locations.  


  • A showing of favoritism by management and executives.
    • Solution: Offer rewards that are consistent and fair. Set expectations and acknowledge people who exceed those expectations in the same way.


  • No career advancement or growth opportunities.
    • Solution: Provide advancement opportunities to staff members who are ready to handle new challenges. Offer opportunities for them to advance in their careers and give them goals to achieve.



Motivation for Large Corporations

Some of the most successful companies of today have engaged employees with creative and effective reward strategies. Corporations like Google, Facebook, AirBnB, and Procter & Gamble have introduced awesome reward opportunities that include:

  • Motivation and Reward - Employee Excited about Recognition TrophyFree food
  • Free rides to work
  • On-site fitness
  • Free yoga
  • Gym discounts
  • On-site medical
  • Free counselling
  • Ping-pong
  • Concierge service
  • Generous maternity/paternity leave
  • Paid day care or on-site day care for kids and pets
  • Free days out
  • Product discounts
  • Music studio
  • Monthly lunch cooked by executive chef
  • Monthly team building events like white water rafting
  • Beer o’clock happy hour on Friday

Without a doubt, the Mind Candy Entertainment Company wins on creativity with a bright red slide that connects two office floors, and a climbable tree-house.


Motivation and Rewards for YOUR Company!

Your company probably isn’t ready to install a huge bright red slide, but a formal recognition system will surely be a step in the right direction. The right recognition & rewards platform will provide the tools needed to develop and manage a successful program that drives motivation throughout the organization.

Not all R&R platforms are created equal. Your organization needs a platform that is flexible, and agile enough to build and a manage a program based on your specific goals.

Want to see what an effective Rewards and Recognition solution looks like? Contact ProformaSI to see how our solution can help increase motivation in your organization.

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