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Rewards: What Works and What Doesn’t

Nov 16, 2016

Do I want it? Or, do I need it?

The two questions stated above are ones we ask ourselves before making a purchase (if not out loud, then subconsciously). Maybe right at the checkout, or maybe months before as we determine whether or not the item will fit into our budget.

And, chances are, the less time we think about making the purchase, the more we need it. Groceries. Gas for our cars. Items we use.

Think about how you would feel if you did a great job at work, and your employer rewarded you with money to fill your next tank of gas.

Sure, that is a nice gesture. But is it motivating? You were already going to spend that money out of your own pocket, as gas is a necessity to keep your car running.

As an employer, incentivizing your team with cash only goes so far. It is likely employees will spend the cash given to them on necessities such as a tank of gas, over something they want. It is also likely that once that cash is spent, the company will no longer be thought of, and what they did to earn that cash won’t have any staying power either.

So, how can you reward employees for a job well done as well as motivate them?

Create a culture of recognition and have reward options as far away from ‘I need it’ as possible.

‘I want it’ rewards create an emotional attachment and are motivating. These rewards could be travel and experiences such as tickets to see a favourite band, or luxury merchandise such as an Apple Watch. The point is, employees get to pick it out themselves and every time they think back on the memory of the experience or look down at their watch, they’ll be proud of the work they’ve done to earn it, and grateful for the company they work for. 

Stay away from cash rewards by using a points system. Points allow people to shift their thought from ‘how much is this worth’ to thinking about how they can achieve that luxury item they’ve been eyeing.

Unlike cash, points also allow accumulation. This reinforces wanting to repeat behaviour or actions that are rewarded with points; the more good actions are repeated, the more points are accumulated, the closer your employees are to achieving that reward.

Everyone’s happy in this scenario. As an employee, you’re working towards a goal and are rewarded for your hard work with something you actually want and are happier at work. And as an employer, your team is motivated to continue doing great work for the company.