Creating the Right Incentives

Sometimes competitive compensation isn’t enough.

Motivation isn’t just a matter of money. Everyone wants to feel as though their work has meaning that goes beyond their compensation. When your daily grind feels meaningful, you’ll usually be more productive—especially when you take pleasure in the work. But when the work feels meaningless and empty, your productivity is more likely to crash regardless of how pleasant the work might be.

If you manage others, keep in mind that competitive rewards systems that measure sales or other metrics might backfire as employees try to beat the system instead of focusing on doing good work. Pitting people against each other is no way to motivate a workforce, and may in fact prevent fruitful collaboration. No one wants to be on the bottom of a professional hierarchy. 

So what works? Make sure that people feel unique and valued. Rewards that focus on providing recognition, building relationships, and establishing a legacy tend to produce better results. Supervisors should offer generous praise, organize team-building experiences such as reward meals or parties, and emphasize how the work helps others and contributes to the greater good. There are many ways to reward people without falling back on cash bonuses.

Want to learn more about what drives people to do their best work? We think you’ll find our Instaread on Payoff to be deeply rewarding.

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