Reward and recognition
Job Satisfaction

Reward and recognition
More than the money

March 21, 2021

Does money buy happiness? Depends on what aspect of life you’re talking about. If its work you’re concerned with, then after a certain point, money doesn’t buy happiness, i.e. it doesn’t affect job satisfaction.

In the past, a job was life or at least the important part of it. But all that has changed. People want to spend more time with their loved ones, doing things they enjoy. If you need proof that it’s about more than the money, a meta-analysis of 51 experiments found that financial incentives may reduce an employee’s natural inclination to complete a task and be satisfied with their work¹. Throwing more money at employees may actually make them less motivated to work!

So, what do employees want? In the wise words of Oprah Winfrey, “We all want to know one thing: “Was that OK? - Did you hear me? - Do you see me? - Did what I say or do mean anything to you?”. In fact, Glassdoor’s employee appreciation survey found that 53% of people said feeling more appreciated by their boss would help them stay longer at their company². Workplace recognition motivates, provides a sense of accomplishment, and makes employees feel valued for their work. Additionally, a survey found that 92% of employees say benefits are related to their overall job satisfaction³. It’s that simple to decrease turnover and increase job satisfaction!

Knowing what employees want is a start, but practical application is where it counts. The easiest thing to do is to start recognising your hard workers. A Gallup study reports that two out of three workers say that they haven’t received praise for doing good work in the past seven days. Is your company making the same mistake? When an employee completes a task early, goes above and beyond for their assignments or helps with a task that isn’t assigned to them, be sure to thank them and appreciate them. And it’s not just the overlooked employees that need your praise. Some Gallup research suggests that the more talented the employee is, the faster they leave, compared with other disengaged employees, so start recognising your star employees for their effort.

Recognition, by definition, is to publicise efforts. This may actually be one of the reasons that monetary incentives fail; people don’t like to discuss money so while receiving a £500 bonus cheque can be valuable, it’s not something they can comfortably share as an achievement with their colleagues. A free dinner or a trip, on the other hand, is something they can show off, serves the purpose of being a memorable and emotionally satisfying experience and it may even have the added bonus of motivating other employees.

We haven’t even gotten to the best part of all of this. Recognition need not come from managers; it is just as valuable coming from colleagues. There are two very important steps to developing peer-to-peer recognition: start small and lead by example. So essentially, send out emails to the team highlighting individuals and their input to achieving goals, thank employees in meetings, video calls and even group chats. Soon enough, the team will follow suit. You can even go one step further and set up a point system where employees earn work points to redeem them for rewards. The diagram below provides some ideas regarding forms of recognition. Try them out, or better yet, search for alternatives that fit into your culture!

Rewards

These types of rewards work because they tap into three strong psychological needs: employees long for autonomy, they want to appear competent armed with the skills needed to perform, and they want to feel a sense of belonging by connecting with colleagues in a meaningful way.

Regular recognition and rewards are simple changes that can have a marked effect on productivity, motivation, and job satisfaction. So, keep it simple, but do it often!


¹Bowles, Sam. 2009. Lse.Ac.Uk. http://www.lse.ac.uk/website-archive/newsAndMedia/news/archives/2009/06/performancepay.aspx.

²Employers To Retain Half Of Their Employees Longer If Bosses Showed More Appreciation". 2013. Glassdoor For Employers. https://www.glassdoor.com/employers/blog/employers-to-retain-half-of-their-employees-longer-if-bosses-showed-more-appreciation-glassdoor-survey/.

³2018 Employee Benefits". 2018. Shrm.Org. https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/trends-and-forecasting/research-and-surveys/Documents/2018%20Employee%20Benefits%20Report.pdf.

Mann, Annamarie, et al. 2016. Gallup.Com. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/236441/employee-recognition-low-cost-high-impact.aspx.

Pendall, Ryan. 2017. Gallup.Com. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/236216/tomorrow-half-company-quitting-win-back.aspx.

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