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Three Intrinsic Rewards that Drive Employee Engagement | Liquidplanner

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Three Intrinsic Rewards that Drive Employee Engagement

Joe has a team.

Joe’s team works long hours writing code and meeting ridiculous deadlines.

Joe’s team is already well-paid with above market salaries and profit-sharing programs.

How should Joe reward his team?

Given the compensation structure, does Joe even need to reward his team? After all, isn’t the money the reward? The team is paid to do a job.

Rewarding team members is an age old topic that continues to be a management challenge to retain talent, ensure employees are engaged, and maintain job satisfaction. Regardless if your team is an Agile team or delivering in a traditional waterfall environment, effective managers need to reward, motivate, and sustain high-performing teams.

Don’t Just Show Me The Money

If you conducted a compensation survey, I’m sure everyone surveyed would say they’d want more money. Who wouldn’t? However, studies have shown that money is not an long-lasting way to reward employees.

Dr. Frederick Herzberg conducted a study that revealed intrinsic factors (i.e. motivators) lead to employee satisfaction and extrinsic job factors led to job dissatisfaction. Herzberg’s dual-factor theory indicated if you’re not compensated fairly, you will have job dissatisfaction. If you are compensated competitively, then true job satisfaction comes from intrinsic factors.

Although money may be an extrinsic reward, it doesn’t sustain long-term satisfaction. Just think about your last raise or bonus. You were likely happy to receive that fat check (minus the substantial chunk for Uncle Sam), however, a week after, how happy were you with your job? It is likely the same as before you received the bonus. Based on Herzberg’s study, it is better to focus on intrinsic motivators to reward teams.

Intrinsic Ways to Reward Your Team

Recognize achievement.

One memory that stays with me was when I was recognized for earning my doctorate degree. My boss ordered a cake and sent out a note to the entire department to recognize my academic achievement. It was a small gesture, but I sincerely appreciated the thought. That small recognition of four years of academic work helped build stronger trust and dedication to the organization.

Another simple way to say thank you and publicly recognize the team is to start a Kudo’s program. Using business card size pieces of paper, employees can say thank you to another employee. Each month, the company summarizes the kudo’s feedback and displays each note electronically on a screen. Instead of physical thank you cards, the same system can be implemented using a simple email to a central “Kudo” program coordinator.

Both examples reward an employee’s achievement or contribution to the team. Publicly recognizing someone with a “Thank You” is also a nice way to reinforce positive behaviors. Remember it doesn’t have to be a formal program. Stopping someone in the hallway and saying “Thank You” goes a long way to provide positive reinforcement and costs you nothing!

Provide opportunities for more responsibility, growth, and advancement.

Rewarding individuals and teams with more responsibility helps to contribute to individual growth and advancement in the organization. Have you ever had an employee identify a process improvement or suggest a new way to do something? One option is to take the idea and implement it. The better approach is to support the employee to implement the idea and then recognize the employee for the effort and contribution.

Team members also need to be given opportunities to grow in their role. Project managers typically submit a weekly status report and during a portfolio review, the senior leader will speak to the portfolio’s overall status. Instead of having the director represent the activities in the portfolio, encourage the project manager to attend the meeting and speak to the project status in the organization.

As new promotional opportunities arise in the organization, encourage qualified team members to apply to the position. Even if the employee doesn’t get selected for the position, the experience interviewing for the position will help prepare the team member for future positions. Managers can be reluctant to encourage their top performer to apply for a promotional assignment, however, good managers can also find and build good talent to continue the work. If you don’t provide employees with these opportunities, you’re likely to lose the talented employees to other firms who will recognize their talent and value.

Ensure the work is rewarding.

How often do you wonder, does the work I do matter?

It may not seem like a reward, but ensuring the work is rewarding will help motivate the team and drive for results. If the team doesn’t understand how their contributions improve the organization or have affect the organization, it becomes difficult to sustain a high performing team.

A balanced scorecard is a performance management tool that identifies how enterprise goals align directly to individual employee’s goals and objectives. A balanced scorecard will help provide visibility to how individual contributions affect the enterprise organization, however, if the work itself isn’t rewarding, the balanced scorecard just shows you’re got unrewarding work aligned to enterprise goals.

The reality is no job is always rewarding 100% of the time. If it was, they’d call it a hobby. One approach to ensuring the work is rewarding is by letting the team determine the priority of things to work on. In an Agile team, there is a concept of a 6×2+1 development cycle. For 6 iterations the team works in 2 week sprints for 6 weeks and then takes 1 sprint to focus on training, attend a conference or work on technical improvement versus the slew of new enhancement requests. By giving prioritization to the team, it ensures the team gets to work on the items that are important and rewarding to them.

Just try one of these intrinsic motivators and you’ll see an improvement from the team!

Other Fun Ways to Reward Your Team

The intrinsic ways to reward and motivate teams are useful but don’t be afraid to to include a few extrinsic activities. Here are a few idea to consider:

1. After a major launch or milestone, celebrate with the team! After every major system launch I took the entire team out for an excellent dinner at one of the higher end restaurants. I was just glad the $1,200 dinner bill could be expensed to the corporate account.

2. Host a team lunch. The team lunch is an easy way to get the team together to talk about anything but work. I like the idea of encouraging “No Shop” talk at lunch so team members can learn more about one another. Everyone has to eat sometime in the day and if the boss is buying at a good restaurant, who wouldn’t attend?

3. Host a team movie event during the day. One of my colleagues took his entire team out to see the latest Star Wars movie during the day as a reward to the team. At $10 a ticket for a matinee show and a couple of pizzas, it was an inexpensive way to recognize the team. (I’m suddenly recognizing a trend in my extrinsic “food factor” motivation.

4. Let the team go home early for half of the day. Believe it or not, team members don’t always want to socialize with their team since they work 8-10 hours a day with them. By letting the team go home early rather than attending a dinner or a corporate “team building” function, each individual can prioritize the extra free time.

Finding creative ways to reward teams outside of the obvious financial reward remains a management challenge. Companies can do better by publicly recognizing individuals in front of the team, posting a blog post on the corporate intranet or simply sending an email thanking the team or the individual. Recognizing a team and ensuring the others in the organization know about it is a far better reward than just the financial ones.

…although I’m still a fan of the “food factor” approach.


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