In today’s competitive environment, business leaders need to look for unique ways to excite their employees and make them feel appreciated and involved. Humans are motivated by two major forms of reward systems: both intrinsic and extrinsic. In this post, we are focusing on intrinsic rewards for the workplace.
Just what are intrinsic rewards? Those are rewards that people receive when they perform well in their job, but tend to be psychological. For example, pride and personal fulfillment are common when achieving certain workplace goals. You can make the most of these emotions by helping your team to feel rewarded for unique achievements, gaining new skills, or going above and beyond in some way.
Extrinsic rewards, on the other hand, are tangible rewards that employers are able to offer their staff. Things like bonuses, raises, or other incentives passed on by management fall into this category. Both forms of rewards have a place in your work environment. The right combination of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards should be plenty to get the best performance from your employees. We’ve written before about some of the extrinsic options that work, and this post is focused on the intrinsic rewards that can make a real impact. If you need some more extrinsic rewards, make sure to review our employee incentive ideas or non-monetary incentives, too.
Top intrinsic rewards for employees
1. Tasks that are meaningful to employees
Many employees appreciate completing tasks that they find meaningful, rather than mundane. It’s a powerful feeling to contribute to something important, or achieve something that helps people or your larger organization. If you can show employees how their work impacts the larger company as a whole, or matters to a specific initiative, they will be more inclined to take on the work and excel at it. Managers should talk to employees about which aspects of their job is most important, and get their feedback on where they feel they can make the most impact. This will help everyone to structure the workload and day in a way that gives people a feeling of purpose - while also ensuring that the most critical projects get focus.
2. Employee choice in project
A sense of autonomy at work is important for a lot of people. In fact, for many people it’s one of the most important aspects of their job. Employees who feel they have autonomy in their day-to-day are more productive, more loyal, and more engaged. They tend to have higher rates of accomplishment in the workplace. It's easier than you might think to offer this form of autonomy. Letting employees make choices about their day and which areas they want to focus on can go a long way in retaining top talent. Offer the staff the freedom to prioritize their own tasks as they see fit. An additional benefit is that other employees will see the flexibility being offered to top performers and want to emulate that themselves. They will see that consistently delivering will provide them more options to shape their own work, which is highly motivating in itself.
3. A sense of competence
Sometimes a job well done is its own reward. That is really at the heart of an intrinsic reward, and a sense of accomplishment is a perfect example. When people feel like they’re doing a good job, that often works as a form of reward. When employees complete complex tasks, they are likely to feel challenged. As they complete those tasks over and over again, they will gain a sense of competence which can really boost confidence. For example, using a piece of equipment or software until they are proficient, or implementing a process that helps the entire team. As people get better and better at their job, their confidence will soar.
4. Being part of a team
Wanting to be part of something bigger is human nature. Feeling like your role in a particular team or effort is important can go a long way. When you know that the work you’re doing matters beyond just yourself, you’re more likely to be motivated. A good way to encourage this sort of team camaraderie is to put together a team building retreat or other events that bring everyone together. The closer your team feels as a unit, the more likely people are to make the most of this intrinsic reward. For other ways to boost employee morale and team spirit, make sure to follow our blog.
5. Making measurable progress
Have you ever worked on a home project, like painting a room? Recall how good it feels to have a visual of the progress you’re making. Or, if you’re a runner, it feels great to see how far you’ve come and understand how many miles you have to go. People are extremely motivated by the ability to measure their progress. As a manager, look for ways to create an environment where people can understand their progress. Consider frequent check-ins with your staff where you can discuss progress. You may also consider setting up visual dashboards or using project management software to make sure everyone is on the same page and can get a visual of the status at a glance.
One of the best feelings you can have in a professional setting is being actually excited about what comes next - feeling like you can see the positive outcome and all that it will bring to you. Feeling inspired is a great motivator for taking on more responsibility and being more invested in whatever the company is working on. Help employees to see the bigger picture and be sure to reiterate your mission and values, so everyone feels inspired by the bigger picture and knows they are part of something important.
7. Increased responsibility
Many people, especially those who are early on in their careers, enjoy taking on new responsibilities. Being entrusted with more is a sure sign of their credibility and competence, and of their manager’s trust in them. By offering increased responsibility to high performers, you’re showing them that they’ve done their work well and you’d like to see more of the same. This is a great way to give people a greater sense of accomplishment without altogether changing their role. For example, if one of your staff has been asking for a promotion but you can’t offer one right now, consider offering them an important project (and a bonus or other reward to go along with it).
8. Mastery of new skills
Gaining new skills or knowledge tends to come with its own intrinsic benefits that offer greater motivation. The good thing is, it's fairly easy to set up these opportunities. By investing in continuing education and training, you show your employees that you care about them and their advancement. We suggest setting up programs for things like professional development, continuing education, tuition reimbursement, or internal learning opportunities. There are plenty of free online courses or you can provide on-the-job training or even cross-training between departments. Helping your employees to master new skills doesn’t require a huge investment.
9. Pride in a job well done
This reward speaks for itself. If you’ve ever worked hard on something and experienced the sense of accomplishment that comes when it's finished, then you understand this feeling. Plus, achieving a sense of pride from having other people admire and respect your work has a similar effect. When people feel like they’ve achieved something substantial, they’re more likely to feel proud and want to replicate this feeling. Make sure to implement some employee appreciation ideas that your staff will enjoy.
10. Obtaining praise and high regard
Similar to what was mentioned above, having other people feel proud of your work or excited about what you’ve accomplished can seriously boost confidence. Few things are as motivating as receiving public (or even private) recognition from people you respect. For most employees, at least part of what motivates them is the hope of being recognized by others in the workplace. The best thing about this intrinsic benefit is that it’s free for business leaders to dole out. Make sure you are generous with praise when someone does a good job, and look for opportunities to share how proud you are of them. Take things a step further by participating in public praise and setting up an employee recognition program where peers can nominate each other for awards. Check out our blog for several new employee recognition types.
11. Satisfying curiosity
Humankind has a natural propensity for learning and gaining knowledge. It’s a good feeling to get smarter and understand things that were previously unknown to you. Help your employees to invest in areas they are curious about. This will help them to build new skills along with their confidence. Are there some new programs they want to learn? New product lines they’d like to see in action? Engage your employees in a dialogue about which things spark their interest, and then find ways to help them gain insight into these topics. Not only does it help staff to satisfy their curiosity, but employees will feel great knowing you truly care about what interests them.
12. Enhancing resilience
Overcoming challenges is a key part of building confidence and a skill set. For many people, running into hurdles is one way of growing. Though it can be frustrating to deal with obstacles, it’s more productive to see them as small bumps on the road to success. People who can embrace these challenges, or even failure, are more likely to keep trying and experience long-term success. Highly impactful people have not been successful forever - but they know how to make the most out of the experiences they have, good and bad. Encourage your team to keep trying and not to get down about potential hiccups - savvy people see these episodes as one step on a bigger path.
13. Personal growth
Finally, the last reward on this list involves growing as an individual. Almost all people have this desire on some level, although it manifests differently in everyone. Many people make resolutions at the beginning of a new year, or make monthly or weekly goals that they hope to accomplish. People can feel good about working toward something - and not because they have to, but because they want to grow and expand their horizons. Whether it’s finding a new hobby, learning a new skill, making new connections, or just attempting new things, personal growth is a powerful motivator that can take individuals to new heights. You might also share this article on goal setting activities.
Keep employees motivated as part of company culture
The great thing about intrinsic motivation is that it's all based on employees and their internal emotions. That means that you can do things to encourage these feelings, but it shouldn’t require a massive investment. It’s simply bringing out the best in your staff and how they feel about work.
A team building retreat is a great way to bring many of these tactics together. Since company retreats are an important way of bringing your team together, you can use the time to share recognition, build trust, train people, and reiterate your mission and values. In short, a company retreat is the perfect time to blend several of the initiatives that will boost all of these intrinsic rewards.
If you need help planning a retreat that encompasses all of the best parts of intrinsic reward systems, reach out to Surf Office. We can help you to plan events that include your entire team and bring out the very best of them for increased performance.