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Recognition and Reward as Motivators of Behavior

In many organizations, it appears that senior leaders and managers often believe that employees are motivated solely by the salary they receive. Although salaries are important, our work demonstrates time and again that intangibles such as trust, respect, the opportunity to learn new skills and recognition are even more important in motivating employees to give their best.

When we look at what drives employee job satisfaction, satisfaction with compensation rarely makes it to the top of list, whereas satisfaction with the level of reward and recognition, with opportunities for advancement, with the effectiveness of communications, their opportunities to learn new skills and grow and to make suggestions and be involved in their work almost always rise to the top.

It would be difficult to overstress how influential the "people" characteristics of management can have over employee behavior and attitudes. Such factors include "open communication," meaning that employees want to know what is going on within the organization, especially as it affects them and their jobs. They also want to receive praise for doing good work, have the necessary degree of autonomy and authority (and not be micromanaged), have a manager who is accessible both in terms of time and personality, feel supported in their efforts and be given some flexibility in their working hours.

This is not to say that money is not important - clearly it is and, in some cases, employees may give compensation a higher degree of importance that their behavior suggests it actually has (perhaps even as a direct result of not having challenging and respected work!) The motivational power of money may also vary over an employee's career. However, for many people, once they reach a certain level of compensation, they are motivated more strongly by feeling that they are making a contribution to their organization, by having a manager who tells them when they are doing a good job, by earning the respect of their peers and colleagues, by being involved and informed about what is going on in the organization and by doing meaningful, interesting work.

There is an important distinction between compensation and recognition. Compensation is a function of an organization's pay philosophy and policies, its market and other external factors such as geographic considerations. Recognition is not compensation - recognition is what organization's offer to employees that is above and beyond compensation in order to get the best effort from them.

According to management theorist Frederick Herzberg, a fair salary is a "hygiene" factor, which he defines as something everyone needs in order to do the job they are hired to do. Hygiene factors include other basic necessities, such as adequate workspace, sufficient lighting and a safe working environment. These factors enable employees to do the job but are not sufficient to encourage them to do their best job.

Getting employees to do their best job is a function of what Herzberg calls "motivators." These include the identical factors we identified above - praise and recognition, challenging work and opportunities for growth and development. You will never get the best effort from employees simply by paying them more. Employees who only want more money will never be satisfied with what they are paid and their expectations will rise with each increase.

Another way to look at the relation between money and motivation is that most managers cannot necessarily influence what their employees earn on a day-to-day basis but they are a lot of things they can do every day to influence the degree of excitement and enthusiasm that employees bring to their work. Treating them well is of paramount importance if they are come to work energized and committed and to bring their best thinking and initiative with them. Tap into their hearts and minds of your employees and make them feel valued so that they want to do their best work every day and, in turn, they will consistently act in the best interests of your organization.

Where do you fall within our Employee Survey Loyalty Matrix?

Committed Loyalist
Change Seeker
Dissatisfied Compromiser
Satisfied Opportunist

Take our short demo survey and find out now. An Insightlink 4Cs Survey can let you see this valuable data on employee engagement within your organization.

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Did you know?

Our repeat clients who have used our 4Cs Action Planning Workbook average a 7% increase in overall satisfaction on follow-up employee surveys.

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Employee surveys are a low cost investment in the success and profitability of your company. Research shows that companies with higher levels of employee satisfaction financially outperform their peers.

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