Blogs

What's your motivation? (Part 1)

Titles, gifts and external rewards are only short term solutions. For longevity, creativity and employee satisfaction we need to tap into the inner person

Most of us understand that when we're passionate about something we do it with drive and determination. Why, then, do some managers and businesses continue to think that external drivers are the best motivators?

The concept of using money as the reward for doing a task has been around forever. Paid employment is central to this. And if you do your job well, many bosses will put some extra moola in your pocket in the form of bonuses, pay rises and incentives.

But times are tough – there's not a lot of money to be splashing at employees. So I did a quick search and found one rather curious list of ways to reward employees without using money. While I was hoping for some deep level inspiration, instead I was confronted with a list of 51 mostly trite ideas.

For example, take #25: Buy a few extra boxes of Girl Scout Cookies from their daughter. Whaaaat? I can see that one going down really well... ("Ah Lisa, just wanted to say your work on the Moldovia account was outstanding – can I buy some extra cookies from your daughter as my special way of saying thanks?")

How about #14: Send a birthday card to them at their home address. Let's hope their birthday isn't still six months away. Nothing speaks "appreciation" louder than getting the basics wrong about one of your stars.

But the one that gave me a real LOL moment was #44: Give them a new, improved job title. What fun! Can I be a Global Paradigm Architect? Or perhaps the Chief Response Engineer? What fools do they take us for? A change in job title is so transparent as a non-reward I find it hard to believe any employee would buy that.

And speaking of who's buying, the majority of the 51 suggestions actually involve a monetary transaction – buy this, give them that, pick up this, cater for that. Employers will see a dollar value attached to these items. Things like movie tickets, flowers or a petrol card all need to be paid for by someone. As rewards, I hardly think they fall into the "without using money" category.

It comes down to understanding what makes us tick – our intrinsic motivation. In a US study, 8-year-old children who were being paid $2 for every book they read quickly started to pick the shortest books they could find and realised that when the money stops, so does the reading.

Titles, gifts and external rewards are only short term solutions. For longevity, creativity and employee satisfaction we need to tap into the inner person. Achieving work-life balance, having enjoyment and challenges that interest us are the real motivators.

Next week in Part 2 I'll be looking at some companies who understand motivation and what this could mean for us.