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  • Writer's pictureJon Mechan

Giving Recognition and Rewards

This week I had the great honour to collect an award on behalf of my wonderful team. A new initiative at our company, teams submitted projects that could then be voted on to create a shortlist, before a jury selected the winners in a number of categories.

For confidentiality reasons I can't share the details of the winning initiative but suffice to say it has a significant impact on a very large number of our customers, which is why it won in the 'Best Transversal Initiative' category. I am super proud of my team!

External Motivation

In a previous article I talked about motivation in teams, bearing in mind that it can increase employee happiness on a fundamental human level, as well as help with greater engagement, job satisfaction, and productivity. Reflecting on this week's events, I want to talk a bit about how you as a leader can help with some external motivation.

The first thing to say - and this might be controversial - is that compensation needs to be at a level that the employee feels is fair. This includes pay, bonuses, equity arrangements, retirement contributions, remote work arrangements, etc.. If the employee doesn't feel that this is fair, either with respect to their value on the market or to their colleagues, it doesn't matter what else you do. No amount of awards or gratitude will fix this.

Perhaps the ultimate culinary external reward

Once compensation is sorted, you can move on to other ideas - the awards mentioned above are a great example of this. It's a fantastic way to ensure that teams are recognized not only by their own leadership but by the wider organization, and by senior leaders who maybe wouldn't have had much visibility otherwise.

Regular recognition and gratitude from leadership is also important. A team member needs to know that what they are doing is valuable and purposeful. This can be as simple as a 'thank you' in a team meeting or a 1:1, and ideally should come from both the direct manager and leaders further up the chain. You could also mention them in a newsletter or on internal (and if appropriate, external) forums or social media.

Another option you might choose is involvement in special projects, outside of their normal scope, a challenging assignment, or a promotion if the time is right. If the team member has expressed interest in trying something different, you could arrange a rotation to a different team for a while.


One final thing to consider - external motivators must be used in balance with internal ones, otherwise you risk creating a sense of dependence on external rewards. This can lead to a decrease in performance and engagement, as individuals are no longer motivated by the activity itself but by the rewards they receive for engaging in it.

As I mentioned in the previous article, the motivators required for an individual are going to be varied and will probably change over time. So for long-term engagement and fulfilment, use a tailored balance of both internal and external motivators to create a happier, healthier, and more engaged team.

What external motivators have you experienced lately? Were they effective? How do they balance with your internal motivations?

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