“What are the best ways to improve work performance?”
As an HR professional, regardless of what industry your company is in, you’ve likely been a part of a roundtable discussion about employee performance. Performance and motivation are frequently identified as imperatives companies must move the needle on, and one group — often HR — is assigned to lead the way.
Inevitably, the discussion heads in multiple directions:
“We should throw monetary bonuses at people!”
“No, employees need more time off!”
“Just buy an ’employee of the month’ plaque. Problem solved!”
For years, companies of all sizes have tried a myriad of ways to improve work performance. We can’t point to one method as the clear-cut winner; that’s because the biggest mistake is thinking there is a one-size-fits all solution.
There isn’t. Think about it: at most workplaces, you’ll find a collection of individuals in different stages of their careers who span multiple generations and have their own preferred motivators. That’s why winning companies are taking a more holistic approach to the overall employee experience. Based on the science of motivation, we built the YouEarnedIt platform to give individual employees what they need to deeply engage in their work and with their colleagues, driving bottom-line results.
With that in mind, here are six ways to improve work performance and motivation backed by recent research and studies.
Ditch the Carrot-Stick Mentality
Many common ways to improve work performance involve dangling money in front of employees. Don’t get us wrong: money remains a strong motivator; but relying heavily on these kinds of extrinsic motivators can actually backfire when it comes to motivation, as they tend to rob the joy from work and seem less attractive the longer they’re offered.
While monetary bonuses have their uses, it’s time to move on from the carrot-stick mentality as the only, or best, way of motivating people.
Tie Recognition to Rewards
It feels natural to spring for small rewards like gift cards or company-branded tchotchkes from time to time. At other times, you might feel a pat on the back or company callout is in order.
The truth is, rewards and recognition are both ways to improve work performance – but a system that ties them together gives you the best of both worlds. A recent Glassdoor survey backed this up by showing reward-appreciation combos were the top ways employees liked being recognized.
Create Ways to Pay it Forward
More and more research is revealing that one of the most powerful motivators for employees isn’t found in receiving, but giving. Charitable contributions, volunteer work, peer rewards — these means of paying it forward can be powerful ways to improve work performance.
In a peer-reviewed paper on prosocial bonuses, researchers concluded that “a minor adjustment to employee bonuses—shifting the focus from the self to others—can produce measurable benefits for employees and organizations.”
Give the Gift of Time
Almost any employee will light up at the prospect of more time off, and it’s time more employers did the same.
Research from the University of British Columbia shows that people who prioritize time over money are happier in life, and employers can augment this by offering time-saving rewards (think TaskRabbit, cleaning services, or other time-saving reward ideas for employees).
Use a Mix of Motivators
Remember, it’s not all about the money. Spot bonuses and small cash rewards are relied on by many companies as ways to improve work performance – but if you want long-term, effective motivators, show employees more than just the money.
Choice is key. One study showed that small cash incentives could end up having adverse effects on performance, but these effects were combatted by using non-cash behavior incentives or presenting cash as one option among small reward choices rather than the only thing to work toward.
Use a mix of motivators to engage employees. When it comes to rewards, cash and gift cards may work for some, but non-monetary items, charitable donations, and custom experiences will engage others. To get the greatest return on investment from your company’s rewards program, make sure it’s highly customizable in order to be tailored to your employee’s needs.
Get the Team Involved
If you’re thinking about ways to improve work performance on an individual level, it’s time to expand your view.
Incorporating team rewards into your approach will end up making everyone involved more engaged. The Journal of Business Research found that group rewards bring big boosts to cooperation and performance.
So while individual employee rewards have their usefulness, keep team reward ideas in mind as well.
Find more ways to improve work performance
Looking for more ideas on employee rewards that work? YouEarnedIt’s got you covered. Grab our guide to Rewards and Recognition Systems that Work for more science-based tips and anecdotes on motivating employees:
YouEarnedIt is the employee experience platform powered by the science of motivation and the mission of improving the lives of employees everywhere, one company at a time. Founded in 2013, YouEarnedIt grows company culture and improves bottom-line performance metrics through its robust engagement platform that delivers recognition, rewards, incentives, and team insights. Named to Entrepreneur Magazine’s list of Best Company Cultures in 2017, the Austin-based SaaS company and its technology platform are built on the four pillars of employee experience: connection, meaning, impact and appreciation. To request a demo, visit www.youearnedit.com/demo.
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