Recently, a user on Twitter posted a link to an old blog post he’d written about motivation and engagement.  It detailed how most of what we think we know about motivation, namely that monetary rewards are a great motivator, is wrong.

What resonated with me from the post were two videos from author and speaker Dan Pink, detailing some of the research that has shown how monetary rewards can in fact hinder performance, whereas tasks that encourage autonomy and mastery can increase engagement.  I encourage you to take the ten minutes and watch the video below, especially if you are involved in making decisions on ways to motivate and engage your employees.  He also has a slightly longer TED talk that expands on the concept a bit more.

At Genesis HR we’re always looking for ways to increase engagement and motivate our employees.  We’ve deviated from a “standard” annual review to one that helps us understand the motivation and drive of our employees.  The videos above helped drive home the point that we need to be a little more creative in how we offer rewards.

Based on the concepts in the videos, here are some less common rewards and motivators to try:

Offering a “Work on what you want” day (also known as “The gift of time”)

One of the companies mentioned in the video offers their employees 24 hours to work on any project they want, it doesn’t have to directly relate to their day to day tasks.  At the end of that period they present to the company what they’ve done.  Try this approach for a single work day and have everyone work on whatever drives them that will help the company.  Your employees are full of great ideas but most feel like they never have the time or the permission to try them out.  Giving your employees this time to work unfettered by their day to day tasks could reap large rewards.

Give everyone something to own

Autonomy is a big intrinsic motivator.  Try to identify projects that interest the employee and that you can fully give them to own and complete.  If this requires a budget or other resources try to give them that up front as well.  The idea is to not have to oversee the project, but empower the employee to see it through from start to finish on their own.

Reward after the fact with creative options

Setting up a bonus or reward system before a project will often lead to the bare minimum to meet that reward getting accomplished.  Instead, you can choose to reward an employee after the fact when you recognize good behavior.  If your employees are working in a way that helps the organization, their team, and themselves, a reward to recognize that is not expected but greatly appreciated.  Instead of offering money you can offer extra time off or other creative rewards that the employee values.

For more information on employee motivation, please reach out to Genesis HR Solutions at or 800-367-8367.

Genesis HR Solutions is the premier PEO provider for Massachusetts based businesses.