The Four Intrinsic Rewards That Drive Employee Engagement

Progress engages employees.
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Extrinsic rewards -- such as money and promotions -- as well as recognition rewards in the form of plaques and praise, play an important role in motivating and engaging employees. However, according to Kenneth W. Thomas, author of “Intrinsic Motivation at Work,” there are also four intrinsic, or self-generated rewards that drive employee engagement. And while intrinsic rewards are self-generated, it is the job of management to create an environment in which these rewards can be experienced, say Edward E. Lawler III and Christopher G. Worley, authors of “Management Reset.”


    When employees are performing meaningful work, they have a sense of purpose. By knowing that they are dong something important -- and not wasting their time, energy and efforts -- they feel fulfilled. Thomas explains that management’s role is to create an exciting vision of what could be accomplished, and then ensure that the employees’ tasks are relevant to that vision.


    The ability to choose the best course of action to accomplish work is another intrinsic reward that drives employment engagement. When they are free to use their best judgment in determining what to do, and how to do it, they feel a sense of ownership. Management’s part in this process is to trust employees to make decisions, provide them with information to make informed choices, and then refrain from punishing employees if they make an honest mistake.


    When employees believe that they are performing their jobs well, they are engaged and motivated. The belief that they are being appropriately challenged to use their skills and talents to perform at a level that meets or exceeds their expectations causes them to experience a sense of pride and satisfaction. According to Lawler and Worley, managers must provide honest and impartial feedback, which includes giving credit for what is done right and offering constructive criticism for areas that need improvement.


    The knowledge that they are moving in the right direction encourages employees to stay the course. A sense of accomplishment provides confidence that past decisions were right and future decisions will be successful. According to Thomas, management can promote the development of this intrinsic reward by creating a collaborative environment in which employees are encouraged to help each other succeed. In addition, they can establish ways to measure progress, set milestones or reference points to mark accomplishments along the way and have celebrations when these milestones are reached.

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