Each year companies launch new employee incentive programs and recognition programs to motivate their people—gift cards, travel awards, choices of merchandise, free food and drinks, and don’t forget the proverbial ping-pong table. Non-monetary incentives are a $90 billion-dollar industry and growing. But do these incentives really help with employee engagement and motivation? Yes and no.

When Employee Incentives Are Wasted

While we certainly support the idea of rewarding employees for their excellent work, we can’t help but remember meeting an outstanding sales professional who, for two years in a row, had won a trip to Hawaii as one of his company’s top producers. Sheepishly he admitted that he’d never taken the trips; he was terrified of flying.

One-Size-Fits-All Incentives Don’t Work

Many businesses are utilizing non-monetary rewards with the goal of incentivizing their employees, yet they are unaware of the various motivations that drive different workers. While an “on-the-spot” Subway gift card is nice, it won’t get most employees out of bed in the morning.

The Motivators Assessment: A Scientific Approach to Understanding Employee Motivation

A few years ago, we worked with eminent psychologists Dr. Travis Bradberry and Dr. Jean Greaves, authors of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, to develop the Motivators Assessment—a scientific test to determine a person’s core Motivators.

After tests with adults around the world, the results showed that we humans share a group of 23 fundamental Motivators that drive us at work. Each of us varies in which of these specific drivers are most important to us and the particular order of priority. Some are driven most by teamwork and challenge, others more by ownership and service, and others by creativity and learning.Think of The FindMojo Motivators Assessment as akin to the way DNA shapes each person. Despite having similar backgrounds, people from the same educational level, job title, and even family can be driven by contrasting motivators.

The Importance of Understanding Employee Motivators for Effective Rewards

Over 100,000 people have taken The FindMojo Motivators Assessment, and have discovered they have an individualized motivation profile. This motivation profile can then be used by a manager to figure out which type of reward is most effective. Some might be motivated by gift cards, others by recognition, and some may find neither motivating at all. Some who are highly motivated by money are driven by the promise of a spot cash reward. Managers can benefit significantly by taking the time to gain an in-depth understanding of what motivates their employees. This can help them to reward their staff more efficiently. Some employees may appreciate the chance to lead a project and express their creativity, while others may prefer having time away with loved ones or a professional development incentive. On the other hand, some could find being a mentor to be an unwelcome responsibility.

How Wendy’s Used The FindMojo Motivators Assessment to Improve Employee Motivation

A manager who benefitted from the process is Diane Weed, recently retired Vice President of the Denver division of The Wendy’s Company. Weed had eight direct reports who oversaw all the restaurants and the thousands of Wendy’s teammates in the Rocky Mountain area. She put her Motivators Assessment results along with her team members’ on a grid and examined the similarities, uniqueness, and cautions.An eye-opener, Weed told us, was that seven of her eight team members had ‘Learning’ as a top driver, whereas, for her, it fell in the bottom three. That information has helped her ensure she’s motivating her team members by rewarding them with opportunities to learn and grow. And that sends powerful messages: Not only is the company willing to invest in these employees and help them move forward in their careers, but their manager actually knows and cares about the specific things they find motivating.

Move Beyond Conventional Thinking

It’s time for leaders to join the 21st century to motivate and retain good people. It is no longer enough to simply provide the same rewards for all employees. Understanding the unique motivations of each person and offering incentives which cater to them is the key to unlocking the full potential of a team. This method of thinking is far more advanced than the traditional approach, which is limited by the beliefs of the leader.

What are some of your employee incentive ideas? How are you currently motivating your people? Let us know in the comments.

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