Rewarding Your Employees: Money Cannot Buy Happiness

By Ricky Nowak

When it comes to rewarding employees for their good, hard work and commitment to their company, what is the best way to go? There are not many people who would turn down a cash bonus during the holidays or after completing a particularly arduous project. But as it turns out, the modern business person, from the millennial right out of university up to those who have been working for decades, may be looking for something a little more intrinsically rewarding.

Ricky Nowak, a repeat contributor to Business Review Australia, has been working in leadership skills training for over 20 years. She holds many titles, including executive coach for the Australian Institute of Company Directors, International Coaching Federation Member and Certified Speaking Professional (CSP)- National Speakers Association of Australia. With a client list that includes several top Australian universities, leading financial institutions like ANZ Bank, CBA and NAB, and several other companies in as many different industries, Nowak is more than qualified to advise on employee remuneration.

Read on to see why she thinks a strong training system, enabling employees and showing them they matter to the company may be the best bonus system you could offer.

Intrinsic Or Extrinsic Bonus?

Let's not kid ourselves. When it comes to getting more (money that is), most people are delighted to receive an extra bonus, an unexpected financial windfall or be rewarded financially for work they do or the contribution they make.

Yet when it comes to choosing a performance-linked incentive other than financial gain, evidence suggests a great deal of professionals in today's fast-paced business environment want the golden goose that will keep them ahead of the competition, make them more marketable for the future and fully engage them at work.

And if it takes money to do that, well and good. If it takes the time to acquire knowledge, learn new skills, develop a broader mindset or create new habits, then money may be the enabler but people will be the drivers.

The obvious way of course, is to invest more heavily in professional development and growth opportunities that are relevant and ultimately forward moving. As US leadership guru Dan Pink says, "the only way to make people truly engage is to pay them enough to take the issue of money off the table" and give them the opportunity to have autonomy, mastery and purpose in what they do. Nice work if you can get it.

This will only work if people feel their own performance goals are aligned with that of their organisation and feel the connection to their personal motivations are respected. It will keep working when businesses commit to recruiting on values first, skills second.

Motivations and values like altruism, aesthetics, financial, theoretical, social, educational are what people connect to before they connect to the work they do. Is that simple.

In essence, it may not really matter whether one is remunerated with a bonus or a financial reward but rather enabling making sure your people matter and showing them how and where they make a difference.

Companies Enriching Employees

Based on how closely people feel to the context of their work, performance based incentives or bonus' can then be decided with the person’s best interest, or motivator in mind, and aspirations in mind.

Take Atlassian for instance, a Sydney software company that create "products that customer's lust after" reward new staff prior to commencing by sending them and their partners on a weekend away so they feel relaxed and energised to start with. They truly reward staff by providing an innovative work environment that captures mood, results, and efforts.

Nice work, if you can get it!

Take Zappos as another example, a US online business that started selling shoes who now sells pretty much everything, has a policy in place that pays new staff who are don't want to stay and adopt the Zappos culture, up to US$3000 to leave. But the rewards to those that stay are measured in happiness, a great culture and an innovative environment - not just bonuses.

Makes sense (and dollars!)

And of course there is the latest out of the box incentive from Apple - the opportunity for women to have their fertile eggs stored till they are ready to have children, thus incentivising them to stay at work longer and not put their careers on hold.

So, perhaps after all, there is no one reward system or one performance based incentive that is perfect.

Rather it may be it a series of ongoing conversations with staff who determine their preferences for bonus or incentives as well capturing their obligations and responsibilities that entitle them to aim high.


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